The Defense Base Act
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Seaman's Information Regarding Maritime Injury
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What is the Defense Base Act (DBA)?
The DBA is an extension of the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA) which provides disability compensation and medical benefits to employees and death benefits to eligible survivors of employees of U.S. government contractors who perform work overseas. With a few exceptions, the DBA incorporates the provisions of the LHWCA.
Who is covered under the DBA?
The Defense Base Act covers the following employment activities:
- Work 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;
- Work 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;
- Work on contracts approved and funded by the U.S. under the Foreign Assistance Act, which among other things provides for cash sale of military equipment, materials, and services to its allies, if the contract is performed outside of the United States;
- Work for American employers providing welfare or similar services outside the United States for the benefit of the Armed Services, e.g. the United Service Organizations (USO).
What does "public work" mean?
"Public work" is defined in the Act as any fixed improvement or any project, whether or not fixed, involving construction, alteration, removal or repair for the public use of the United States or its allies. However, "public work" is not limited to construction. It includes any project or operation under service contracts and projects in connection with the national defense or with war activities.
Where should new Defense Base Act claims be filed?
Defense Base Act claims should be filed in the Longshore District Office responsible for the geographic area where the injury or death occurred. For example, a claim arising out of injuries sustained in Iraq and Afghanistan should be filed with the New York Longshore District Office, Post Office Box 249, 201 Varick Street, Room 740, New York, NY 10014, telephone (646)264-3010, fax (646) 264-3002. A claim for an injury or death which occurred in Europe, Africa, or Central and South America should also be filed in New York.
Claims based on Vietnam era Agent Orange exposure should be filed in the Honolulu District Office, U.S. Department of Labor, ESA/OWCP/DLHWC, 300 Ala Moana Blvd., Room 5-135, Post Office Box 50209, Honolulu, HI 96850, telephone (808) 541-1983, fax (808) 541-1758.
What types of benefits are available under the DBA?
The Defense Base Act provides disability and medical benefits to covered employees injured in the course of employment and death benefits to eligible survivors of employees killed in the course of employment. Compensation for total disability is two-thirds of the employee's average weekly earnings, up to a current maximum rate per week. Compensation is also payable for partial loss of earnings. Death benefits are paid at the rate of one-half of the employee's average weekly earnings to a surviving spouse or one child, or two-thirds of average weekly earnings for two or more eligible survivors up to the current maximum rate of per week. The Defense Base Act also incorporates the LHWCA's provision for payment of reasonable funeral expenses not exceeding $3,000.00.
Permanent total disability and death benefits may be payable for life, and are subject to annual cost of living adjustments. The LHWCA minimum benefits rate, however, does not apply to DBA claims.
The injured employee is also entitled to medical treatment by a physician of his/her choice, as the injury may require.
How do I obtain death benefits?
Give written notice of the employee's death to the employer on Form LS-201 (Notice of Employee's Injury or Death) within 30 days. File a written claim for compensation on Form LS-262 (Claim for Death Benefits) with the OWCP district office having jurisdiction of your claim within one year after the date of the employee's death.