Civilian employees and private military contractors who are injured while working overseas can obtain compensation for their injuries under the Defense Base Act (DBA). The DBA is an extension of the federal laws codified in the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act, which provides workers’ compensation for injured longshoremen and harbor workers. The DBA specifically extends compensation benefits to those individuals that work at overseas U.S. defense bases of public works government contractors who are injured while on the job.
Categories of Disability Under the DBA
Compensation for injuries under the DBA are based on two factors related to the injury sustained by the worker. First is the nature of the disability or injury (i.e., the duration of the injury or disability). The second is the extent of the injury (i.e., how severely the person is injured or disabled). Having a good understanding of these two main parameters of the injury paints a picture of how much compensation the employee deserves.
Under the DBA, there are four categories of disabilities designed to clearly indicate the extent of the injury sustained and the duration that the injury or disability is expected to last. The four categories include:
- Temporary Total Disability. When a worker is injured or disabled and unable to return to work for a period of time while the injury heals or the worker recuperates, his disability is temporary. When the worker’s disability renders him unable to do any work-related activity, then his disability is considered to be total. Compensation for temporary total disability is determined based on ⅔ of the worker’s average weekly wage.
- Permanent Total Disability. When a worker’s condition or injury has stabilized and is not expected to improve, the injury or disability is considered permanent. If the injury or disability renders the worker unable to perform work-related tasks, the injury or disability is total. Compensation for permanent total disability is determined based on ⅔ of the worker’s average weekly wage.
- Temporary Partial Disability. A temporary partial disability or injury is one that renders the worker unable to do the same job functions he did prior to sustaining the disability or injury, but the worker can do lighter, easier work. The worker’s disability lasts only for a short amount of time, i.e., the duration of recuperation. Compensation for temporary partial disability is based on ⅔ of the worker’s loss of wages.
- Permanent Partial Disability. The worker is rendered unable to ever do the same pre-injury job functions again. Compensation for permanent partial disability is based on whether the injury is classified as a scheduled injury, or an unscheduled injury. For a scheduled permanent partial disability, compensation is determined based on ⅔ of the worker’s average weekly wage in light of the percentage of permanent disability (i.e., the amount of use or loss of use of the injured body part) for scheduled injuries. For an unscheduled permanent partial disability, compensation is determined based on ⅔ of the worker’s loss of wages for unscheduled type injuries.
A physician makes the ultimate determination as to which category the worker’s DBA injury or disability falls into after conducting a physical examination pursuant to Section 919(h) of the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act. The worker receives medical benefits for as long as the nature and extent of his or her injury persists. These benefits are meant to cover the whole of the recovery from the injury, so simply because the worker is starting to feel better or is beginning to recover, benefits will still be paid until the injury is at its maximum possible recovery. Benefits also extend to treatment related to any DBA injury that is required many years down the road.
Scheduled vs. Unscheduled Injuries: How You Are Compensated
Under the DBA, how a worker is compensated depends on whether his injury is classified as a scheduled type injury or an unscheduled type injury. A “scheduled injury” refers to the fact that the injury type qualifies for compensation according to a set schedule (i.e., duration of time that benefits are paid in terms of weeks worth of compensation) and are limited to injuries sustained to the arm, hand, fingers, leg, foot, toes, or injuries involving hearing loss or injuries to the eye. Based on the scheduled injury, a formula is used to calculate how much will be paid in benefits to the victim. For example, if a worker loses a hand, Section 908 of the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act, which incorporates the DBA, provides for 244 weeks worth of compensation. Similarly, loss of an eye is compensated by 160 weeks worth of compensation.
An “unscheduled injury” refers to other injuries that qualify for compensation based on pre-injury wages and what the injured person is able to earn after the injury has healed. Unscheduled injuries occur to other parts of the body, including head, neck, shoulder, spine and other back injuries, brain injuries, as well as any injury sustained by internal body organs. Some psychiatric issues, such as post traumatic stress disorder, are also considered unscheduled injuries.
Regardless of whether your injury is a scheduled injury or an unscheduled one, you are owed compensation by your employer. The compensation for your specific circumstances will depend on a number of factors, including the nature of your injury or disability, the extent of your injury or disability and whether your injury is a scheduled injury or an unscheduled injury. If you have any questions regarding your DBA injury case, including how your injury is classified and what compensation you are owed, do not hesitate to contact our team of DBA attorney.