The Defense Base Act Beneficiary Conflict
For as long as the Defense Base Act (DBA) has been around - approximately 80 years - the only beneficiaries who have been able to make DBA claims for their deceased loved ones have been the surviving spouse or dependents. These are also the only ones who get to claim any benefits for funeral expenses, pain and suffering, or any other damages that can be awarded.
How Glen Doherty’s Family Changed the Rule
In recent years, this policy has come under fire for being somewhat discriminatory towards those who are unmarried or do not have dependents. Most notably, after the 2012 Benghazi attack, the family of Glen Doherty, a Navy Seal, wished to file a claim after he was killed. Doherty had a life insurance policy under DBA but was unmarried and had no dependents. However, his family was unable to obtain any of his insurance in accordance with the current policy.
After years of fighting with the federal government, including introduction of legislation by multiple members of Congress on the family’s behalf, most notably the “Glen Anthony Doherty Overseas Security Personnel Fairness Act,” the government ultimately sided with the family. In 2016, the Dohertys were awarded nearly half a million dollars by the CIA. The agency also introduced retroactive “enhanced death benefits” for employees and contractors killed in the line of duty by terrorist acts - covering any related from the Beirut bombing in 1983 onward.
As this new policy only pertains to terrorism victims, there is still much conversation about whether there is room for DBA to get more changes in the future.
Proposed Changes to the Defense Base Act
While the proposed legislation in regard to Doherty in the early 2010’s was a notable instance in which congresspeople have been trying to make changes to DBA, this is only one of several different bills that have attempted to do so. Here is another proposed change that sparked conversation in recent years:
H.R. 5891 Defense Base Act Insurance Improvement Act of 2012
Written by the late Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland, H.R. 5891 aimed to amend the DBA into a government self-insurance program and provide an implementation strategy to do so. In this bill, it described how compensation and benefits would be supplied through the government or specified agencies, as opposed to outside contractors. Three months after introduction to the House, this was referred to a subcommittee and never went into action. This was the last major DBA bill that made it to a committee.
At both the House and Senate levels, there have been debates on military spending and how this can pertain to DBA claims, as well as what else can supersede these benefits. However, there is not much indication as to what we can expect anytime soon.
Can We Expect Anything in the Future?
So far, much of the proposed changes to DBA have not been successful, as many of the bills tend to die on the House floor. With a new administration just being sworn in with fresh faces and ideas entering the congressional landscape, there is really no telling how they could be deciding on or writing bills in the future. However, there are still people in office who are eagerly working on ways to make the changes mentioned above, as well as other military-related legislation, so check back to our website for future updates.
Get an Experienced DBA Attorney by Your Side - Call The Law Office of George P. Escobedo & Associates, PLLC
Our firm has been handling DBA cases around the globe for over a decade and specializes in a variety of areas within DBA. With close proximity to military bases, our team has a great understanding of protections and benefits to which military and civilian personnel are entitled.
If you or a loved one is seeking representation for a DBA claim, call (210) 807-3178 to schedule a free case evaluation with The Law Office of George P. Escobedo & Associates, PLLC.