Rep. Burrows files two bills to help injured law enforcement officials

Updated: Feb. 9, 2017 at 10:35 PM CST
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Injured officers and family members of injured officers discussed how the new bills could help...
Injured officers and family members of injured officers discussed how the new bills could help (source: KCBD video)

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Texas House Representative Dustin Burrows filed two bills on Thursday that could eventually help law enforcement officials injured in the line of duty, as they attempt to file for worker's compensation.

House Bill 1688 will create a "law enforcement liaison" within the Texas Department of Worker's Compensation Agency to help injured officers.

House Bill 1689 would allow the Texas Department of Insurance to have oversight and take legal action if needed.

While creating this bill, Representative Burrows met with current and former law enforcement members from our district who were injured on the job.

We spoke with some of them today, to find out how this bill would help them.

Mary Duncan is the area representative for the Peace Officers Angels Foundation, advocating on behalf of officer's injured in the line of duty.

"I believe that every officer, every injured officer, every injured first responder should be able to walk into any clinic at any time and receive the medical attention that they need," Duncan said.

Her passion comes from personal experience, when her husband was shot and lost his left eye while serving as a police officer in Olney, Texas in 1977.

Mary says like many other officers injured on the job, her husband ran into problems when follow up procedures and necessary medications weren't covered by worker's compensation.

"You have to get approval from worker comp before you can even see a doctor. And in some cases this can be, I mean- you need to see that doctor right away," Duncan said.

That's why Mary and others affected by the system have been meeting and working with Representative Dustin Burrows to try and change the way it works.

"I was just blown away with the sheer number that were coming to me with these concerns and thought we needed to do something about it. So I called the Texas Department of Insurance and others and said what's going on here? This isn't right. And so we've come up with some ideas to try to make sure this doesn't happen going forward to our law enforcement officers," Rep. Burrows said.

Jessica Scherlen's husband was severely injured in a head-on accident as an Amarillo Police officer. He ended up passing away from complications one year later, leaving behind Jessica and their four children.

"He had a serious serious infection that there was only one specific medication that would take care of this infection, and because it was a $15,000 medication, they denied it...a medication that is needed to get an infection out of your leg so it doesn't get your bloodstream to where it kills you. It shouldn't have to go through a board of oh well, you really don't need this. Yeah, you really do need this," Scherlen said.

Here in Lubbock, Ricky Wallace is losing his badge and gun as a Texas Tech Police Officer. Jacob Flores had to medically retire, both due to their on the job injuries, and hurdles they encountered receiving treatment.

"It's just from a, what you've been doing for so long in your life and what you've wanted to do and you've worked your way to. Just destroyed and gone in one night. It hurts," Wallace said.

They both say they feel this bill would be beneficial for any officer who is injured in the future, to receive guidance from a law enforcement liaison and hopefully speed up the recovery process.

"It's not just for us, it's for all first responders...hopefully we can start small, we can expand from here," Wallace said.

"It's still a long journey that we have to go. But it almost feels like getting ready for a race. You've been prepping this entire time. Talking about it. And having him present these bills feels like you're at the starting line and ready for a big race that you hopefully will finish in your favor," Flores said.

Representative Burrows says the next step is for this bill to be referred to a Texas House committee and eventually he hopes to get a full hearing on the house floor.

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