Being a contractor working overseas supporting the U.S. government brings often means you’ll be working in dangerous situations. With that heightened risk, you’ll want to make sure your loved ones are cared for should anything happen to you. This is especially the case should you die while working overseas. Here’s what you need to know about your DBA death benefits and how your family will be taken care of financially should the worst happen.


Preparing For The Worst: DBA Death Benefits


It’s something no one wants to think about, especially if you have spouse and children. However, preparing in the event that something as catastrophic as death may happen is something you need to do before heading overseas. Before leaving your family behind to head overseas, all contractors and subcontractors should fully understand and explain to their loved ones the DBA death benefits in the event that something should happen to you.

Most families think that because you’re not a soldier, death is not an immediate risk. However, in many cases, government contractors who work overseas, especially at U.S. military bases in war zones, have some of the same risks and dangers as any military personnel. This is especially true if you work closely with the military as security or in high-risk dangerous areas, such as war zones and areas plagued by violence. Even if you work behind a desk as a contractor or employee working overseas, never ignore the risk of an accidental death.

Understanding that death benefits are part of your employer’s DBA insurance policy, and discussing it with your family will give you peace of mind knowing your family, surviving spouse, and/or children will be taken care of financially should the worst happen.


What Are Your DBA Death Benefits?

The U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs, Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation (OWCP/DLHWC) states that those who are eligible for Defense Base Act insurance are entitled to death benefits. These benefits are awarded “to eligible survivors of employees killed in the course of employment or who died of causes arising from employment” (OWCP/DLHWC).

  • Death benefits are paid to the surviving spouse or one child at the rate of 50% of the employee’s average weekly earnings. For widows or widowers, these benefits are paid for life or until remarriage. If the surviving spouse remarries, they receive a lump sum payment that equals the compensation of two years.
  • If there are two or more eligible survivors, the death benefits are paid at the rate of 66.6% (or two-thirds) of the employee average weekly earnings or up to the current maximum rate (as of 2019, $1,510.76 per week).
  • Benefits to children are only payable until they reach 18, or until the age of 23 should the child be a student. The only exception to this is if the child is mentally or physically disabled.
  • Any other dependents as defined by Section152 of the Tax Code (dependent grandchildren, siblings) may receive 20% each of the average weekly earnings. Dependent parents and grandparents may receive up to 25%.
  • Your Defense Base Act benefits will also pay for any funeral expenses up to $3,000.

It’s important to note that the benefits are subject to an increase in living over the years, specifically accounting for inflation. Those who are eligible to receive your death benefits include:

  • a surviving spouse;
  • surviving child or children;
  • any person dependent upon the employee (parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents, grandchildren). You will know this information based upon your tax filings. Any person you claim as a dependent on your taxes is eligible to also receive and DBA death benefits.

If you do not have a spouse, children, or dependent parents, then your death benefits will not be paid out.  Many people confuse death benefits, treating it like a life insurance policy. With life insurance, you appoint a beneficiary, which can be anyone you name and they receive a lump sum when you die. However, with DBA death benefits, they are not paid in a lump sum but weekly and you don’t get to appoint a beneficiary.  Rather these death benefits follow the eligibility requirements under the Defense Base Act. In this way, you do not have to worry about appointing a beneficiary, as your spouse and/or children should automatically receive your benefits.  However, that is not always the case.  This is why it is important to talk to your spouse and children before heading overseas.


Obtaining Death Benefits

Death is the most devastating and life-changing event that can happen to any family. Yet, not being prepared financially can bring even more heartache and stress into a tragic situation.  The DBA death benefits are there to help any surviving family should this difficulty fall upon them.

Before leaving your loved ones to work overseas, you should walk your family through how to obtain death benefits should anything happen to you, and should the insurance carrier fail to voluntarily pay the benefits. Preparing for death is not something anyone wants to do. However, knowing how to obtain death benefits can alleviate some of that stress and uncertainty that comes with an unexpected loss.

  1. Within 30 days of an employee’s death, a written notice must be sent to the employer on Form LS-201 (Notice of Employee’s Injury or Death).
  2. Within one year of death, file a written claim for payment of compensation using Form LS-262 (Claim for Death Benefits).
  3. Upload any form to your case file using your OWCP file number on the Longshore’s Secure Electronic Access Portal (SEAPortal).
  4. If you do not have an OWCP file number, you can fax the forms to the Case Create Fax: (202) 513-6814. This is the preferable way you should send in your claim forms.


Can Death Benefits Ever Be Contested?

Just like any claim, a DBA insurance company can always contest a payout or try to get you or surviving spouse to settle for lower. Death benefits are particularly expensive for an insurance carrier to pay, so they may even contest whether your death was caused by your overseas employment. An experienced DBA lawyer, however, will assert your family’s right to these benefits and aggressively prosecute the case for them.

Let your loved ones know that at any time during the process, they can contact a DBA attorney to be their support through the entire DBA claim process. At Moschetta Law, we believe that you shouldn’t have to worry about whether your family can survive financially should the worst happen to you. More to the point, your family should be able to have the time to grieve their loss without having to worry about whether they will receive their entitled benefits. If you need more information for your family about death benefits or if you’re the surviving family member of a contractor, contact us today. We’ll fight for your rights.