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Defense Base Act FAQ

Helping You Navigate Complex DBA Cases Around the World

The Defense Base Act (also known as the DBA) is an extension of a crucial workers’ compensation law called the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA). This legislation allows civilians who are working for the U.S. military overseas or serving on a U.S. military base to file for medical, disability, and death benefits in the event of a serious workplace injury. It also covers private contractors who work for the State Department, U.S. Armed Forces, and any other government agencies.

Of course, navigating a claim under the Defense Base Act can be complicated – and you may have many questions about how to get started. At the Law Offices of George P. Escobedo & Associates, PLLC, we can answer all those questions and more during a free consultation. Until you have a chance to review your full claim with our seasoned San Antonio attorneys, we’ve gathered a few of the most frequently-asked questions about the DBA.

To schedule a free case evaluation, just call (210) 807-3178. We’re available 24/7.

How long do I have to file a claim under the Defense Base Act?

Once you’ve been injured on the job, you must notify your employer as soon as possible. The Defense Base Act only gives you 30 days to report your injury. However, the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act gives employees 1 year from the date of injury to file a formal DBA claim. Additionally, if you’re suffering from an “occupational disease” such as toxic chemical exposure, you may have up to 2 years to file your DBA claim, starting from the day you first became aware of your illness.

Who is covered under the DBA?

To qualify for a claim under the Defense Base Act, you must work overseas in some capacity for the U.S. government, whether as a civilian or as a private contractor. The legislation provides more specific guidance about which workers qualify for these benefits.

Eligible parties can include:

  • Employees who are working outside the United States for American welfare or service organizations, such as the U.S.O. or Armed Services.
  • Public works contractors working for a U.S. government agency in connection with war and national defense activities
  • Workers who are approved and funded by the United States to work overseas under a specific contract under the Foreign Assistance Act.
  • Private employees working on a U.S. military base or any lands used for military purposes. This includes U.S. possessions and territories.

While not all overseas injuries are covered under the DBA, the majority of injuries that occur over the natural course of your employment will be covered.

Does the Defense Base Act only cover American citizens?

No. As long as you meet the criteria for one of the groups classified under the Defense Base Act, your nationality is irrelevant. The DBA also covers host-country and third-country nationals who are working as contractors or employees on a U.S. military base (or with a government agency overseas.)

How are DBA compensation rates determined?

Your compensation under the DBA will amount to two-thirds of your average weekly wage. There is also a maximum rate per week that shifts with each fiscal year. You can see the minimum and maximums on the U.S. Department of Labor website.

How do I notify my employer of my injury?

Much like a traditional workers’ compensation claim, you will need to file with your supervisor or employer as soon as you become injured. Once your employer has been notified, they are required to file form LS-202 with the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs within 10 days.

It’s also imperative that you get medical assistance for your injuries as soon as possible. Your employer can provide Form LS-1 (the request for treatment and physician review under the DBA), but you are not always required to seek this form in emergencies. Instead, you would ask your employer to authorize the treatment after the fact.

What right do I have to medical treatment overseas?

You are entitled to receive care from an overseas or U.S. physician of your choice under the DBA, but you do need to ask your employer to authorize treatment from that physician first, except in the event of an emergency. If your claim is approved and your physician is authorized, the medical costs related to your injury (including transportation to the facility) should be covered by the DBA insurance carrier. Additionally, your employer and the DBA insurance carrier may reserve the right to have you periodically examined by their physician(s).

Is there a waiting period for receiving disability benefits?

Under the Defense Base Act, you may be entitled to temporary or permanent disability benefits if you are a covered employee who sustains a life-altering injury. There is no waiting period for these disability benefits: Once you are disabled for more than 3 days, your employer must issue payments 14 days from the date they received notice about your injuries.

How long will I receive disability benefits?

You will receive disability benefits for as long as you are unable to work and receiving medical care. Depending on the classification and severity of your injuries, you may only receive benefits for a few weeks – or you may receive them for decades.

There are four different categories of disability:

  • Temporary total disability (TTD): For DBA claimants who have not reached maximum medical improvement for their disability and cannot return to work yet.
  • Temporary partial disability (TPD): For DBA claimants who are only partially disabled and may be able to perform light-duty work until they heal.
  • Permanent total disability (PTD): For DBA claimants who are unable to work ever again as a result of their permanent disabilities.
  • Permanent partial disability (PPD): For DBA claimants who may be able to work again in their old job or a different occupation.

What happens if I can’t return to work?

If your doctor determines that you are unable to return to work at all, you will most likely need to apply for permanent total disability (PTD) benefits. However, it’s rare to qualify for PTD benefits. Most injured workers are eventually able to return to work with limited duties – or to start in a new occupation. In those cases, your DBA benefits would help to cover for wage losses and occupational re-training.

How long will it take to either settle my case or reach a decision at trial?

The length of time required for a DBA settlement or trial decision can vary dramatically. When a DBA insurance carrier disagrees with the extent of your disability, it may take a long time for the dispute to be resolved, whether in court or at the negotiating table.

If I am ready to return to work, can I still receive benefits?

Even if you are returning to work for light duty, you can still receive DBA disability benefits. You may also receive ongoing benefits for partial disabilities, depending on the percentage of disability. For example, if you have sustained a permanent arm injury that affects your ability to complete certain tasks at work, you may be eligible to receive permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits to account for your impaired arm.

Have additional questions about the DBA? Call (210) 807-3178 to contact the Law Offices of George P. Escobedo & Associates, PLLC in San Antonio.

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