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States seek to expand correctional officers' occupational diseases


At least two states will attempt to create a presumption this year that certain illnesses suffered by correctional officers are occupational diseases covered under workers compensation.

A bill introduced in the Virginia legislature states that hypertension, heart disease, hepatitis, meningococcal meningitis, tuberculosis, MRSA, or HIV causing any health condition or impairment resulting in the total or partial disability or death of a correctional officer will be presumed to be an occupational disease suffered in the line of duty — “unless such presumption is overcome by a preponderance of competent evidence to the contrary.”

S.B. 92, which defines correctional officer as any employee of the Department of Corrections, also says employers can request that workers undergo pre-employment physical examinations, since the presumption would not apply if such illnesses were present prior to employment.

Virginia State Sen. David W. Marsden, a Democrat, prefiled the bill on Dec. 22, ahead of the General Assembly's 2016 session beginning on Jan. 13.

Maryland legislators prefiled a similar bill that's also scheduled to be introduced and read Jan. 13.

H.B. 13 would amend the definition of “public safety employee” to include state correctional officers, allowing such workers who suffer from heart disease or hypertension to obtain workers comp benefits.

To be eligible for the presumption, workers will undergo a medical examination to determine whether heart disease or hypertension existed prior to employment.

The bill is sponsored by Jason C. Buckel, a Republican member of Maryland's House of Delegates.

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