The Defense Base Act provides workers’ compensation protection to civilian employees working outside the United States on military bases, under a contract with the U.S. government for public works, or for national defense. The Act subjects overseas military and public works contractors to the same workers’ compensation rules, insurance requirements, and schedule of benefits as the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act.
If you are a civilian working overseas and have sustained an injury while on the job, you may be entitled to compensation under the Defense Base Act. To have your case reviewed by one of our Defense Base Act lawyers, please fill out this no charge, no obligation case review form today.
Defense Base Act Eligibility
Federal law mandates that U.S. government contractors provide workers’ compensation insurance for employees who are injured or killed overseas. By law, the following employees should be covered by the DBA:
- employees who work on U.S. military, air or naval bases outside of the United States, including bases located in U.S. territories;
- employees who work on public works projects outside of the United States under contract to any federal agency;
- employees who work outside of the United States on projects funded by the federal government under the provisions of the Mutual Security Act of 1954 that provide for the sale of military equipment or services to American allies; or
- employees who work for American firms providing morale, welfare, or similar services to the armed forces outside of the United States
Choosing a Doctor Under the Defense Base Act
Employees who were injured while working overseas for the U.S. government are entitled to a number of benefits under the Defense Base Act, regardless of fault. An injured worker has the right to seek medical treatment from a doctor of their choice. Although the worker has free range in selecting their physician, they must obtain authorization from the employer or insurance company if they wish to change doctors.
Additionally, the employer holds the right to send the injured employee to a doctor of their choice to confirm the need for treatment and continuation of benefits. If the injured worker fails to show up at such an appointment, their benefits may be forfeited. In addition to medical treatment, the injured worker is entitled to compensation for medical supplies and travel costs to and from medical appointments.
Defense Base Act Benefits
If a worker cannot return to their job for a period of time following their injury, they may be eligible for disability benefits. Workers are considered “disabled” if they cannot earn the same wages as they did prior to the injury. Disabled workers are typically paid two-thirds of their average weekly wage, subject to a maximum amount. (The maximum limit is adjusted every Oct. 1.)
Employees receiving temporary total disability will be paid two-thirds of their average weekly income (subject to a maximum amount) until the worker can return to work and no longer needs medical treatment. If the injured worker reaches their maximum compensation and cannot return to gainful employment, they will receive permanent total disability benefits, with the cost of living adjusted every Oct. 1.
If a worker is killed on the job, either from an injury or occupational disease, death benefits are paid to the surviving spouse and other eligible relatives. The remaining spouse will receive half of the decedent’s average weekly wage for life or until remarriage. If the deceased worker has children, each minor child will receive 16 and 2/3 percent of the average weekly wage. Survivors can also receive up to $3,000 in funeral expenses.
How Can a Lawyer Help With PTSD and the Defense Base Act Claims?
Workers who have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of their employment or deployment may also be entitled to compensation under the Defense Base Act. Claims for coverage under the DBA are presumed compensable unless they are rebutted by substantial evidence by the employer.
PTSD claims are covered under the DBA; however, it can be difficult to prove the relationship between the injury and the employment. Unlike traditional physical injury claims, post-employment claims for PTSD are more difficult to investigate and file successfully because:
- Initial medical reports do not always contain the relevant information;
- PTSD manifests post-employment;
- Insurance companies are hesitant to provide benefits until a causal link is made; and
- A claimant must prove that the PTSD is disabling and will prevent them from returning to their DBA work.
Our Defense Base Act lawyers may be able to help by interviewing doctors and psychiatrists, gathering evidence to prove a causal connection between the employment and the PTSD, and reviewing any documents that may help substantiate a potential PTSD claim.
Claims for PTSD compensation must be filed within two years after the employee becomes aware of the correlation between the injury and their employment. If they have already been compensated for other injuries, a claimant has one year from the date of last payment of compensation to file a claim for PTSD.
All government contracts contain a clause requiring bidding contractors to obtain necessary insurance. If an employer fails to carry Defense Base Act insurance they may face fines, loss of contract(s), or criminal prosecution or civil suits.
If you believe you have a claim, have been denied benefits, or have not received your full benefits, speak with a Defense Base Act lawyer immediately. There is a time limit to dispute the actions of your employer, so it is important to act quickly. To have our lawyer review your claim, please fill out our no cost, no obligation case review form.