Heart and Lung Act and Workers’ Compensation
Pennsylvania Heart and Lung Act and Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation
The Enforcement Officer Disability Benefit Law (or Pennsylvania Heart and Lung Act) provides benefits to a distinct group of public sector workers who are injured in the course and scope of employment. Typically, the Act covers police, fire, and state correctional employees. The Heart and Lung Act decrees that these workers who are totally disabled from these positions are entitled to Full Salary and any other benefits they currently would be receiving but for the work injury. Benefits including the full salary are non taxable under the Pennsylvania Heart and Lung Act. All medical expenses related to the injury likewise must be paid by the Employer. There are no copays. The Legislature wanted these public safety, high risk workers to be afforded the upmost protection when injured in the line of duty. However, once a determination is made that the injury will permanently prevent the individual from returning to active duty, the benefits stop. The determination is typically made by a three person committee comprised of representatives of the employer after obtaining an opinion from a physician. Members of Labor Unions and Associations may have the appeal process covered in their respective Labor Agreements. There are appeal rights which should be pursued if such a decision is rendered erroneously by a panel. If the injury will permanently prevent a return to active duty, the worker then should receive Pa. workers’ compensation benefits under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act.
In contrast to the Heart and Lung Act, which pays full salary and benefits, benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Act typically pay two-thirds of a worker’s average weekly wage with no taxes deducted upon receipt or which need to be declared by April 15th or tax time. These benefits are, by statute, nontaxable and not considered income by the government. This differs from Heart and Lung benefits which are taxable and income to the employee. Employers should recognize a work injury for these select public safety workers under the Heart and Lung Act as well as the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act. There are specific requirements for employers to comply with the dictates of both Acts. A worker, however, cannot keep benefits paid under both Acts simultaneously. The worker will typically get Heart and Lung benefits and receive a check from the workers’ compensation insurance company which needs to be handed over to the employer. If the worker has retained an attorney to represent his interests, attorneys’ fees are subtracted from the Workers’ Compensation checks. This means that the injured worker receives full Heart and Lung benefits and the employer essentially pays the attorneys’ fee. There are many dynamics to navigating a claim under both Acts and an injured employee should consult with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney immediately to ensure that his or her rights are protected.
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