Obtaining Your Defense Base Act Benefits When Injured
It used to be that only the United States military and government officials worked overseas to protect and advance our interests. However, as the world shrunk, and U.S. foreign interests spread, so too did the need to enlist help from more than government officials and soldiers. Over the past few decades in particular, increasingly more U.S. citizens and non-citizens work for the U.S. government overseas as contractors. This is why Defense Base Act benefits were extended to non-military workers and contractors who worked for the U.S. government in some way.
Contractors played and still play an integral role in the Middle East and other conflicts around the world. In fact, the military and the U.S. government has become increasingly reliant on contractors for help in both military and humanitarian operations. As a contractor, you might’ve guarded a military base, provided security detail, drove military convoy trucks, built roads and worked on construction or infrastructure projects, handed out aid to locals, or worked in schools. Whether your job landed you in a war zone or zone of special danger working with the military or helped rebuild schools and roads after a disaster, you have benefits under the Defense Base Act that you’re entitled to if you’re injured on the job.
Summary Of Your Defense Base Act Benefits
According to the Department of Labor:
The Defense Base Act provides disability, medical, and death benefits to covered employees injured or killed in the course of employment, whether or not the injury or death occurred during work hours.
Most people assume that workers’ compensation only applies to an injury sustained during work hours. Under normal circumstances and for those that work in the United States, this is true. However, because of the nature of where you typically work as an overseas contractor, DBA benefits extend to you if you get injured whether or not you were working at the time. Your benefits are simply contingent upon your eligibility as a contractor, the type of employment, and whether the injury happened in the zone of special danger.
For example, in 2012, Steven Ritzheimer slipped after getting out of the shower in his apartment in Israel when he was working as a contract force protection officer for the United States Department of Defense. It was in the privacy of his own home so it would seem that he would not be eligible to receive benefits for his broken ribs and a punctured lung. However, because of the conditions and requirements of employment, his DBA attorney was able to win the dispute. Mr. Ritzheimer received his total benefits and compensation.
As long as your injury is related to the conditions of your employment as a contractor working overseas, then you’re entitled to your Defense Base Act benefits. This is regardless of where and when the injury occurs, as illustrated in Mr. Ritzheimer’s case.
Injuries Covered Under The Defense Base Act
The Defense Base Act covers many injuries, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder if it’s a result of a work-related incident or condition. In fact, many contractors are at risk of sustaining the same types of injuries as their counterparts in the military. In war-torn zones of special danger, contractors are in harm’s way of such dangers as roadside bombs, IEDs, gunfire, mortar attacks, chemical exposure, and even weight-bearing injuries. Other injuries include:
- Shrapnel injuries
- Back injuries
- Broken bones
- Head injuries
- Hearing problems
- Overuse injuries such as Carpal Tunnel and hip injuries
- Neck injuries
The injuries covered under the Defense Base Act are not just limited to those listed above. It also includes any injury that is work-related and during the term of your contract.
Compensation Under Your DBA Benefits
Your number one concern when you’re injured shouldn’t be whether you can pay for your medical treatment or even pay the bills while on leave. Rather, you should be concerned with recovering from your injury so you can get back to work. Receiving your due benefits under the Defense Base Act when you’re entitled to them will help alleviate the financial stress that often accompanies work-related injuries. Under the DBA, your compensation for total disability is generally two-thirds of your average weekly earnings, or up to the current 2019 maximum of $1,510.76 per week.
This compensation is in addition to your medical expenses or money you have paid out of your own pocket for medical treatment for your injury. Your DBA insurance should cover all medical costs associated with your injury, including reimbursement for travel expenses attending doctor appointments. The weekly compensation you receive is for any loss of income while injured.
DBA benefits also extend to any work-related death. In this case, the benefits are half of the employee’s average weekly earnings. This is paid to the surviving spouse or children. If there are more than two surviving children, the compensation is two-thirds of the employee’s earnings. Both permanent total disability and death benefits may be paid for life. Any benefits payable for life are adjusted for the cost of living. If the cost of living goes up for you or the surviving spouse, compensation will also rise accordingly.
Receiving Your Due Benefits
When you get injured as a contractor working overseas, you may not automatically receive your benefits. You have to file a Defense Base Act claim, which is a long, arduous, and complicated process. Full of paperwork, documentation, and time, the DBA claim process can be confusing and result in a long drawn-out affair, especially if it’s disputed. To help guide you through the process, you should consult a DBA attorney. They will be your guide and support, ensuring that your rights are represented at all times.
At Moschetta Law, we specialize in admiralty and maritime claim, which includes the Longshore Act and Defense Base Act, which means we know how to guide you through the process. Most importantly, we know how to help you win the benefits you deserve. If you’ve been injured and need to file a DBA claim to receive your benefits, contact our offices today.