If you are working for a private contractor that is employed overseas by the United States government, then The Defense Base Act is something that you need to know about. The kinds of benefits afforded to those in the branches of the U.S. military are not necessarily available to non-military personnel who do contract work with the military.

Therefore, you should make sure that your company is in compliance with The Defense Base Act, and that you are aware of what you need to do to take advantage of the workers’ compensation protections under the Defense Base Act.

This article is a brief primer on the what, when, and how of The Defense Base Act; and we at the law firm of RITE law are on the ready to help you should you need expert workers’ compensation advice involving The Defense Base Act.

What is The Defense Base Act?

As World War II was heating up for the United States in 1941, it became apparent that non-military personnel employed on U.S. defense bases needed some protection from injury while employed. Military service personnel had insurance coverage through the military, yet civilian workers on those same U.S. defense bases did not.  To remedy that problem, The Defense Base Act of 1941 was born.

The purpose of The Defense Base Act was to make sure that civilians working overseas for a U.S. government agency were protected in the event of injury, kidnapping, or death.  Accordingly, the U.S. extended the already existing federal workers’ compensation program for longshoremen and harbor workers, appropriately called the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, to people employed at U.S. defense bases overseas.

The Defense Base Act, or DBA, is administered by the U.S. Department of Labor and is meant to compensate defense contractor employees who are injured in the scope of their employment. The DBA has been revised several times in order to broaden the scope of who may be covered by the workers’ compensation program.

Who is Covered by The Defense Base Act?

The DBA covers the following types of employees:

  • Employees of private employers stationed overseas on a U.S. military base, or on any land used for military purposes by the U.S.
  • Employees involved in a contract with any U.S. government agency for public works, such as construction or service contracts, related to national defense activities outside of the U.S.
  • Employees involved in a contract for the sale of military equipment, materials, or services to allies of the U.S. under the Foreign Assistance Act, provided the activities take place overseas.
  • Employees working for American employers that provide welfare or similar services outside the U.S. for the benefit of the armed forces.  Some examples include employees of the American Red Cross and the United Service Organization (USO).

To give a little context, there are a number of companies that are well known for providing private contracting services to the U.S. government overseas. These companies must ensure that they follow the rules of The Defense Base Act so that their employees can have workers’ compensation protection. The companies include:

  • Blackwater
  • Halliburton
  • Bechtel
  • Dyncorp
  • CACI
  • Global Linguist Solutions
  • SCI

What Kind of Benefit Does The Defense Base Act Provide?

If you are injured in the course of your duties, then you are entitled to the following benefits and compensation:

  • Medical treatment, including psychological treatment
  • Compensation for disability
  • Lost wages
  • Vocational rehabilitation

If you are killed in the course of your duties, the DBA also provides death benefits for your loved ones.

To ensure that you were, in fact, injured in the course of your duties, your employer can ask that a doctor examine you to confirm that you need treatment and benefits. The DBA will cover the costs of treatment, prescriptions, rehabilitation, and even travel to the doctor.

What Are the Basics of Making a Defense Base Act Claim?

In the event of an injury, the DBA requires the person report the injury to his or her supervisor immediately.  The injured person must also give written notice of the injury within 30 days, which will trigger the employer to offer medical treatment.

It is important to note that the injured employee is also responsible for filing an official claim with the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs within one year of the date of injury or the last payment of compensation, whichever is later.  If the claim involves occupational injury (i.e., a condition that worsens over time, such as carpal tunnel syndrome or lung disease from breathing in fumes), then the employee has two years to file an official claim from the date the employee discovered that the injury was related to his or her employment.

How Are Compensation Payments Administered, and What is AWW?

In addition to providing compensation for medical treatment, the DBA may also provide compensation for lost wages. If you are disabled for more than three days, you may be compensated with loss of earnings. A person is typically compensated at the rate of 2/3 his or her “average weekly wage” (AWW).

Determining someone’s AWW could be easy if the person worked continuously for a year prior to the employer. All you need to do take the person’s actual wages and divide that by 52. However, if the person did not work a substantial amount in the prior year then the AWW might be slightly more difficult to ascertain.

What is important to know about the AWW, however, is that it forms the basis of both temporary and permanent disability compensation.  You want to make sure that you arrive at the maximum AWW possible. So, it is vital that you get a Defense Base Act attorney to help you with DBA claims.

Why Do You Need the RITE law Firm To Help You With The Defense Base Act?

The Defense Base Act has rather complicated rules and regulations and has particular deadlines that need to be followed to obtain the appropriate amount of medical treatment and compensation. Only a seasoned DBA attorney has the knowledge and experience to advise you on whether you are entitled to compensation and medical benefits.

The expert DBA attorneys at the RITE law, P.A. are the ideal choice to assist you with your Defense Base Act claims.  We are a boutique firm that specializes in DBA claims and insurance. We know from experience what is important to include in a Defense Base Act claim, how to calculate the maximum AWW for you, and how to smooth out any obstacles that will invariably occur with your DBA claim before the Department of Labor.

We welcome you to call us at 904-500-7483 to learn more about how we can bring our expertise to bear in your Defense Base Act claim.