Defense Base Act Workers Compensation Guide - Moschetta Law Firm
As a contractor working overseas for the U.S. government, you're entitled to Defense Base Act workers compensation if you're injured. Knowing what you'll be compensated for is the first step before filing your claim.

As a contractor working overseas for the U.S. government, you’re entitled to Defense Base Act workers compensation if you’re injured. Knowing what you’ll be compensated for is the first step before filing your claim. (Navy Visual News Service Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class David R. Quillen)


Most people think of the danger of working overseas and only associate it with the military and war activities. Yet, many citizens and even non-citizens working as government contractors and subcontractors face some of the same dangers in the course of employment on military bases and under the armed forces. The reality is that many government and public work contracts require work in zones of danger like war zones, natural disaster areas, and remote areas. And, even if you’re not working in immediate danger, you could still get injured. This is why the Defense Base Act workers compensation was given as a benefit to covered employees as part of the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act.

Also called Defense Base Act insurance, the United States government realized that government contractors and subcontractors had just as much right and protection to be compensated for injury or death as regular employees or the military. DBA insurance is required for every government contract and the employees that work under the contract outside the continental United States for the military or public works. The Defense Base Act compensation you’re entitled to for work-related injuries is what gives you peace of mind knowing you could get injured working overseas and in dangerous zones.

What You Can & Can’t Get Compensated For

Like any workers’ compensation program, Defense Base Act compensation covers most anything related to your injury.

  1. Medical expenses, both past and any future treatments as required for your injury
  2. Disability: temporary total and partial, and permanent total and partial
  3. Lost wages, both past and future
  4. Death benefits to your beneficiaries and loved ones.

You’re fully reimbursed for medical expenses and past lost wages. Travel and food expenses can be reimbursed if it’s proven that there was significant travel time for your medical treatment.

Your compensation for future lost wages and disability will be on two-thirds of your average weekly wage (AWW). The U.S. Department of Labor, Office Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP), Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation (DLHWC) calculates this wage based on a number of factors including your prolonged or total disability and your ability to work, whether it’s returning back to your regular work or finding an alternative. For permanent and total disability, as well as death benefits, the Defense Base Act provides compensation that reflects the annual cost of living and inflation increases.

For partial disability, you’re compensated for as long as you’re unable to work. Once you’ve returned to work, or have been medically cleared to return to work, your compensation will cease. You will not be compensated past this point even if you cannot find a job unless you can prove that you made a good enough effort to find work elsewhere.

It’s important to remember that even though you’re entitled to two-thirds of your AWW, it can’t exceed the maximum weekly compensation rate set by the DOL, which is $1,510.76 per week (2019).

Obtaining Compensation & Statute Of Limitations

An employer or insurance company can pay you your compensation in a couple of ways – a lump sum or payments over time. In most cases, compensation comes in payments over time for disability. Payment of compensations should be paid within 14 days after your employer is notified of your claim, especially if you’re disabled for more than three days.

However, although there are some exceptions (like with PTSD and other psychological and emotional injuries), you must file your claim within a year after your injury. To avoid reaching the statute of limitations on your claim, you should always inform your employer immediately when you’ve been injured, or as soon as possible thereafter, keeping all medical and notification records. Then, after notifying your employer, file your claim as soon as possible.

In the unfortunate and tragic case of obtaining death benefits, a written notice, including a death certificate, of your loved one’s death must be given to the employer within 30 days of the death. Your loved ones will receive their compensation immediately. However, a claim must still be filed with the OWCP. This claim follows the same statute of limitations and deadlines as a disability and injured worker’s claim – one year after the date of the injury.


Denied/Disputed Defense Base Act Workers Compensation

Even after filing your claim properly, an employer may deny or dispute the claim and your compensation. This is especially the case if the claim is expensive, as in the case of permanent total disability. They might argue that the injury didn’t occur at work, it’s not covered under the DBA, or your report is conflicting. This is why it’s important for you to be honest and permanently keep all your records.

If your payments are being contested, you should contact a Defense Base Act attorney immediately so that you have a greater chance of winning the dispute. When there is a dispute, and after a form is filed explaining the disagreement, a hearing is set in an Administrative Law Judge will decide the outcome. Your DBA attorney will represent you through the entire process to make sure your rights are protected.

There is a lot of financial and emotional stress involved with a work-related injury, especially one that ends in disability. You shouldn’t also have to deal with the stress of a disputed claim alone. A good DBA attorney is going to help you through the paperwork and, more importantly, help you through the questioning and depositions.

The attorneys at the Moschetta Law offices will be there to help you through the entire process. We’ll handle the paperwork and disputes so that you can focus on your recovery. Contact us today if you’ve been injured and need to file a claim or if your claim is being disputed.