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A general overview of the Defense Base Act

Since the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. has been embroiled in a Middle East conflict that has utilized a high number of civilian resources to combat terrorism abroad. More than in any other foreign conflict before, civilian contractors have been called upon to work in support of the armed forces.

The dangers these workers face overseas far exceeds those stateside, and they earn higher rates for the hazardous nature of these duties. However, many have suffered injury and loss of life working in the war-torn region, so the government long ago enacted legislation to protect them and their loved ones in the event of an accident or tragedy.

Since the 1940s, employees of government contractors have been covered under the Defense Base Act (DBA). Under federal law, government contractors are required to provide coverage to all employees. However, the process differs from workers' compensation inside U.S. borders.

Who is covered?

Working in a foreign land during wartime doesn't necessarily qualify you for DBA benefits. Under the act, you need to meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • You are working for a private employer on a U.S. military base outside the country
  • You are working on lands used by the U.S. military outside the country
  • You are working under a U.S. contract in conjunction with U.S. defense or military activities outside the country
  • You are working on U.S. funded contracts under the Foreign Assistance Act
  • You are working for a U.S. employer who provides services that benefit the Armed Forces

Keep in mind that if you are working for a private company in a foreign land, you are unlikely to be covered under the DBA unless an Armed Forces connection exists.

Who insures contractors?

Currently, there are three major companies providing the majority of coverage under the Defense Base Act: ACE-USA, AIG and CNA. Some employers can self-insure themselves with government approval. In these cases, the company would be responsible for compensation - as well as death benefits - for any and all losses arising from an injury.

Under the DBA, contractors who hand off a portion of the work to a sub-contractor are responsible for workers compensation in the event the sub-contractor fails to secure coverage. If neither have proper coverage, the contractor can be held responsible for paying injury claims or death benefits out of pocket. Basically, the U.S. government has structured worker protections in such a way that contractors cannot skirt paying for contractor-employee losses.

If you encounter any difficulty or are unclear about filing a claim under the Defense Base Act, seek the advice of an experienced DBA attorney at the Barnes Law Firm.

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