Newton Massacre Responder May Be Terminated over PTSD

By Peter Levine posted in Discrimination, Employment Law, Law on November 21st, 2013

Thomas Bean, the First Responder Officer to the Newtown Massacre May Be Wrongfully Terminated for Having PTSD

Thomas Bean, one of the first responders to the Dec. 14, 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting could potentially lose his job for missing work.

The shooting left 26 people dead, including 20 children. Six months later, Bean — a 12-year police department veteran who responded to the tragedy on his day off — was placed on long-term disability after being diagnosed with PTSD. Unable to return to work, he may be fired.

Bean says he is haunted by flashbacks and suicidal thoughts and that he is left crying some nights by memories of the bloodshed.

“Nothing could prepare you for that,” he said in an interview. “The worst possible scenes you could think of … Because all there was, was horror.”

Bean Classified as Permanently Disabled  Due to PTSD and Could Be Terminated

A letter from the police department confirmed that he was classified “permanently disabled,” but also said he could be fired because the town doesn’t want to pick up the cost of paying half of Bean’s salary until he’s eligible to retire. Bean has a dozen years left on the job before being able to retire.

The union that represents Newton police officers could potentially file a lawsuit.If that deal holds up the town would be on the hook for about $350,000.

Bean is currently collecting half of his $70,000 annual salary on disability.

Joe Aresimowicz, the House majority leader in the Connecticut state General Assembly, said the state covers mental health care for long-term disability claims only if there are physical injuries accompanied with the diagnosis.

“We don’t just cover mental injuries,” he said. “The last thing you want is a first responder getting ready to enter a situation and have them think, ‘I wonder what long-term harm this will do me?'”

Several officers in the department have taken time off to deal with the mental stress sustained during and after the shooting, but Bean was the only one unable to return to work.

“If I had my arm chopped off, they would say, ‘Oh yeah, he’s hurt.’ But instead they’re like, ‘We can sweep (this) under the rug and not necessarily have to pay because … it’s not physically seen.’ That’s the problem with PTSD … people don’t see it,” said Bean, his voice trailing off.

Peter K. Levine
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