Did you know that a civilian contractor working abroad for the US Military or the US State Department can be compensated if they get injured at work by claiming Defense Base Act settlements?
The goal behind the Defense Base Act (DBA) protects civilian contractors that sometimes face the same risks that soldiers do. If you were injured or diagnosed with a work-related condition you can file a DBA claim to receive medical or wage benefits.
Still, getting your DBA benefits can be an arduous process. So if you’re considering filing a DBA claim and you’re in it for the long haul, this article can help you.
Here’s everything you need to know about Defense Base Act settlements.
How much can you receive from your claim?
Before getting into the amount one can get from Defense Base Act settlements, you first need to be familiar with the four types of benefits covered under the DBA:
1. Disability wage benefits
2. Medical benefits
3. Death benefits
4. Vocational rehabilitation benefits
Calculating the exact amount is nearly impossible because there are too many factors at play.
Defense Base Act settlements depend on the severity of your injuries as well as the likely recovery time. Furthermore, whether you’ll be able to do a similar type of job once you fully rehabilitate also plays a role in the value of your claim.
Similarly, the maximum benefits you can receive depend on the state of your mental health. For example, whether your disability has taken its toll on your mental wellbeing or if you’ve developed PTSD plays a critical role in the final tally.
Additional factors include aspects such as rehabilitation needs, disability benefits, medical expenses, and lost income, among other things.
While it’s impossible to pinpoint the exact amounts you can receive out of Defense Base Act settlements, you can at least familiarize yourself with how different types of benefits are valued:
Disability wage benefits
If you’re disabled, you are entitled to varying amounts of replacement wages depending on the extent of your disability. DBA recognizes four different categories of injuries:
1. Temporary total disability
This category covers all injuries that prevent you from doing your original job or a similar easier job. For the duration of the disability, you will receive two-thirds of your average weekly wage. To simplify it even further, you fall into this category if you’re able to work after your recovery period ends.
2. Temporary partial disability
If you can do some lighter work while you’re recovering from your injuries, you fall under this category and are eligible for the corresponding benefits. The exact amount of benefits is usually two-thirds of your average weekly wage representing the gap between your current wages and ones before your injury for up to five years.
3. Permanent total disability
If you reached a maximum level of recovery and you can’t do your original job or any similar light duty, this category applies to you. In this case, you can receive two-thirds of your average weekly wage which will be adjusted annually based on the national average earnings.
4. Permanent partial disability
These benefits are eligible for anyone who has completely healed but is unable to do the job they did previously, yet are able to do similar, lighter work. The compensation for this category is a bit trickier.
There’s a compensation schedule if the type of your disability is under The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWC). If that’s the case, you’re eligible to receive a temporary total disability for a period of time for the percentage of your disability.
If the schedule doesn’t cover your disability, you can receive two-thirds of your loss of earning capacity.
Medical and rehabilitation benefits
Defense Base Act settlements also cover medical expenses. More precisely, they include the costs of the initial, as well as all the ongoing and future medical expenses. The DBA will cover these expenses as long as they are reasonably related to your injury. Additionally, if you are permanently disabled from the injury you suffered in the workplace, you’re entitled to vocational rehabilitation services.
Some of the expenses covered are:
3. Emergency services
6. Physical therapy
For families whose loved ones passed away as a result of an injury in the workplace or a condition related to their work abroad, it’s possible to receive Defense Base Act settlements. For instance, if you’re the spouse, half of the deceased’s average weekly income goes to you and one child. Or if you have two children, you can receive two-thirds of their average weekly income.
Moreover, you may receive up to $3000 to cover the funeral expenses.
Bonus: PTSD settlements
PTSD cases are also a part of Defense Base Act settlements. They’re covered through medical expenses or wage benefits as they don’t really fit into either of the categories. However, wage benefits for PTSD will most likely be recognized as a disability, or to be more precise, a permanent total or a permanent partial disability.
The process of receiving Defense Base Act settlements for mental health problems like PTSD is typically a bit more challenging. To be eligible, you must make a claim within one year of an injury.
Yet, the nature of PTSD itself is that the symptoms usually don’t manifest in a clear-cut timeframe so the question is: how do you get benefits for your PTSD?
Thankfully, the aforementioned LHWC defines PTSD as an occupational injury. This means that you must report within a year when you became familiar with or should have become familiar with the connection between PTSD and your occupation.
The timeline that you present in your claim is not based on the event itself. Rather, it’s based on the awareness of the connection between the symptoms and the event.
In short, the standard for reporting mental health problems is different than the one for more apparent physical injuries. The problem is that you will have a harder time proving that your PTSD is connected to your employment, and will require a lot of medical documentation to support your claims.
In the end, a lot of victims of PTSD simply don’t end up pursuing Defense Base Act settlements they rightfully deserve.
When is it time to contact an attorney?
Workplace injuries are not that uncommon for overseas contractors so if/when they happen, know that you’re always eligible for compensation from your employer.
However, without proper legal representation, you might not get the compensation you are entitled to. If you go at this monumental undertaking, alone the amount you negotiate might leave you at a severe disadvantage.
This problem is even worse for PTSD cases where the process of getting a fair settlement is almost never painless.
The sheer amount of paperwork required as well as the tasking process of negotiations will leave you drained. The likely scenario is that you’ll either lose the settlement or give up the claim altogether because it’s overwhelming.
The solution is to find an attorney that specializes in DBA cases. These lawyers know the process of claim filings in and out and can help you analyze the DBA benefits that you can receive.
Contact RITE as soon as possible if you need a team of experts who have helped many overseas contractors get the most favorable Defense Base Act settlements. Call (904) 500-RITE (7483), or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org now!