The United States military has a continuing and far-reaching presence across much of the globe, and goes where it is most needed. In recent months, there has been a lot of talk about sending more U.S. troops to Iraq and other locations in the Middle East in order to help stabilize the region. And wherever the United States military goes and establishes a presence, private military contractors are sure to follow.
The Military Needs Its Contractors
Private military contractors play an important role in the success experienced by our troops abroad. In fact, the U.S. military spends billions of dollars each year employing the skills and services provided by private military contractors. These workers provide all kinds of support for our service members ranging from vehicle repair and maintenance services to food transportation and preparation services to a wide assortment of other essential services, and these contractors risk a lot to do the work that they do. Not only are these private individuals placing themselves at risk, in some cases these individuals are even placing themselves into a war zone, in order to do their job.
At present, there are about 1,800 government contractors with the U.S. State Department who are already working in this region, with many more to follow as the turmoil in the Middle East keeps churning and more troops are sent in to help deal with the situation. With the increase in the number of private contractors working abroad on military bases, there is bound to be a corresponding increase in the number of private contractors who suffer injuries while abroad during the course of their work. Many of these private individuals do not understand or know the full extent of their rights as American military contractors working overseas. These workers may be entitled to compensation for their injuries under the Defense Base Act (DBA).
The DBA is federal law that is an extension of the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act that provides private U.S. government contractors with disability compensation and medical benefit payments when the contractor is injured while on the job overseas.
What Types of Workers Are Covered By the Defense Base Act?
Certain workers are eligible to receive compensation and medical benefits under the DBA, including the following:
- Individuals that are employed by private employers working on a U.S. military base of any land outside of the U.S. that is in use by the United States military. This can include work being performed in territories of the United States and other U.S. possessions.
- Contractors working on U.S. government public works contracts. These contracts are usually associated with national defense or war activities taking place outside of the United States.
- Contractors engaging in work that has been approved and funded by the United States under the Foreign Assistance Act taking place outside of the United States, which can involve the cash sale of military materials, equipment and services to allies.
- Workers employed by American employers and working outside of the United States, that provide welfare and services for the benefit of the Armed Services.
Nationality Is Not A Factor
If you are a private military contractor operating as a worker while abroad as described in any of the above situations, and you are hurt while on the job, you are entitled to compensation benefits under the DBA. You do not have to be a U.S. citizen or national to be eligible; you merely have to be employed by an American employer pursuant to one of the above described scenarios. The only exception to this is that foreign nationals receiving compensation under a DBA claim may be subject to receiving their compensation as a single lump sum, rather than the typical installment-type payment schedule.
If History Is Any Indicator…
As more and more private military contractors follow our troops into the Middle East, there will be an increase in the number of DBA claims that are filed by workers injured in this region. Looking back at the decade that followed after the 9/11 attacks, as American troops were deployed to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, and various other strategic locations in the Middle East and southwest Asia, there was a significant increase in the number of DBA claims filed by military contractors. During this period of time, 78,000 DBA claims were made by private contractors injured while on the job abroad.
Furthermore, these regions are not particularly safe areas to work in, which is another contributing factor to the increased number of injured private contractors in need of DBA compensation. These areas are in what seems like a perpetual territory squabble, and fighting between rival groups can break out at any time, endangering unsuspecting and unprepared contractors who are unfortunate bystanders.
A majority of DBA claims come from a handful of countries, including but not limited to, Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kuwait, and Israel. With so much controversy and instability in the Middle East, it is no wonder that there is a need for an increase in the U.S. military presence in the area, and thus an increase in the number of private contractors. A majority of DBA claims filed come from government contractors working for the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Department of State and the Department of Defense, which includes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as these are the main government agencies that utilize private contractors.