I read an article today in The Washington Post concerning the seven Americans killed in Afghanistan on April 29, 2013 when their cargo plane crashed in Afghanistan. This incident got me thinking about the death benefits for survivors available under the Defense Base Act.
As we’ve already discussed, injuries or deaths that occur while working overseas pursuant to a U.S. government contract are covered under the Defense Base Act, an extension of the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. The Act provides for payment of funeral expenses not to exceed $3,000.00; 50% of the decedent’s average weekly wage to the widow or widower with no dependent children, for as long as the widowhood lasts, with a two-year lump sum payment upon re-marriage; and, if a surviving child, an additional amount of 16 2/3% of the decedent’s average weekly wage for each child. The total amount payable to the surviving family members cannot exceed 66 2/3% of the average weekly wage, subject to the maximum compensation rate for the date of accident. Benefits are also available to grandchildren or siblings of the decedent, if there was no surviving spouse or child, so long as the grandchildren or siblings were dependent for support upon the decedent at the time of death.
The surviving spouse or dependents must provide supporting documentation of the marriage in existence at the time of death, birth certificates, and any evidence of dependency, as appropriate. The decedent or surviving family members do not have to be U.S. citizens. These same benefits are available regardless of the nationality of the contractor or the surviving family members. However, marriage and dependency laws in other countries may be different than those in the United States, and there are certain logistical problems encountered when requesting and obtaining supporting documentation. Our firm has represented many family members for death benefits from around the world. If anyone has any questions about death benefits available under the Defense Base Act, any attorney in our office will be able to answer your questions.