Situations Where You’ll Need Defense Base Act Coverage
As U.S. foreign policy became broader and more solidified in the early 20th Century, the protection of U.S. interests abroad became more important. The U.S. began to offer support and intervention militarily when needed, which meant an increase in non-military personnel working as extra support. As the U.S. military became more active overseas after the First World War and heading into the Second World War, it became more common for non-military American citizens to work at U.S. military bases on foreign soil.
The U.S. government began to realize the necessity of compensating those who worked on American military bases. So, in 1941, the government enacted the Defense Base Act (DBA) as an extension of the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act, in order to provide workers’ compensation benefits to contractors and subcontractors of those working for the U.S. government and the employers on U.S. military bases. This was just in time for the official U.S. entry into the Second World War.
Defense Base Act coverage has since only grown as U.S. foreign interests and military actions have increased. Today, it includes non-citizens and those working under public works contracts, including most government jobs overseas. With the significant growth of overseas government work, and military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, many employers and contractors offer Defense Base Act insurance to those that fall under its coverage.
Who Does Defense Base Act Coverage Extend To?
When it was first enacted in 1941, the DBA only extended the coverage eligibility of the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act to those workers who were injured or contracted a disease while working for national defense interests. However, it eventually grew to include virtually any government job requiring work in a foreign country.
Defense Base Act coverage was created for contractors working for the United States government on U.S. military bases. However, in 1958, four years after the enacting of the Mutual Security Act, the U.S. government amended it. Since then, it’s grown to include employees of private companies and contractors as well as non-citizens working for welfare and morale projects that fostered our global interests – basically every overseas government job.
However, it can’t be just any type of work. The work must be related to U.S. government public works or in the interest of national defense. For example, a private company that also operates outside the U.S. is not required to offer DBA insurance to their employees if they are not working in some capacity for the government. However, a company operating overseas is required to offer its employees DBA insurance only if the company is operating under a government contract. Furthermore, that coverage would only extend to the employees working overseas in such a capacity.
Overseas government contracting became particularly widespread during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Employees and contractors headed to the area to rebuild roads, build schools and hospitals, and assist in the overall rebuilding of the war-torn region. Due to the dangers of working overseas, especially in war zones, Defense Base Act insurance coverage became even more of a necessity for those working in such situation.
Covered Employees Of DBA Insurance
Not every United States employee or non-resident employee working for an American company overseas will be covered under the DBA. You, along with your private employer or contractor, must meet certain requirements before you’re eligible to receive DBA compensation benefits.
- You’re an employee or contractor working on U.S. military bases outside the US.
- You’re working on a public work contract with U.S. government agencies. These contracts are often service-related, such as construction. They are also oftentimes in war zones or previous war zones, being associated with war or national defense activities. Again, the work must be done on foreign soil.
- You work for an American company that provides welfare services to the United States Armed Forces operating on foreign soil, such as the United Services Organization.
- If you work for welfare and humanitarian projects outside the United States, such as working for the American Red Cross or The Salvation Army, you are also covered. Many of these projects are funded by the Foreign Assistance Act.
Working Under The Foreign Assistance Act
Today, America has vested interests in many countries for long-term development and economic and social progress. Under the Foreign Assistance Act, the U.S. has provided support to countries that need humanitarian relief. We have also provided support that contributes to peace, security, and stability in the world. The contracts funded under the Foreign Assistance Act are not military contracts and are often not associated with the U.S. military.
If you work on a contract that’s funded by the American government under the Foreign Assistance Act, then you are covered under DBA. This work is usually non-military, economic assistance to foreign countries, numbering about 100 countries in total today. Such contracts usually include assistance that further peace and prosperity in underdeveloped and war-torn areas. According to the U.S. Department of State:
Today, the U.S. manages foreign assistance programs in more than 100 countries around the world through the efforts of over 20 different U.S. government agencies. These investments further America’s foreign policy interests on issues ranging from expanding free markets, combating extremism, ensuring stable democracies, and addressing the root causes of poverty, while simultaneously fostering global good will.
The contracts under the Foreign Assistance Act may also be with foreign governments themselves that work in the interest of U.S. national security and defense. Such contracts can be public works or military in nature, as long as the contract is based on the interests of U.S. national security. If you are working in such a capacity under a foreign government, both resident and non-resident, you are covered under the DBA.
What are My DBA Benefits?
If you have DBA Insurance coverage, you are entitled to many benefits other than simply monetary compensation or reimbursement. Benefits under the Defense Base Act include:
- medical treatment by the doctor of your choice and for as long as is required by your doctor
- disability compensation as temporary total, temporary partial, permanent total or permanent partial
- death benefits
- assistance in obtaining suitable employment should you no longer be able to continue your current work.
Your compensation is determined by the average weekly wage (AWW) and is subject to the maximum compensation rate. Each year this rate is adjusted. Currently, as of August 2022, the NAWW is $863.49 with a maximum rate of $1,726.98. Depending on your level of disability or how your claim is settled, you may receive all or some of this compensation. Temporary Total is 2/3 of the AWW; Temporary Partial is 2/3 of your lost wages; Permanent Total is 2/3 of the AWW; and Permanent Partial is 2/3 of your lost earning capacity.
It should be expected that the insurance carrier and/or employer will try to save money by paying as little as possible. This is why it’s important to ensure you file your claim correctly and have a complete understanding of how the process works. A DBA attorney will be able to help you navigate the complicated process of DBA claims so that you can receive your max benefits.
First Steps In Filing A DBA Claim
Before it even gets to the point of filing a DBA claim, you need to make sure that (1) you’re covered under the DBA and (2) that your employer has coverage. In fact, before accepting a position and heading off to another country, you should make sure that you have the necessary DBA coverage should you be injured. This should not be a problem because the Defense Base Act requires all U.S. government contractors and subcontractors to secure DBA workers’ compensation insurance for their employees working overseas.
As a U.S. government contractor working overseas, you should know that it is the responsibility of your employer to offer DBA Insurance to you as a contractor, subcontractor or employee. Moreover, it is possible that should you be injured with other workers in the same incident, you may be covered by different insurance policies. In some cases, an employer might with contracts with different agencies, which means they have different policies with different insurers. Before you file a claim, do not assume that your policy is the same as a co-worker, even if they got injured in the same incident.
If you are covered and injured, you’ll want to file a claim as soon as possible. Generally, you must file all claims with the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs within one (1) year from the date of the accident. It is the responsibility of your employer to:
- File your injury report within 10 days of receiving your injury or death notice;
- notify the insurance carrier of your injury or death;
- authorize medical care;
- provide employment records, including earnings and wages, medical benefits, and other records.
It is your, the employee or contractor, responsibility to:
- file your claim promptly and on time;
- abide by any deadlines;
- keep all copies of your claim, injury reports, medical records, employment records, and wage records;
- keep any communications between you, your employer, insurance carrier, and the physician;
- and first and foremost, it is your responsibility to seek medical attention as soon as possible after being made you are injured.
Understanding how your DBA coverage works can be difficult and confusing. Furthermore, making sure you file the claim correctly is paramount to you receiving your benefits when you need them. Contacting a DBA attorney as soon as you can after the incident will help you in the long run in learning your rights.