The Defense Base Act

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Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the LHWCA, DBA, and WHCA


  1. How can I find out whether, as an employer, I'm required to purchase Longshore insurance coverage?

    Longshore coverage can be a complex issue, depending on both the location and the nature of the employee's work. Because the answer depends entirely on the individual specifics of the job in question, it is best to discuss these details with your local District Director to get his or her best advice.
  2. How can I find out whether my employer has Longshore insurance coverage for me?

    The best way is to ask your employer and discuss your concerns with them. You may also check with your local Longshore district office staff.
  3. What are the benefits available to an injured worker under Longshore?

    Longshore provides a number of benefits to injured workers, including medical care to tend to an injury or illness, weekly indemnity benefits to help support your family during your recovery, payments for certain permanent impairments, and vocational rehabilitation services if you cannot return to your previous employment.
  4. Where can I get the forms needed to apply for Longshore benefits?

    The most commonly used Longshore forms are available on the Department of Labor website. If the form you want is not listed, please contact the closest district office, whose locations are also listed on the website.
  5. Where can I get assistance about my Longshore claim?

    The Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation district offices are staffed with claims examiners who are experts in the Longshore program, and whose job is to assist you. You can find the list of these offices at the Longshore website.
  6. What can I do if my employer refuses to pay my benefits?

    The primary role of the Longshore district offices is to provide dispute resolution assistance to the parties. If you need assistance, please contact the nearest Longshore district office, listed at the Longshore website.
  7. When are benefit payments supposed to be made under Longshore?

    Benefits are due within 14 days of the filing of a claim unless the employer or its insurer file a notice of controversy. In such cases the local district office will intervene to help resolve the dispute. If you have neither received your benefits nor a response from the insurance company or employer about your claim, please contact your nearest Longshore district office, listed at the Longshore website.


  1. 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.
  2. 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).
    If any one of the above criteria is met, all employees engaged in such employment, regardless of nationality (including U.S. citizens and residents, host country nationals (local hires), and third country nationals (individuals hired from another country to work in the host country)), are covered under the Act.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.


  1. What is the War Hazards Compensation Act?

    The War Hazards Compensation Act (WHCA) supplements the Defense Base Act (DBA) by providing a form of reinsurance for contractor injuries and deaths which are directly related to military conflict. If an employee's injury or death is caused by a war hazard, the workers' compensation benefits are provided not by the insurer or employer but by the federal government. Under the provisions of the WHCA, an injury or death is considered to have been caused by a war hazard if it occurred during:
    • A war in which the United States is engaged
    • An armed conflict in which the United States is engaged, whether or not war has been formally declared
    • A war or armed conflict between military forces of any origin in a country in which a covered employee is working
    and the injury or death was caused by:
    • The discharge of any weapon by a hostile force or in combating an attack
    • The action of a hostile force or person, including an insurrection or rebellion against the United States
    • The discharge of any munitions intended for use against a hostile force
    • The collision of vessels in convoy
    • The operation of vessels or aircraft without running lights or other aids to navigation
    • The operation of vessels or aircraft in a hostile zone or engaged in war activities.
  2. Who is covered under the WHCA?

    For the purposes of the WHCA, a covered employee includes:
    • Any person covered under the Defense Base Act
    • Any person working outside of the United States under a personal services contract with the federal government
    • Any person working as a civilian employee paid by nonappropriated funds under the jurisdiction of the Department of Defense, such as an employee of a military post exchange or officer's club.

    Employees who reside at or near the place of employment and do not live there solely by virtue of the exigencies of the employment will be covered only while in the performance of duty.

    The following individuals are not covered:
    • Prisoners of war detained or utilized by the United States
    • Recipients of workers' compensation benefits from any other source
    • Foreign nationals entitled to benefits from another country
    • Those convicted of a subversive act against the United States
  3. Does the WHCA cover injuries or deaths caused by terrorist attacks?

    Terrorist attacks are not specifically addressed by statute. Determining coverage under the WHCA for such attacks may be complicated, as it is not always possible to identify the person or group responsible for a terrorist act, or to determine the intended target of the action. Coverage may be extended to some victims of terrorist acts. Each case must be considered on an individual basis in conjunction with the definitions of "war-risk hazard" and "hostile force or individual."
  4. What types of claims are there?

    There are three types of claims available under the WHCA:
    • Reimbursement claim (WHCA Section 104) - An insurance carrier or self-insured employer will first pay DBA benefits to an injured worker or his or her survivors and then seek reimbursement from the Department of Labor under the WHCA. Insurers and employers may be reimbursed for benefits paid and itemized and non-itemized administrative costs associated with the claim. Non-itemized administrative costs are capped by regulation at 15% of the total value of the benefits due on a claim. A claim is not reimbursed under the WHCA if the insurance carrier charged an additional premium, referred to as premium loading, to cover the specific war hazard that caused the injury or death.
    • Direct benefit claim (WHCA Section 101) - Filed when an injury or death is due to a war-risk hazard not compensable under the Defense Base Act.
    • Detention benefit claim (WHCA Section 101) - Filed when the employee is detained by a hostile force or person.
  5. How do I file a claim?

    Employees or survivors should file Section 101 claims directly with the Division of Federal Employees' Compensation only after a Longshore District Director has determined that no compensation is payable under the Defense Base Act. The claims examiner will develop the factual and medical evidence as necessary, and recommend acceptance or denial of the claim. Section 101 claims receive the same appeal rights as regular FECA cases. The time limit for filing a claim is generally three years.
  6. What types of benefits are available under the WHCA?

    Monetary compensation for disability, death, and burial expenses is computed in accordance with the benefit structure of the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act, with the exception that the minimum limits of the LHWCA do not apply. Information necessary to compute compensation can be found in the Longshore Act in Sections 6, "Maximum and Minimum Compensation"; 8, "Compensation for Disability"; 9, "Compensation for Death"; and 10, "Determination of Pay". Assistance may be sought from the Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation whenever questions arise about the computation of benefits.

    Compensation for total disability is paid at 66 2/3% of the average weekly wage as determined under Section 10 of the LHWCA. The LHWCA also makes provision for payment of compensation as the result of permanent partial disability and loss of wage-earning capacity.

    The sum of the percentages paid to the beneficiaries in a death case may not exceed 66 2/3% of the average weekly wage. The widow or widower is entitled to 50%, plus an additional 16 2/3% if there are any dependent children. If there is no surviving spouse, 50% of the employee's average weekly wage is paid on behalf of the first child. If there is more than one child, a maximum of 66 2/3% applies, shared equally.

    An employee who is taken prisoner, hostage or otherwise detained by a hostile force or person is entitled to receive or have credited to his or her account compensation equal to 100% of the employee's average weekly wage, paid by OWCP from the Employees' Compensation Fund. The average weekly wage used to compute detention benefits may not exceed the average weekly wages paid to civilian employees of the United States in the same or most similar occupation in the area nearest to the place of employment. Seventy percent of the benefits may be disbursed to the employee's dependents during the period of detention, if such dependents reside in the United States or its territories or possessions.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Workers' Compensation Programs

Longshore & Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA)

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