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Frequently Asked Questions About Defense Base Act Claims

what is the defense base act

The Defense Base Act is an important federal law protecting employees working overseas. But what is the Defense Base Act, and who does it cover? Understanding your rights under this act is extremely important if you work for a covered employer.

1. What Is the Defense Base Act?

The Defense Base Act (DBA) is a federal law in the United States that provides workers’ compensation to civilian employees working on U.S. military bases outside the United States. It also covers civilian workers under a contract with the U.S. government for “public works or national defense.”

Public work includes any fixed improvement or any project involving construction, alteration, removal, or repair for public use of the U.S. or its allies. Public work also includes contract projects and operations in connection with national defense.

2. What Is Defense Base Act Insurance?

Defense Base Act insurance covers the payment of workers’ compensation benefits under the DBA. The Act requires all employers, contractors, and subcontractors to obtain insurance securing payment of any workers’ compensation claims.

Defense Base Act coverage includes benefits for disability and medical expenses for those injured in the course of their employment. Keep in mind that DBA insurance is not 24-hour coverage; that is, the DBA does not cover non-work related activity, including travel during breaks or rest and relaxation.

3. Who Does the Defense Base Act Cover?

Defense Base Act coverage applies to employees working:

  • For private employers on a U.S. military base or land outside the United States, including in U.S. territories;
  • On public work contracts for a U.S. government agency;
  • On contracts approved and funded under the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act; and
  • For American employers providing welfare outside the U.S. for the benefit of the Armed Services.

If the employer also provides transportation to or from the job, the DBA covers injuries or deaths that occur during that transportation.

4. Are There Exceptions to DBA Coverage?

Yes. The DBA does not apply to employees covered by the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act, employees engaged in casual employment not in the usual course of trade, and masters or crewmembers of any vessel.

5. Who Needs DBA Insurance?

Any employer, contractor, or subcontractor with civilian employees overseas is required to obtain DBA insurance.

6. What Happens If My Employer Does Not Obtain DBA Insurance?

Employers who fail to secure DBA insurance may face criminal penalties including fines or imprisonment, and executives of corporate employers may be held personally liable. Employees in this situation have the additional option to sue for damages instead of filing a DBA claim.

7. Does the DBA Cover Non-U.S. Citizens?

Yes. The DBA covers all employees, whether they’re U.S. citizens or nationals local to the overseas employment.

8. Do Subcontractors Have to Have Their Own DBA Insurance, or Are They Covered by Their Prime Contractor’s Insurance?

Defense Base Act coverage does not pass to contractors or subcontractors. Each employer must have its own DBA insurance. Accordingly, it is important to verify that contractors and subcontractors are covered by an active DBA insurance plan.

9. Does the DBA Apply to U.S. Territories?

Yes. The DBA covers employees on any foreign U.S. military base or other U.S.-owned land.

10. Does the DBA Cover Work Performed Under a Grant?

No. Federal law distinguishes between contracts and grants, and the DBA only covers work performed under contract. However, a separate section of the DBA covers work financed by the U.S. through the Foreign Assistance Act.

11. What Should I Do If I’m Injured at Work?

Injured employees should notify their supervisor of the incident immediately and then obtain medical treatment. Covered employees are entitled to a physician of their choice.

12. What Kinds of Benefits Does the DBA Offer?

For covered employees injured on the job, the Defense Base Act provides disability and medical benefits. These can include partial lost earnings and medical treatment.

For survivors of covered employees killed in the course of employment or as a result of their employment, the DBA provides death benefits. Death benefits under the DBA are typically equal to two-thirds of the employee’s average weekly earnings.

13. What Should I Do If I Have a Defense Base Act Claim?

If you’ve been injured or someone has been killed while under DBA coverage, hiring a lawyer who specializes in Defense Base Act claims is the best thing you can do. They will help you navigate the claims process and ensure that you don’t miss any important deadlines or fail to submit required information.

14. How Do I File a DBA Claim?

The Department of Labor’s Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation (DLHWC) handles DBA claim submissions. Employees can submit written claims within one year after the date of injury or last payment. Depending on the situation, employees can file the claim online, by mail, or by fax.

15. How Long Does It Take to Resolve a DBA Insurance Claim?

Like other types of insurance claims, it is impossible to estimate how long it will take. Every case is different, and factors like the nature of the accident, evidence available, and how it happened can have a significant effect on the complexity of each case.

16. What Does It Mean If a Waiver Covers My Work Contract?

Employers may apply with the Secretary of Labor to waive Defense Base Act requirements for any contract, work location, or class of employees. However, a waiver does not mean you will lose coverage under the DBA.

First, employers may still voluntarily offer DBA coverage even to waived employees or contracts. Second, employers must provide alternative workers’ compensation benefits under local law. If no such local benefits exist, the waiver is invalid.

Need Help with Your Defense Base Act Claim?

Grossman Attorneys at Law represents employees and civilian contractors covered by the Defense Base Act. If you’ve been injured working abroad on a U.S. government contract, we can help. Contact us today through our website or by phone at 800-940-8048 to schedule a free consultation.

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