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Coverage, Eligibility, and Recovery Options of the Defense Base Act

The Defense Base Act provides coverage for workers on U.S. government projects in other nationsAs a nation, we take pride in our government and military’s ability to defend our freedoms and rights, both in this country and abroad. However, in certain situations, the U.S. government requires citizens to help fortify its interests abroad. One such situation is when it requires defense contractors and longshoremen to work on Armed Forces bases overseas.

This type of governmental work can be satisfying. However, it can also expose you to numerous dangers beyond those you face as a stateside civilian employee or a maritime worker. This is where the Defense Base Act (DBA) comes into play.

What Is the Defense Base Act?

Federal law requires all U.S. government contractors and subcontractors to secure workers’ compensation insurance for all employees working overseas. The Defense Base Act (DBA) was created for this purpose. It provides workers’ compensation protection to civilians who are employed by the U.S. government to work on military bases, for public works, or national defense. The act is specifically designed to provide protection to employees of defense contractors who are injured in the scope and course of employment. Coverage pertains to any of the following civilian workers who:

  • Work abroad for private companies. Employees of private companies operating on U.S. military bases or any property used by the U.S. for military purposes outside of the United States are covered.
  • Work abroad for U.S. government contractors. Coverage extends to public work contractors that are partnering with any U.S. government agency—including construction and service contracts related to national defense or war activities—outside the United States.
  • Work abroad for foreign aid. The law applies to anyone who is providing contract services under the Foreign Assistance Act, if performed outside of the United States.
  • Work abroad for U.S. military welfare. Coverage is also extended to workers employed by American companies providing services outside of the United States for the benefit or welfare of the U.S. military, such as members of the U.S.O.

Typically, almost any contract with an agency of the U.S. government for work outside the United States will likely fall under Defense Base Act coverage. This law is not specific to maritime workers, although many people who work on the water are eligible.

Benefit Coverage

People working under contract with the United States government overseas are eligible for DBA benefits. The type of treatment and benefits qualified workers should expect from this law include:

  • Medical benefits. Workers can receive medical treatment performed by the physician of their choosing under the Defense Base Act. The medical care must be related to the employment injury or illness, and the DBA will typically cover the expenses for the treatment for as long as it is needed.
  • Disability benefits. If the employee is too injured to return to work, he may qualify to receive disability benefits under the DBA. The act offers temporary total and partial disability as well as permanent total and partial disability.
  • Death benefits. The DBA will offer payment towards the funeral expenses for an employee killed on the job. Additionally, benefits are paid to the surviving spouse or children.
  • Vocational rehabilitation. Those who are permanently disabled because of work-related accidents and are unable to return to work without assistance may receive vocational rehabilitation under the DBA.

Do You Have Questions About Your Eligibility?

Although agencies under contract with the United States government for work outside of the U.S. are required to carry DBA coverage, not all do. If you were injured while working on the docks overseas, you need the proper guidance and support of attorney Steve Lee to ensure you get the DBA benefits in which you’re entitled.

If it is discovered that your employer has negligently ignored his duty to provide DBA coverage, attorney Steve Lee can help ensure that they pay the price, not you. This includes:

  • Fines and loss of contract. If your employer is found to have violated federal law by denying DBA coverage to you and other employees, he will likely face severe fines and lose his contract.
  • Lawsuits. Without DBA coverage, loved ones of those who are killed on the job can still file suits against the employer directly. In fact, the claimants don’t even have to prove the employer was negligent in the accident that took their loved one’s life; they simply have to file a suit.
  • Costly court fees. An employer that is taken to court for an accident can expect to pay high court fees, which certainly is not helpful for the company’s profitability.

We have assisted many maritime employees and overseas workers who have been hurt on the job, and may be able to do the same for you. Contact us today to speak with one of our experienced attorneys about your situation by filling out our online form or calling us at 800-232-3711. Be sure to visit our testimonials page for reviews by some of our previous clients.


Steven M. Lee
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