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What Is The Heart & Lung Act?

In addition to the Workers’ Compensation Act, there is the Heart and Lung Act that applies to a significant number of employees in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It is important to understand how these two Acts differ, and how they can work together. Generally speaking, the Heart and Lung Act covers police officers and firefighters.

The Heart and Lung Act Explained 

The Heart and Lung Act, unlike the Workers’ Compensation Act, grants full compensation and continuation of employee benefits to eligible employees, but its scope is much narrower than the Workers’ Compensation Act. The purpose of the Heart and Lung Act is to provide important public safety personnel with full compensation while disabled from a work injury, but it only applies when the disability is temporary. This means that if you suffered a permanent disability while working as an employee who typically would qualify under the Heart and Lung Act, you fall under the Workers’ Compensation Act. Heart and Lung benefits are terminated either when the disability ceases, or if the disability is determined to be permanent as opposed to temporary.

It is important to understand that, under the Workers’ Compensation Act, you are entitled to benefits for injuries arising in the course of your employment. However, under the Heart and Lung Act, you are only entitled to benefits for injuries incurred in the performance of your duties. For example, if you are a police officer, in order to be considered injured “in performance of your duties”, you have to have been injured as a result of an event that requires or triggers an official police response.

Further, it should be noted that although the Act is entitled “Heart and Lung”, it covers much more than just injuries to the heart and lung. In fact, the term “disability” under the Heart and Lung Act is defined the same as it is under the Workers’ Compensation Act. Thus, if you are a qualifying employee under the Heart and Lung Act, and sustain, for example, a knee injury while in the performance of your job duties, you are entitled to benefits under the Heart and Lung Act.

Who is Covered by the Heart and Lung Act? 

As noted above, the Heart and Lung Act covers police officers and firefighters, but there are exceptions. Below are some examples of persons who are covered by the Heart and Lung Act:

  • Any member of the State Police Force
  • Any policeman, fireman or park guard of any county, city, borough, town or township
  • Firemen employed by the Commonwealth
  • Any sheriff or deputy sheriff
  • Parole agents, enforcement officers and investigators of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole
  • Capitol Police officers
  • Correction employees employed by the Department of Corrections, whose principal duty is the care, custody and control of inmates

Below are examples of persons who are not covered by the Heart and Lung Act:

  • Pennsylvania state police cadet
  • Retired state police officer
  • Volunteer firefighter

What Kind of Benefits Can I Receive With the Heart & Lung Act?

Under the Heart and Lung Act, an employee is entitled to their full rate of salary, a continuation of employee benefits, and medical benefits. The phrase “full rate of salary” refers to an employee’s gross salary, not the net amount of compensation that the employee receives after taxes.

How You Can Apply For Benefits Through the Heart and Lung Act 

In order to qualify for benefits under the Heart and Lung Act, all you have to do is file an official report with your employer. Your claim will be investigated, and you will receive a decision.

Can You Receive Benefits From Both the Heart and Lung Act and Worker’s Compensation? 

The simple answer to this is “yes”. It often makes sense to apply for both. Obviously, because the Heart and Lung pays full salary, and Workers’ Compensation benefits pay 66 and 2/3 percent of your salary, you are not entitled to more than your salary. However, what happens is the Workers’ Compensation benefits will be turned over to your employer and used to pay your full salary. In other words, your employer uses it as a credit.

However, it is important to understand that even if you are found fully recovered in a civil proceeding regarding your Heart and Lung Act benefits, that does not mean you are precluded from filing a petition to reinstate benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Act. In other words, that determination is not binding on a workers’ compensation Judge, and you may still be entitled to benefits regarding your injury. This is because the Workers’ Compensation system has no jurisdiction over the Heart and Lung process and vice versa.

Work With an Experienced PA Worker’s Compensation Attorney

If you believe you are entitled to benefits under the Heart and Lung Act, contact us. We will be able to help determine if you are eligible and explain the benefits of filing for Workers’ Compensation benefits at the same time. The consultation is always free.

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