The Defense Base Act
Maritime Law Overview
Seaman's Information Regarding Maritime Injury
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The Defense Base Act was designed to extend the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act to cover employees of companies providing services to the U.S. government overseas.
It requires all U.S. government contractors and subcontractors working overseas to provide workers' compensation insurance for their employees.
The Act covers the following employment activities:
1. 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
2. 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
3. Work on contracts approved and funded by the U.S. under the Foreign Assistance Act, generally providing for cash sale of military equipment, materials, and services to its allies, if the contract is performed outside of the United States
4. Work for American employers providing welfare or similar services outside of the United States for the benefit of the Armed Forces
The Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (OWCP) at the U.S. Department of Labor administers the Act, through the Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation. Their job is to ensure that covered employees receive their benefits quickly and correctly.
Like all workers' compensation systems, the DBA provides no-fault coverage and is the exclusive remedy available to injured workers. Injured workers and the survivors of workers killed on the job are entitled to benefits for employment-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths regardless of fault and are not permitted to sue their employers or the federal government for any types of damages caused by employment-related incidents.
A History of the Defense Base Act
1941 - The Defense Base Act, P.L. 77-208, is enacted to extend workers' compensation coverage under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA) to persons working on American military bases that were either acquired by the United States from foreign countries or that were located outside of the continental United States.
1942 - Coverage is extended to public works contractors working outside of the United States with the enactment of the War Hazards Compensation Act, P.L. 77-784, which also establishes the War Hazards Compensation Act (WHCA) program.
1958 - The most significant amendments to the DBA are enacted. Coverage is extended to non-citizens, to persons working on projects funded under the Mutual Security Act of 1954, and to persons working to provide morale and welfare services, such as through the United Service Organizations (USO), to the armed forces. These amendments also add service contracts to the types of work covered under the DBA.
2006 - Congress directs the Department of Defense to find ways to improve its DBA procedures.
2008 - Congress passes the 2009 Defense Authorization Act. It requires the Department of Defense to establish a single DBA strategy and provides a list of options for the Department to consider when designing this strategy.