The purpose of the Heart and Lung Act is to provide important public safety personnel with full compensation (full rate of salary and medical expenses) while disabled from an injury that occurs in the performance of one’s duty. Unlike compensation under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, overtime wages, vacation pay, and holiday pay are generally not included in the calculation of Heart and Lung benefits.
In addition, unlike workers’ compensation law, the Heart and Lung Act provides compensation only when disability is temporary, and does not apply where disability is permanent.
Any workers’ compensation wage loss benefits received or collected by the employee will be turned over to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania or payee of the Heart and Lung benefits. In the alternative, the workers’ compensation benefits received can be deducted from the Heath and Lung benefits.
Recovery under the Heart and Lung Act is only permitted for injuries incurred during the performance of one’s duties, unlike workers’ compensation which covers any injury which arose during the course of employment. For example, Heart & Lung benefits are not recoverable for a Harrisburg firefighter who slips on the station’s stairs on his way to lunch and is injured, as the employee was not performing job duties. The distinction is whether the employee was engaged in an obligatory task, conduct, service or function which arises from the position.
The Heart and Lung Act, 53 P.S. §637 provides for the payment of salary and medical expenses to the following individuals:
- State Police
- Enforcement officer or Investigator of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board
- Parole agents, enforcement officers or investigators of the PA Board of Probation and Parole
- Capitol police officers
- Correction employees of the Department of Corrections whose principal duty is the care, custody and control of inmates
- Psychiatric security aides of the Department of Public Welfare and Department of Corrections whose principal duty is the care, custody and control of the criminally insane
- Drug enforcement and special agents of the Office of the Attorney General whose principal duty is the enforcement of the criminal laws of the Commonwealth
- Members of the Delaware River Port Authority Police
- Policemen of any county, city, borough, town or township
- Firemen of any county, city, borough, town or township
- Park Guards of any county, city, borough, town or township
- Sheriffs and deputy sheriffs
- Special Fire Police
Moreover, certain employees covered by the Heart and Lung Act who have served four consecutive years or longer, and contract or incur heart disease or tuberculosis caused by extreme overexertion in times of stress or danger or by exposure to heat, smoke, fumes or gases arising out of employment, are entitled to Heart and Lung benefits.
An injured employee who is entitled to Heart and Lung Act benefits is entitled to a hearing to determine eligibility. Heart and Lung benefits end when the employee returns to work or the disability is determined to be permanent.