BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — A local firefighter in a court battle to get coverage for PTSD treatment is getting support from the state’s Chief Financial Officer and Fire Marshal.
It comes after 9 Investigates shared the man’s story and the nuance of the law, leading to what attorneys are calling confusion in the courts.
Jimmy Patronis’ office filed what’s known as an “amicus curiae brief,” which translates to “friend of the court.” It’s filed by parties interested in a case, that are not actually involved in the litigation.
In the filing, Patronis’ office explains the intent of state lawmakers was to expand PTSD care for first responders, not limit it. He told 9 Investigates he believes that’s getting lost in translation at a local level.
Roger Williams spent 23 years protecting the people of Brevard County, before the pressures of fighting fires and the weight of those he could not save boiled over following a major crash on the Pineda Causeway.
“Your bucket is full,” Williams described. “You can’t hold it anymore.”
Williams was diagnosed a year and a half later with PTSD, but his request for medical coverage through his department was denied. Now, the case is in appeal.
“Unfortunately, in this particular case, it’s gone further than it probably needed to go,” Patronis said. “It’s unfortunate. I think the law is pretty clear, but I’m not in those offices making these decisions.”
Patronis is intimately familiar with first responder benefits covered by state law. He helped champion the addition of financial benefits for first responders suffering from PTSD with a new law in 2018, but that section is more narrow than the portion that covers someone seeking medical coverage only for mental health issue. Patronis says Williams does not need to qualify for a financial payout in order to have the medical benefit.
“When I hear different administrations calling balls and strikes, saying that this isn’t a claim and we shouldn’t be honoring it, it is very personal to me,” Patronis said.
In the legal brief, Patronis’ office points out the compensation claims judge’s ruling against Williams goes against the legislature’s intent to increase coverage for mental or nervous injuries suffered by first responders.
“I know what the law was intended to do, and I just expect that those in governance in our local communities do exactly what Florida law requires them to do.”
A spokesperson for Brevard County told 9 Investigates it could not comment on the litigation, as it is still pending.
©2022 Cox Media Group