Winning DBA Workers Compensation For PTSD

Your DBA workers compensation covers the treatments and wages lost due to PTSD. Even if the symptoms of PTSD appear after than the 1-year filing deadline, you still have a right to the benefits under the Defense Base Act (DBA). (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Joshua Kruger)

When you think about PTSD, many people associate it with the military and combat, or sometimes personal life-threatening situations. Yet, U.S government contractors working overseas under the Defense Base Act (DBA) have a high risk of landing in situations that can lead to PTSD. Your DBA Workers Compensation extends not only to physical injuries but mental or emotional injuries from being in a war zone, including PTSD, anxiety, depression, etc.

Employees working in zones of special danger, such as war zones, are at considerable risk of being in situations that trigger PTSD symptoms. While you might not be conducting the same war activities as your military counterparts, you might still be close to the danger zone. Being in a situation that causes PTSD is not so uncommon as a contractor. In fact, RAND, a research organization, did a study that found 25% of the contractors that worked overseas in danger zones qualified for PTSD. The study, “The Health and Well-Being of Private Contractors Working in Conflict Environments”, also found that 18% had diagnosable depression and up to 50% reported alcohol abuse due to combat exposure.

These are no small numbers, which means as a contractor working overseas exposed to combat danger, you’re at a substantial risk of having an emotional response or injury such as PTSD. Your Defense Base Act insurance covers PTSD if it arose from the conditions of your employment in a war zone; this includes medical treatments to help you recover from this injury and weekly compensation benefits while unable to work.

What Is PTSD?

According to the Department of Veteran Affairs,

PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a mental health problem triggered by a terrifying event – experiencing or witnessing it. Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms may start within one month of a traumatic event, but sometimes symptoms may not appear until years after the event.

As a contractor working in military zones of danger, you could experience some of the same life-threatening situations as soldiers in combat. Even if you’re working as a contractor under construction and service contracts, you may be working in areas still affected by war. Many construction workers found the same danger while working in the wars of Afghanistan and Iraq rebuilding schools and roads with the military.

Even today, many contractors may still experience IEDs, roadside bombs, kidnappings, violence, and combat in the Middle East as well as other areas of the world affected by war. PTSD is not the same for everyone and can present any number of symptoms.

  • Reliving the event: nightmares, flashbacks, re-experiencing the even after a certain trigger.
  • Avoiding situations that trigger memories such as large crowds, driving, loud noises.
  • Avoiding talking about the event.
  • Constant negative thoughts about yourself and the world.
  • Depression
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Feeling jittery, always alert, and unable to relax
  • Hypervigilance (always being on guard for danger).

Obtaining DBA Workers Compensation For PTSD

Sometimes, PTSD symptoms start soon after a terrifying event. However, sometimes these symptoms do not appear for months or even years later. For many people, the symptoms can come and go over a period of many years, according to the National Institute for Mental Health. This is because PTSD symptoms can vary in intensity over time. Some have more PTSD symptoms when under stress in general, or when experiencing reminders of the terrifying event. This could be a problem when filing a claim for DBA benefits.

In order to receive your benefits, you must file a claim for benefits within one year of a work accident or last exposure to war hazards. There are some exceptions to this rule, but what makes it difficult is that the symptoms of PTSD may not present themselves until later for many people. This can complicate matters for your claim.

PTSD is generally accepted as an occupational disease by the Department of Labor. An occupational disease is a disease that arises from the conditions that an employee’s work exposes them to, such as life-threatening situations as a contractor in dangerous zones. An occupational disease is characterized by 1) unexpectedness; i.e. an inherent hazard of continued exposure to conditions of particular employment; and 2) gradual, rather than sudden onset. As an occupational disease, Section 13(b)(2) of the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act stipulates that you can file such a claim within two years after knowing about the injury. It states specifically that an occupational disease is one that is not immediately known or immediately causes disability.

[These claims are] timely if filed within two years after the employee or claimant becomes aware, or in the exercise of reasonable diligence or by reason of medical advice should have been aware, of the relationship between the employment, the disease, and the death or disability, or within one year of the date of the last payment of compensation, whichever is later.

However, depending on the circumstances, PTSD can also be considered a traumatic injury, subject to a one-year Statute of Limitations. There are several factors the court will consider. However, it’s important to remember that while many consider PTSD to be an occupational disease, it may also be considered a traumatic injury. For example, a singular life-threatening event that forms the basis of a claimant’s symptoms rather than continued exposure to horrors of war can be considered a traumatic injury. A clear example of this is where a contractor develops PTSD symptoms almost immediately after being injured or in very close proximity to a bombing or IED explosion.

PTSD affects your daily life, your relationships, and even your ability to work, causing you to lose income. Whether an occupational disease or traumatic injury covered under the Longshore Act, PTSD, and its treatments and any lost wages due to the condition is included in your DBA coverage and benefits are available to you.

Getting The Right Support For Filing Your DBA Claim

However, DBA insurance carriers often try to downplay the psychological effects of working as a contractor in danger zones, attempting to deny your claim. The truth is, however, that PTSD is a real disease that affects all aspects of your life. You deserve to be compensated for this injury while unable to work because of your symptoms.

When it comes to PTSD, the most important thing for you to do is to seek help right away. While many do not achieve a full recovery, others with PTSD do get better. The scars from exposure to terrifying events in a war zone may never leave you. But, your doctors will work with you to help manage symptoms. Today, there are more resources available for anyone suffering PTSD. These treatments include counseling, therapy, and even medication if necessary. Your DBA insurance covers treatment for PTSD caused exposure to war hazards.

After you start seeking treatment, it’s important to contact a DBA attorney that can fight for you and your rights to receive just compensation. At Moschetta Law, our attorneys are experienced in the Defense Base Act and workers compensation insurance. We’ll help you prove that your PTSD was a result of working as a contractor overseas. We have deep experience working with insurance carriers so we know how to obtain the benefits you deserve. Contact our offices today if you need to file a claim for PTSD under the Defense Base Act.