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Defense Base Act

The Defense Base Act (DBA) is a federal law that provides Worker’s Compensation and Death Benefits for civilian employees working outside the United States on U.S. military bases or under a contract with the U.S. government for public works or for national defense, according the United States Department of Labor. The DBA is designed to provide injured workers significantly more benefits than they would receive under comparable state law.


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Defense Base Act Coverage

workers compensation worker safetyUnder this law, all U.S. Government contractors and subcontractors must provide workers’ compensation insurance to their employees working overseas, regardless of their nationality. If you meet any one of the following criteria, you are covered under the DBA:
  • Work for private employers on U.S. military bases or on any lands used by the U.S. for military purposes outside of the United States, including those in U.S. Territories and possessions;
  • Work on public work contracts with any U.S. government agency, including construction and service contracts in connection with national defense or with war activities outside the United States;
  • Work on contracts approved and funded by the U.S. under the Foreign Assistance Act, generally providing for cash sale of military equipment, materials, and services to its allies, if the contract is performed outside of the United States;
  • Work for American employers providing welfare or similar services outside of the United States for the benefit of the Armed Forces, e.g. the USO.

The DBA does not apply to the injury or death of:
  • an employee subject to the provisions of the Federal Employees' Compensation Act;
  • an employee engaged in agriculture, domestic service, or any employment that is casual and not in the usual course of the trade, business, or profession of the employer;
  • a master or member of a crew of any vessel
As well as providing coverage for medical treatment and disability, the DBA also provides coverage for death benefits to any worker injured on the job and may cover death or injuries that did not occur while the employee was at work or travelling to and from the job. In a nutshell, the DBA covers employees who were killed or injured at any time while employed with a contractor.

File a DBA Claim

You must give a written notice of injury to the employer within 30 days of the occurrence of the injury or within 30 days of when you become aware that you have an injury or disability related to the employment, according to the Department of Labor (DOL).

However, this law not only covers injuries and illnesses with immediate onset; it covers both physical and psychological injury (such as lung cancer from burn pits or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) that can manifest and be diagnosed many years after employment. Timelines for such illnesses are greatly relaxed, although there is a statute of limitations. Claims must be filed within one year of the injured person seeing a doctor and determining whether they have psychological symptoms caused by the war zone work.

You can file a claim without coming to the United States. An attorney can file for benefits covered by the DBA, including all medical care and lost wages. For instance, an attorney can file a hearing loss claim once a hearing test is performed and where the loss is due to exposure to gunfire, plane noises, bombs or other loud noise—and defective earplugs

Under this law, injured employees who hire lawyers do not have to pay any fees. The lawyers’ fees under DBA are paid by the DBA insurance company, which covers your employer. Benefits are generally offered in a lump sum for individuals living outside the U.S.

Defense Contractor Insurance Companies Deny Benefits

From the time a claim is filed until a judge rules takes about 18 months. Not all claims are approved—insurance companies often try to deny benefits to defense contractors overseas who are injured or killed overseas. Even if your case is won the defense attorney can appeal, which can add another year for approval and settlement. If your claim is denied, you don’t have to accept that decision. An experienced Defense Base Act attorney can help you get the compensation you deserve.

Judge Daniel Solomon in 2011 referred CNA Financial Corp, a U.S. insurance company, for criminal investigation after the firm failed to pay benefits to survivors of nine Iraqi translators killed while working for the American government. CNA withheld information from the federal government and avoided making payments to the families who lost relatives in a 2006 attack, according to court documents. Judge Solomon ordered CNA to begin making payments to the families and instructed the DOL to investigate whether the insurance carrier should face criminal charges, reported the Chicago Tribune.

Defense Base Act History

Injuries that occurred on military bases or while employed in the national defense of the U.S. have historically been covered under the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA)-- the federal workers’ compensation program that covers longshoremen and harbor workers. The Defense Base Act was an extension added to the Longshore act in 1941, which provides the same protections and it is regulated under the Department of Labor. The LHWCA was the original bill to cover work-related injuries that occur in maritime work that included work on maritime military bases.

Defense Base Act Legal Help

If you or a loved one has suffered similar damages or injuries, please fill in our form and your complaint will be sent to a lawyer who may evaluate your claim at no cost or obligation.
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