Workers' Compensation - Defense Base Act

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Modified on 2009/10/14 21:43 by admin
The U.S. government is constantly hiring civilian workers for employment opportunities around the world. Government buildings, including embassies and military structures, are constructed or renovated on a daily basis. Unfortunately, many of these jobs require travel to dangerous countries. Hundreds of civilian workers, for example, will be sent to Iraq, a hot spot for anti-American sentiment, to assist in the country's rebuilding process. Although the work contracts are more lucrative than those found in the US, the risk level is usually much higher.

Because foreign job sites can be dangerous and difficult, work-related injuries are sometimes elevated. As a result, Federal law requires all U.S. government contractors and subcontractors to secure workers' compensation insurance for their employees working overseas. In most instances, workers are covered under the Defense Base Act.

The Defense Base Act covers the following employment activities:


  • Working 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;
  • Working 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;
  • Working 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;
  • Working for American employers providing welfare or similar services outside of the United States for the benefit of the Armed Forces, e.g. the USO.
If any one of the above criteria is met, all employees engaged in such employment, regardless of nationality, are covered under the Act.

The Defense Base Act provides disability, medical, and death benefits to covered employees injured or killed in the course of employment, whether or not the injury or death occurred during work hours. Compensation for total disability is two-thirds of the employee's average weekly earnings, up to a current maximum of $1,030.78 per week. Compensation also is payable for partial loss of earnings. Death benefits are half of the employee's average weekly earnings to the surviving spouse or to one child, and two-thirds of earnings for two or more such survivors, up to the current maximum weekly rate. Permanent total disability and death benefits may be payable for life, and are subject to annual cost of living adjustments. There is no minimum compensation rate.

Permanent disability and death benefits payable to aliens and non-U.S. residents may be commuted by payment of half of the present value of future compensation, as determined by the district director of the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (OWCP).

The injured employee is entitled to medical treatment by a physician of his/her choice, as the injury may require. Medical benefits may not be commuted.

The Defense Base Act requires that the notice of injury be given in writing to the employer within 30 days. A claim for benefits must be submitted within one year of the date of the injury.

If you have been injured on the job, it may be important to contact an attorney who can help you protect your legal rights. Please keep in mind that there may be time limits within which you must commence suit.





See Also

  1. Workers' Compensation: Overview
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