The Defense Base Act (DBA) is a vital piece of legislation that ensures government contractors and their employees receive workers’ compensation benefits in the event of an injury or death while working outside the continental United States. However, under certain circumstances, Defense Base Act waivers can be issued to exempt contractors from the act’s requirements. It is crucial for government contractors and civilian employees to understand DBA waivers, their limitations, and their applications. 

What is a Defense Base Act Waiver?

A DBA waiver is a legal provision that allows certain employers and employees to be exempted from the mandatory Defense Base Act coverage. This means those who qualify for such waivers are not required to carry DBA insurance or provide workers’ compensation, death benefits, disability benefits, or medical benefits under the DBA. Instead, they may be subject to local laws or alternative workers’ compensation plans.

How Do DBA Waivers Work?

The Defense Base Act is an extension of the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA). It provides benefits similar to the Longshore Act to civilian contractors working on military bases or within other government agencies outside the United States. DBA-covered contracts include those with the United States government, its allies, or any subordinate contracts under a government contract.

The DOL has the ability to waive coverage for specific contracts or work locations in certain circumstances. The waiver applies to certain employees working for a government agency who are not United States citizens hired in the United States. Additionally, local workers’ compensation coverage must be similar to the benefits provided under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. If all the forms are completed and a waiver is granted, the employer is not required to provide DBA benefits to the waived employees.

Here is an overview of how the waivers work:

  • Assessment of eligibility: The DOL assesses whether a waiver is appropriate by evaluating factors such as the host country’s workers’ comp laws, the nature of the work, and the employees’ nationality.
  • Application for a waiver: If it is determined that DBA coverage is not necessary, the employer or contractor may apply for a waiver from the DOL. The waiver application must include relevant information about the workers, the nature of the work, and the local regulations that provide adequate coverage for the individuals who will waive DBA protection.
  • Approval of the waiver: If the DOL approves the waiver, the employer is exempted from providing DBA coverage to the specified worker. Instead, these employees would be protected under local workers’ compensation laws or other applicable regulations.
  • Continual compliance: Employers with approved Defense Base Act waivers must ensure that they remain in compliance with local regulations that provide adequate coverage and benefits for their employees.

Limits On DBA Waivers

DBA waivers have limitations to protect workers and maintain the integrity of the defense base act. First, waivers are not applicable to all types of government contracts or employees. A waiver request is typically granted in cases where local law provides sufficient workers’ compensation coverage and the other agency agrees to the terms. When the local law does not provide adequate coverage, the DOL will not grant a waiver.

Moreover, waivers cannot be used to circumvent the Defense Base Act’s provisions or to provide lesser benefits than those civilian employees covered under the act. If a waiver is granted, employers working overseas must still adhere to the local workers’ compensation laws and provide coverage comparable to that of the DBA.

DBA Waivers and Guam

Guam is an unincorporated territory of the United States. The DBA was previously waived for contracts and work on U.S. military bases in Guam. This waiver applied to both local Guamanians (who are U.S. citizens) and third-country nationals.

Because the DOL has a longstanding policy that DBA coverage cannot be waived for U.S. citizens, in May 2020, the Guam blanket waiver was modified. The DOL issued a new waiver that provides DBA coverage to U.S. citizens in Guam, including all local Guamanians, while only waiving coverage for third-country nationals.

Can the U.S. Department of Labor Waive the Defense Base Act?

Yes, the U.S. Department of Labor can grant waivers under specific circumstances. These waivers are not granted arbitrarily, and the DOL will only approve them if the local laws provide adequate workers’ compensation benefits and if the labor agrees to the terms. In such cases, waivers may be granted on a case-by-case basis.

Call Our Defense Base Act Attorney Today

Understanding Defense Base Act waivers can be complex, and navigating the process can be challenging. If you are a government contractor or injured employee seeking guidance on Defense Base Act insurance or have questions about your rights and benefits under the Defense Base Act, it is essential to consult with an experienced attorney. At Grossman Attorneys at Law, we have over 30 years of experience handling Defense Base Act claims, and our team is dedicated to helping clients navigate the complexities of this law.

Whether you need assistance with temporary total disability, medical, or death benefits, our knowledgeable attorneys can guide you through the process and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. Please don’t leave your case to chance; contact Grossman Attorneys at Law today for a consultation, and let us help you secure your rights!

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