Tennessee Fire Fighters Walk for PTSD Awareness

February 8 • 2022

Cleveland, TN Local 3748 members are organizing “A Walk for Dustin” in support of state legislation (HB 1356/SB 1023) that would make a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis for fire fighters presumed to be an injury acquired on the job. Local 3748 fire fighters and others will walk from Cleveland to Nashville, the state capital, February 14-21.

“This is the Tennessee Professional Fire Fighters Association’s (TPFFA) number-one legislative priority,” says TPFFA President Matthew Tomek. “Our members should not feel like trauma exposures aren’t painful. Effective treatment is out there. What this legislation will do is to make that treatment easily accessible to our members who need it.”

HB 1356/SB 1023 has been dubbed the James “Dustin” Samples Act in honor of a Cleveland Local 3748 member who lost his battle with PTSD in December 2020.

“His death was a devastating blow to all of us and we will do whatever it takes to honor his memory and be sure that the community has a deeper understanding of what it means to be a fire fighter and see what we see day after day,” says Local 3748 President Jeremiah Million. “We think that raising the awareness will help convince policymakers at home and in Nashville that we’re in a crisis and depending on them for the solution.”

If the legislation passes, fire fighters diagnosed with PTSD will be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits unless the employer can show undisputed evidence that the fire fighter’s PTSD was caused by non-service-connected risk factors or non-service-connected exposure.

This bill applies to any fire fighter diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder within three years of the fire fighter’s final date of employment with the employer fire department.