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An appellate court in Tennessee on Tuesday ruled that a police officer’s post-traumatic stress disorder is not subject to injured-on-duty benefits, affirming an earlier decision that found the alleged cause of his mental injury not outside of the scope of his job duties following a fatal shooting.
Clyde Jason Stambaugh, a 15-year veteran who was determined unfit for duty in 2016 following a post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis, filed a petition in April 2017 challenging the decision of the Benefit Board of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County denying his request for injured-on-duty benefits, according to documents in Clyde Jason Stambaugh v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, filed in the Court of Appeals of Tennessee, at Nashville.
One year into his post with Nashville’s Metropolitan Police Department in 2014, Mr. Stambaugh participated in the pursuit of an armed fugitive who was eventually shot and killed in a gun battle involving multiple officers. He returned to work four days later.
According to court documents, “he began experiencing emotional problems and nightmares soon after the shooting and sought help and counseling from his pastor and others. He also went to Police Advocacy Support Services,” a service for officers in need of mental help.
A doctor there diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder and referred him for counseling. In 2016, he left the force after another doctor found that his condition barred him from being able to perform his duties as an officer, according to documents.
After leaving the force, he was denied retirement benefits for his mental injury, a trial court later affirming the denial that “the shooting incident was not considered extraordinary or unusual for the job” and that the injury “resulted from a buildup of stress over time.”
Addressing the issue of scope of employment, the appeals court wrote “that there is sufficient evidence to support such a conclusion” that the shooting incident was not extraordinary or unusual, barring a claim to an injured-on-the-job pension per Tennessee law.
Moving the focus from workers compensation to enhanced benefits for first responders could be key to solving issues concerning first responders with post-traumatic stress disorder, experts say.