Denver Fire Dept. Off Hook for PTSD Revelation

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By Porter Wells

The Denver Fire Department didn’t violate an Iraq War veteran’s rights by disclosing his PTSD diagnosis to his co-workers, because he’d already told them voluntarily, a federal appeals court said Feb. 7. It dismissed his claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act,

Meanwhile, more U.S. military vets are returning home as the country begins to draw down troops from Iraq following the Iraqi government’s declared victory over the Islamic State. And half of post-9/11 veterans with combat-related mental illnesses aren’t getting the help they need from a struggling VA health system, according to a recent report.

David Perez, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served two tours in Iraq, joined the department in 2006. In 2011, a sequence of events on the job triggered his post-traumatic stress disorder, “stirring memories” of his time in combat.

Perez told several members of his engine company that he had to leave work early to undergo mental health treatment with the VA. Perez’s boss later told concerned co-workers that Perez suffered from PTSD—a decision that Perez says “violated the ADA’s prohibition on disclosure of confidential medical records.”

Because Perez didn’t produce any evidence that his boss learned of his diagnosis through confidential medical records, however, there was no violation of the ADA, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit said. It thus affirmed a district court ruling in favor of the fire department and the city of Denver. “An employer can’t be liable for disclosing medical information that the employee voluntarily disclosed outside of a medical examination,” the appeals court said.

Attorneys for Perez, the Denver Fire Department, and the City of Denver didn’t immediately respond to Bloomberg Law’s request for comment.

The case is Perez v. Denver Fire Dept., 10th Cir., No. 1:15-CV-00457-CBS, Feb. 7, 2018.

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