What Compensation is Available under the Defense Base Act?

Sad dark-skinned worker with helmet and injured eyeFor workers overseas who are working on U.S. military installations, or on behalf the Department of Defense (DOD), there are significant benefits available for those who are injured on the job. Notably, injured workers do not need to be United States citizens or residents to obtain these benefits.

Medical Expenses

The Defense Base Act (DBA) allows injured workers to receive necessary medical care, such as inpatient hospital care or surgery if that is necessary. The law can pay for prescriptions, physical therapy, prostheses, and durable medical equipment. The act also can pay for travel expenses necessary to undergo medical treatment. Additionally, the law may cover the cost of care for injured workers to receive further care from health care providers in the United States following less than standard care in a foreign location.

Disability Compensation

The DBA also provides for disability compensation to workers who are injured in workplace accidents in foreign countries. Disability benefits include compensation for total or partial temporary disabilities. The law also covers permanent total disability benefits with annual increases. And, the law will pay for permanent partial disability of a worker injured on the job, either based on the extent of the injury or the loss of wages relating to the injury.

Death Benefits

The Defense Base Act permits death benefits of up to $3,000. The death benefits will also pay out a portion of the decedent’s Average Weekly Wage (AWW). For example, the surviving spouse will receive 50% of the AWW. Children will receive 16 and ⅔ percent of the AWW until 18, or until 23 if the child is in school full-time.

Vocational Rehabilitation

Disabled employees living in the United States are eligible to take place in vocational rehabilitation. Vocational rehabilitation is a service that allows disabled employees to return to the workforce though some sort of assistance program. The assistance can be physical therapy or some sort of occupational therapy that may help the injured worker find work in the future.

Steps to Take When Injured under the DBA

Under the Defense Base Act, employees should take four actions immediately in the event of an injury on the job while on an overseas project, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

First, employees must notify his or her employer immediately of the injury. Additionally, the Department of Labor requests that individuals should complete Form LS-201, which should be available from the employer upon request, in the event of an injury at work.

Second, the employee should request to see his or her preferred physician, or alternatively, the hospital or physician nearest to the employee at the time of the injury.

Third, for workers injured overseas who are disabled for more than three days, under the DBA, the employee should be eligible for compensation. The injured employee should notify his or her employer of the injury.

Fourth, the DBA requires injured overseas workers to file a notice of injury, Form LS-201, in 30 days. If the employee fails to do so, then the employee may forfeit his or her rights under the law. There are exceptions that allow for additional time for certain claims though.

How Do I Know if I am Covered Under the DBA?

If you are going on an overseas assignment for your employer, you should ask them directly if the DBA is in effect for this assignment. And, if it is not, then there should be some sort of worker’s compensation program in place instead.

Contractors going overseas should also note that not just DOD contractors are necessarily covered by the DBA. The DBA may cover individuals engaged in contractor services on behalf of the Federal government for humanitarian relief services following natural disasters. Also, the DBA generally will cover individuals working on a project for any length of time.

The DBA also covers welfare or morale organizations that operate overseas but are not necessarily directly linked to the government, such as the USO.

The DBA covers “public works” for the U.S. government. These works include projects involving fixed improvements for the U.S. or its allies involving construction, alteration, removal or repair and preparatory work for such projects. The act also includes service contracts in connection with national defense. Some examples of these are major infrastructure works such as bridge building and pipe-laying.

The DBA is designed to ensure that those providing essential services to the military and those in supporting roles (be it for the morale organizations like the USO, contractors building infrastructure projects in an ancillary role, and even aid workers providing support) be protected in the event of a workplace injury. The law is to ensure that there is not a disincentive to working in a civilian capacity helping the military in essential projects.

For More information about What Qualifies for DBA Injury.