by Karl Voigt
Some state workers like vital police officers, paid firefighters or mental hospital workers who have been injured carrying out their official duties may qualify for Act 534/632 or “heart & lung” claims. These claims are somewhat better than “standard” workers’ compensation in the sense that the workers receives “full salary” and medical benefits while temporarily disabled. “Standard” workers’ compensation claims pay injured workers at two-thirds of salary and there is no guarantee of continued health insurance benefits.
Interestingly, 534 benefits are not taxable, meaning the injured worker may take home her full salary without deduction. However, in trade-off, these wage loss benefits are based on salary only, and preinjury overtime pay is not included.
The duration of 534 benefits varies from regular workers’ compensation. 534 benefits are to be paid where disability is temporary, meaning you must be projected to return to full duty “in the foreseeable future”. In regular workers’ compensation, you are paid wage loss benefits so long as you have an earnings loss associated with your injury.
The venue for challenges to Act 534 cases differs fro workers’ compensation. Act 534 cases are heard generally by the worker’s borough or locale. Workers’ compensation cases are heard by judges. Act 534 recipients often first file a grievance through the grievance procedure of their collective bargaining agreement, then the case may be heard before a Grievance Panel.
Importantly, little known is the fact that Act 534 recipients may have a concurrent workers’ compensation claim. There are fairly complex offsets, but most 534 recipients should consider their workers’ compensation claim through the employer’s insurer as a “backup” if those 534 benefits are disturbed.