Working as a civilian overseas in military theaters for the United States takes a certain type of person. As a hardworking and patriotic American, you probably dislike being dependent on anyone, let alone receiving disability benefits. But accidents and injuries do happen when working near military operations. The Defense Base Act (DBA) covers injuries for civilian contractors working for the United States. If you want to learn more about the DBA and its application, check out our FAQ page. If you are already considering a DBA claim, keep reading to learn more about how Defense Base Act settlements are calculated.
DBA Settlement Amounts
It is almost impossible to give an average for DBA settlement amounts. The nature and extent of your injury will determine how much and for how long you will receive benefits.
DBA cases pay wage benefits based on the category of the injury. There are four injury categories.
Permanent total disability
A permanent total disability is an injury that has stabilized at a maximum recovery level and you are still unable to do the job you had prior to your injury or any other related lighter work.
The benefits are two-thirds of your average weekly wage (AWW) for as long as the disability lasts (in this case a lifetime). With permanent disability, your AWW will be periodically adjusted for cost of living through a government formula.
Temporary total disability
A temporary total disability is an injury that prevents you from doing any work (your original job or related lighter work) for a period of time.
The benefits for a temporary total disability are two-thirds of AWW for as long as the disability lasts (in this case a fixed time).
Permanent partial disability
If your injury has stabilized at a maximum recovery level and you can return to work (perhaps lighter related work), but you still cannot do the job you had prior to your injury, you will be considered to have a permanent partial disability.
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWC) includes a schedule that outlines the benefits for certain types of injuries. (e.g., the loss of a hand would provide a certain payout for a certain period of time; the loss of hearing would provide a different payout for a different period of time). If the injury is not covered by the schedule, then you are paid two-thirds of AWW that represents the difference between your current wages and your pre-injury AWW (e.g., if your AWW was $15/ hour and post-injury it is $12/hour, the difference is $3/hour and two-thirds would be $2/hour. The $2/hour would then be multiplied out to determine the total benefit). In this case, benefits would be for a lifetime and periodically adjusted for cost of living through a government formula.
Temporary partial disability
If your injury prevents you from doing your job while it is healing but you can do lighter work in the meantime, you may receive temporary partial disability benefits.
The benefits are two-thirds of AWW that represents the difference between your current wages and your pre-injury AWW (same as the permanent partial disability example). In this case, benefits would be for a fixed period of time.
As you can see, there are significant differences in wage benefits depending on how your injury is categorized.
All medical expenses related to your injury are paid under the DBA. Medical expenses include costs incurred for the initial treatment and all future and ongoing expenses. In addition, medical expenses are paid so long as they are needed and reasonably related to the DBA injury. Generally, the following expenses are covered by the DBA:
- Emergency services,
- Diagnostics and testing,
- Physical therapy
- Vocational therapy, and
The above list is not complete. If you have expenses that are not on the list, do not hesitate to include them in your DBA settlement amounts.
If a loved one is killed and qualifies for DBA benefits, it will pay wage benefits to the surviving spouse or a single child at one-half of AWW, or two-thirds of AWW if there are two or more beneficiaries (e.g., the surviving spouse and a child). These benefits may be payable for life and will be periodically adjusted for cost of living. In addition, the DBA will pay funeral expenses of up to $3,000.
DBA PTSD Settlements
PTSD benefits are addressed separately because they do not neatly fit into any category or time table. In general, PTSD is covered by the DBA through wage and medical expense benefits.
Normally, to receive DBA benefits a claim must be made with the U.S. government within one year of an injury. However, PTSD may not manifest itself within one year of the actual event. Fortunately, under the LHWC, PTSD is usually defined as an “occupational injury.” As such, it must be reported within one year of when you become aware (or should have been aware) of the relationship between the PTSD and your employment. This standard is distinctly different. The timeline is based on awareness of the connection and not on the injury event itself. On the flip side, sometimes PTSD can be defined as a traumatic injury. In that case, the reporting limit is the same as the standard reporting period for physical injuries. You should consult an attorney skilled in the DBA to help you with any DBA PTSD settlements and filings.
More than likely, any wage benefits for PTSD will be categorized as either permanent partial disability or permanent total disability. However, it is critical that you consult with trusted professionals regarding your PTSD to best calculate the impact of the disorder on your life.
Grossman Law Can Help Get The Most From The DBA
Grossman Attorneys at Law has represented thousands of DBA cases and is intimately familiar with claim filings and DBA benefit analysis and submissions for Defense Base Act settlements. Contact us now to learn more about how we can help with your claim.