If you deployed overseas while serving in the military, you were provided with medical care and benefits in the event of an injury. But what about when you deploy as a contractor?
The fact is that most employers do not provide regular medical insurance or employer-funded benefits. Instead, they will tell you that, in the event of an injury, you are covered by the Base Defense Act.
What Is the Defense Base Act?
The Defense Base Act is what employees, as well as the government, rely upon to provide contractors with treatment and compensation should they be injured or killed while overseas.
The Defense Base Act (DBA) is a legislative extension of the Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. Essentially, this is a federal worker’s compensation program but for civilian federal contractors working on or supporting US Government bases overseas.
The benefits provided under DBA insurance are not like many other forms of insurance payouts. The fact that these jobs, depending on the location, can be deemed as high-risk jobs means that the compensation offered by the DBA could last for a lifetime after the injury or death of an eligible contractor.
Who Does the DBA Cover and Benefit?
Any company acting as a US Government contractor or subcontractor has a legal requirement to provide some form of workers’ compensation program for their employees or contractors who work overseas.
This includes, but is not limited to:
- Personal Security Specialists
- Base and Tower Security
- Canine Handlers
- Military and Police Trainers
- Translators / Interpreters
- Construction Engineers
- Cultural Advisors
- Social Scientists
- Heavy Equipment Operators
- Laundry Service workers
- Food Service Workers
- Vehicle Mechanics
- Truck Drivers
There are other employees who qualify for this coverage as well. These include people who are working on any contracts approved by the US Government.
It’s these civilian contractors that are protected and covered by the Defense Base Act (specifically through DBA insurance). As long as you have a legitimate claim and are employed by a US Government contractor or a subcontractor, you are covered by the Defense Base Act.
What Kinds of Injuries Does the DBA Cover?
Most of these overseas contracts involve the use of heavy equipment, working in hostile environments, as well possible exposure to foreign environmental conditions. Each situation is as unique and claims vary greatly.
DBA claims include injuries such as:
- Spinal Cord Injuries
- Asthma or other forms of breathing problems
- Chest Pains
- Broken bones
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Chemical Exposures
- Hip Injuries
- Neck Injuries
- Traumatic Brain Injuries
- PTSD or Psychological Injuries
- Hearing Problems
- Heart Attack
- Lead Poisoning
What are the Possible Benefits Under the Defense Base Act?
The benefits offered by this act include medical and disability coverage and death benefits. These benefits apply whether the injury or death occurred during work time or otherwise while deployed.
In many cases, the monetary compensations in question often fall under one of the following options:
- Anyone suffering total disability may receive monetary compensation that is the equivalent of two-thirds of their weekly wage with the maximum payout being capped at $1,030.78.
- Anyone suffering partial disability may receive an adjusted compensation according to the severity of their injury.
- In the event of loss of life, then the contractor’s spouse or one child may receive half of the deceased contractor’s weekly wage for life. If the contractor had two or more surviving family members, then those members may receive two-thirds of their weekly wage for life.
- Injured workers may seek medical services from a physician of their choice
How do I file a DBA Claim?
Because you’re an independent contractor, documentation is everything when it comes to receiving care. This is not a time to be “hard” and ignore your injury. Injuries sustained in a combat zone are no joke. What seems minor at the time may become a worsening, lifelong injury. We all know plenty of veterans who have to live with injuries that they wish they documented or treated.
To support a potential DBA claim, follow these steps after an injury:
- Report the injury to your supervisor. Do this in writing on a LS-201 form (Notice of Employee’s Injury or Death). Filling out this report is important because the DBA requires employers to take certain actions in a strict time frame after a reported injury.
- Get immediate medical care for your injuries. Whether you see your team medic or a physician, make sure you obtain further documentation on your injury by a medical professional.
- Save all copies of accident and medical reports. This includes any reports for any ongoing medical treatment for your injuries. All these documents provide timeline evidence for the DBA claim with respect to the injury.
- File your DBA claim with the US Department of Labor. Claims under the Defense Base Act fall under the Department of Labor (DOL). You have one year from the time of injury to file your claim. If you do not meet this deadline, then your claim may become invalid – particularly the lost wage portion of your DBA claim.
Do I Have to Hire a Lawyer to File a DBA Claim?
No. There is nothing that requires you to hire an attorney. But there are various legitimate reasons why you may want to consider that option.
There are attorneys that specialize in filing DBA claims for contractors. Because employers and insurance companies have incentives to minimize any compensation under the DBA, having an experienced DBA lawyer can go a long way to maximize your DBA settlement.
If you have any questions regarding a potential DBA claim, feel free to leave a message in the comments section below or contact me personally via email or through my live chat link. I am not a DBA lawyer, but I can provide you with some legal guidance and can recommend a good DBA lawyer who can help.
ABOUT ANDREW COBOS
Andrew is a Texas-based personal injury lawyer and US Army combat veteran who volunteers his free time as a legal resource partner at Silent Professionals. As a volunteer, Andrew serves as a valuable free resource for thousands of military veterans and military contractors on silentprofessionals.org who may have questions about their legal rights as it pertains to employment and job-related injuries. He can be reached directly to answer your questions via personal email at firstname.lastname@example.org and also makes himself available via online chat at https://tawk.to/andrewcobos1.