From Crisis to Triumph: A Sheriff’s Deputy’s Struggle with PTSD

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Imagine driving down the road, feeling so overwhelmed that you contemplate running your car off the road. This is what happened to Daniel McKillips, a Nye County Sheriff’s Office sergeant, in August of 2019.

“Working in corrections is like dealing with a small city in a confined space. You deal with violent crimes, inmates suffering from mental health issues, and drug/alcohol abuse, suicide attempts, and being degraded on a daily basis. At times interacting with people on the worst day of their lives,” said Daniel. “

He was overworked, working long weeks to fill in for others, and had the stress of being a supervisor and the only person responsible for the safety and security of the entire facility while there were staffing shortages. Daniel reported that Nye County had a difficult time filling positions due to budget constraints and other issues.

“One night, I reached my breaking point. I was driving down the road and thinking about taking off my seatbelt and running off the road. I felt numb. I hadn’t experienced suicidal thoughts before, and it scared me. I called a co-worker and asked for help. I didn’t want to go home because my guns were at home.”

Daniel was hospitalized that night, and his treating doctors diagnosed him with PTSD and recommended that he get a year of care. Initially, his employer put him on administrative leave, taking his badge, and the department issued weapons, equipment, and vehicle from his home.

The following day, Nye County changed his leave to FMLA leave and gave no guidance on the workers’ compensation process. He then filed his workers’ compensation claim on his own. Following this, his workers’ compensation claim was denied without any medical investigation by the insurer. The county told him he could not return to work until a county doctor cleared him. He tried to get cleared for several months and was told that only the workers’ compensation insurance could clear him through their doctor.

At that point, Daniel contacted GGRM for help.

“The co-worker I called during my crisis had used GGRM before and recommended them,” Daniel explained. “It was well known that GGRM was representing several deputies in the county.”

Since his workers’ comp claim was denied, Daniel was burning through sick and annual leave time at a rapid rate. GGRM assisted Daniel in getting a new hearing for his case. After a medical investigation was completed, an error was discovered in Daniel’s medical records. The clinical notes said he suffered from major depressive disorder, so his PTSD claim was denied again.

At that point, Nye County sent Daniel an employment termination letter on the week of Thanksgiving. They stated that due to his workers’ compensation claim being denied and the exhaustion of his FMLA leave time, they would no longer hold his position open. He was forced into medical retirement and still had not received the care he needed for his PTSD. Which was later linked to an inmate’s violent suicide that Daniel had witnessed and tried unsuccessfully to render aid. He was experiencing severe panic attacks and emotional outbursts and was even fighting in his sleep — so much so that he had to move to another bedroom separate from his wife while sleeping.

“It was disappointing; the brotherhood that is spoken about in law enforcement felt as if it had turned its back on me and left me alone to pick up the pieces because I asked for help.”

Daniel’s wife discovered the Wounded Blue Foundation and reached out to Randy Sutton, it’s founder, to try to get him help while GGRM dealt with the legal aspect of his case. The Wounded Blue Foundation provided him with peer support counseling and medical care through their Code 4 program.

As GGRM and Daniel were preparing to fight his workers’ comp claim denial, COVID struck and pushed his court date several times during the next year.
In October 2020, Daniel’s claim was finally accepted on appeal. It took until March 2021 for Daniel to get to see a doctor to be properly treated for his PTSD. GGRM continued to fight for him over his denied back pay and disability pay benefits during this time.

GGRM was able to negotiate a settlement covering back pay, disability pay, vocational rehab, and other benefits that were substantially higher than the statutory minimum.

“GGRM worked with me through a lot,” says Daniel. “I wasn’t easy with them. I would get frustrated easily, and I wasn’t in a good place due to the constant denials of benefits. They put up with a lot from me, and I commend them for that.”

GGRM was able to negotiate a settlement covering back pay, disability pay, vocational rehab, and other benefits that were substantially higher than the statutory minimum.

Today, Daniel and his family live in Las Vegas, where he goes to school to study cybersecurity and programming. He says he and his family, which include his wife, a 10-year-old, and a set of 4-year-old twins, are doing much better and getting their lives back on track.

“You would think public servants like us would get treated better, but I didn’t get the help I needed until GGRM stepped in.”

Contact GGRM. We Can Help.

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