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What is the Defense Base Act?

Congress initially adopted the DBA in 1941 in order to cover workers stationed on military bases outside the United States, all over the world.  A number of subsequent amendments increased the DBA’s protections, such that it now covers the employees of civilian contractors who complete or further missions that were historically the responsibility of the military.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation, the “Defense Base Act provides workers’ compensation protection to civilian employees working outside the United States on U.S. military bases or under a contract with the U.S. government for public works or for national defense.” It is the primary way that an injured contractor on an overseas or foreign U.S. military base can obtain compensation and medical treatment after a work-related accident or hostile enemy attack caused an injury resulting in an inability to work, and/or a need for medical treatment. 

The Defense Base Act is the law that demands that companies (both foreign and domestic) working in support of United States agencies outside of the United States, maintain worker’s compensation insurance for their employees in the event of a work-related injury. Many U.S. Contractors and Foreign Nationals working in support of United States agencies abroad have Defense Base Act Coverage for their past and present employment periods without even knowing it. 

Although the act was first passed with good intentions decades ago, it has always been complicated, and so the process of using the Defense Base Act to file a claim is complicated, too.

If you sustained a physical injury as a contractor, you must notify your immediate supervisor as soon as possible, in writing, no later than 30 days after the injury occurs, in order to obtain disability compensation. Once you have notified your supervisor, your employer should offer you medical treatment. However, there is also a requirement that you file a claim with the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Workers Compensation Programs, Longshore, Harbor Workers Compensation Program, requesting benefits. There is no time-bar for medical treatment. If there is any uncertainty about your entitlement to benefits under the Defense Base Act, Please call one of our experienced attorneys as soon as possible.   

Defense Base Act Lawyers

Representing Deployed and / or Local National Injured Contractors  

Were you working overseas for a private company in support of United States Agencies when you were injured? If you were an employee of a company that contracted with the United States Government, you could be owed benefits under the Defense Base Act (DBA) for lost wages, medical treatment, and vocational rehabilitation. To discover and use your worker’s compensation benefits, get the help of Military Justice Attorneys (MJA) and our Defense Base Act lawyers.

We help injured civilian contractors who were working along-side and in Support of United States Agencies around the world, from the Middle East to Japan and beyond. With more than 75 years of combined legal experience, our attorneys are the first team that many contractors, veterans, and active-duty service members trust for legal counsel when it matters the most. See the difference we can make for your Defense Base Act claim by reaching out to MJA today.

Contact our firm online or call (843) 773-5501 now for more information.

Can You File a Defense Base Act Claim?

Most employees and civilian contractors working on foreign soil or overseas U.S. military bases, in support of the United States are covered by the Defense Base Act and can file a claim if injured.  The same is true of civilian contractors who work on land used for military purposes or who are completing public work contracts, which are sometimes off-base. If you fit into one of these categories, you should be eligible to file a Defense Base Act claim. 

This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Employees of private entities on U.S. military bases or lands used by our government for military purposes;
  • Employees under public work contracts with any U.S. government agency, including contracts related to national defense or war operations;
  • Employees under Foreign Assistance Act contracts approved and funded by the U.S. government;
  • Employees of U.S. companies providing welfare or related services for the benefit of the military;
  • Employees of subcontractors on a contract for any of the above projects;
  • Employees of American contractors performing public works at a military base in a U.S. territory outside the continent in support of military assistance programs within allied nations.

Importantly, your injury must arise from and in the course of your employment or work as a civilian contractor. If you work or live in a Zone of Special Danger, though, you could be eligible even if you weren’t working when you were injured. For Example, many local national contractors incur life threatening experiences both during their work hours as a contractor, during their commute, and event threats against their families as a result of their affiliations with the United States. 

What is a Contracting Company?

Some of the more well-known companies that hire civilian employees to perform services in support of U.S. Government Agencies include, but are not limited to:

  • Blackwater
  • SOSi / (SOS International)
  • Constellis
  • Triple Canopy
  • Janus Security
  • Acuity
  • ABM government Services
  • Aegis Defense Services / Guardaworld Security
  • Continuity Global Solutions
  • General Dynamics Land Systems
  • Pacific Architects and Engineers (PAE)
  • Raytheon Technologies
  • Shee Atika Enterprises, LLC
  • Titan / L3 Communications
  • Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC)
  • Valiant Government Services
  • Amentum
  • Global Linguist Solutions
  • Worldwide Language Resources
  • MPRI
  • Lockheed Martin
  • New Future Company
  • Halliburton
  • Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR)
  • Bechtel
  • Dyncorp
  • CACI International
  • Service Employees International
  • DRS Technologies
  • SCI
  • and hundreds of others…

Special Immigration Visa (SIV) Holders Qualify

Even Non-United States citizens (Citizens of Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, or other nations) may be eligible for benefits related to a work-related injury, if the injury resulted from work as a contractor in support of the United States Government. 

Many local national contractors come to the United States on a Special Immigration Visa (SIV) because their lives were threatened due to their affiliation with the United States, while working as a contractor. Additionally, many contractors experience rocket and mortar attacks on U.S. Bases, Suicide bombers, Snipers, Risk of Kidnapping, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).  This extreme, constant, and long-term stress due to the life-threatening nature of the work performed and work environment can cause a psychological injury, for which financial and medical benefits are available. 

Injuries Include Physical and Psychological Injuries

The obvious injuries are the physical injuries that you know of right when they happen. However, many contractors have latent injuries that don’t arise from a single event, but rather appear over the course of time, because of repeated exposure to given working conditions. These types of injuries are called occupational injuries and can come in the form of hearing loss, joint and muscle injuries, back injuries, some brain injuries, and psychological injuries. 

Many defense contractors are required to wear heavy personal protective equipment and are required to jump out of large vehicles and sit in uncomfortable positions for long periods of time. These working conditions can cause occupational injuries that don’t show up until years after initial injurious exposure. 

Additionally, many contractors deploy to hostile areas around the world and are subject to extreme and long-term stress due to the life-threatening nature of the working conditions. These exposures can cause many symptoms that could be an employment-related occupational psychological injury for which you could be entitled to benefits under the Defense Base Act. 

Symptoms of certain work-related Psychological Injuries

There is a long list of symptoms associated with psychological injuries. You don’t have to have all of them to have a qualifying psychological injury. If you deployed to a hostile area, you may still have: 

  • Difficulty Sleeping
    • Difficulty Falling Asleep
    • Difficulty Staying Asleep
    • Waking Shortly After Falling Asleep
    • Nightmares
    • Other Sleep Disturbances
  • Excessive Fatigue / Overly Tired During the Day
  • Frequent Recall of Troubling Memories or Flashbacks
  • Inability To Focus on Tasks Due to Distraction by Unwanted Memories of Past Events
  • Frequent Headaches, Which You Might Related to Stress or Lack of Sleep
  • Avoidance Of People, Places, Or Activities (Tv Shows, Movies, Driving, Certain Work Schedules, Or Crowded Places) That Could Trigger Memories or Feeling Related to Certain Past Events.
  • Frequent Anger, Frustration and Arguments with Friends and Family Over Relatively Small Matters. 
  • Being Startled by Sudden Noises That Others Around You May Not Be Startled By. 
  • Negative View of Yourself or Others / Distrust of People as A Result of Past Events. 
  • Difficulty In Maintaining Personal Relationships.
  • Persistent Depression
  • Persistent Anxiety
  • Persistent Feelings of being unsafe
  • Persistent Feelings of impending doom

If you have any of the symptoms listed above, you should call one of our experienced Defense Base Act attorneys to discuss the financial and medical benefits that may be available to you as a result of your contracting work overseas. 

Defense Base Act Benefits

Benefits that are typically available through a successful Defense Base Act claim are:

  • Medical treatment: Any reasonable and necessary medical treatment, equipment, or medication that you need to recover from your work-related injury should be fully covered by the DBA, including future treatments and therapies.
  • Disability: If you are temporarily or permanently disabled by the injury that you suffered while on an overseas U.S. defense base, you could be eligible for disability benefits that provide financial wage-loss benefits. “Disability” under the Defense Base Act is both a medical and financial determination. The definition of disability may be different from the definition of disability under other federal, state, or local disability compensation programs. It’s important to speak with a Military Justice Attorney about whether you qualify for disability compensation for your injury. You may qualify, even if you current hold a job, but earn less than you did as a contractor in support of the United States.
  • Death benefits: When a work accident results in a civilian contractor’s death, a DBA claim can provide various death benefits to the family members of the deceased.
  • Attorney Fees: Attorney fees are generally coved by your Defense Base Act Insurance, except in some limited circumstances which your attorney can discuss with you.

If you receive financial benefits through a Defense Base Act claim, you could be paid regular installments until you reach the “Maximum Medical Improvement” of your injury. Or you could be provided with a lump sum payment in the form of a settlement, which may be negotiated by an attorney, depending on how your claim has progressed.

Types of Disability 

Temporary Total Disability (TTD)

Under the Act, qualifying injured workers may be entitled to receive temporary total disability benefits if his or her injury prevents him or her from performing their regular job duties for a certain period. If he or she qualifies, the insurance company will pay him or her two thirds of his or her average weekly wages, (as determined in calculating all wages for the full year before their accident) subject to minimum or maximum compensation rates. These rates are set yearly on or about October 1st.

Temporary Partial Disability (TPD)

Similarly, qualifying injured workers may be entitled to receive temporary partial disability benefits if their injury renders him/ her partially disabled to perform his/her regular duties for a certain period. Even if he/she returns to work on a part-time basis or earning lesser wages, he/she may still be entitled to receive weekly benefits equal to two thirds of the difference between the average weekly wage and the current earnings.

Permanent Total Disability (PTD)

If an injured worker is unable to perform any type of work because of his/her injury, he/she may be considered permanently and totally disabled. PTD entitles an injured worker to receive benefits including a cost-of-living adjustment of up to 5% per year.

Permanent Partial Disability (PPD)

A partially disabled worker is one whose injury will prevent them, at least in part, from doing any kind of work for the indefinite future. Depending on the type of disability, a qualifying employee may be entitled to benefits based on a scheduled award or a loss of earning capacity. A scheduled award is based on the permanent loss or loss of use of parts of the body enumerated in the Act, disfigurement of head, neck, face or loss of bodily functions such as vision and hearing.

DBA Claims Do Not Include Non-Economic Damage

Defense Base Act benefits do not cover non-economic damages, like those related to your pain, suffering, and traumatization. Like workers’ compensation, non-economic loss is not considered, but neither is fault. If you were hurt while working as a civilian contractor while working in support of the United States overseas, even if your own mistake caused the accident, you may be able to file a DBA claim.

Guidance from Our Defense Base Act Lawyers

Our Defense Base Act attorneys can help you file your claim by providing trusted and experienced guidance from start to finish. We can submit all necessary forms to the U.S. Department of Labor, such as work documentation and medical records, and notify the Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation if applicable to your case. If we need to prove that your injury is work-related, we can also help by looking for and using convincing evidence that links the injury to your occupation. Our legal team can also negotiate with relevant insurance providers to reach a settlement in your name.

Department of Labor Review

After a settlement is successfully negotiated but not finalized, the Department of Labor will want to review:

  • Reports about your injury.
  • Your medical record.
  • Detailed report of related medical costs.
  • Your work and employment history.
  • How the DBA settlement was reached.

The U.S. Department of Labor has the authority to approve or deny the settlement, even if our attorneys and the insurance company already agreed it was fair. For this reason, we strive to build every settlement and argument with clear logic and compelling evidence to reduce the risk of the DOL rejecting a settlement. 

Defense Base Act Claim Denials

The U.S. DOL may deny your Defense Base Act claim if:

  • You don’t have any documentation to prove you were employed as a contractor;
  • You weren’t covered by the DBA when you were injured;
  • Your claim doesn’t have enough medical evidence to support it; or,
  • Your employer challenges the authenticity of your work injury report.

Don’t worry and definitely don’t give up if your DBA claim is denied. At Military Justice Attorneys, we have built our reputations and careers by fighting difficult legal battles—and finding creative ways to win. As a veteran-owned and operated law firm, we take pride in standing up and protecting anyone who was injured in the service of our country, including civilian contractors who do so much to keep foreign U.S. Military and Embassies operational and United States Interests around the world protected.

Talk to Experienced Defense Base Act Attorneys Now

Get all the information you need about Defense Base Act claims by reaching out to MJA today. We are here to answer all your questions, discuss your legal options, and provide legal representation throughout your claim process. Your well-being and recovery are our top priorities. While you rest and try to recover, let us get to work on your case. 

How do we get paid? 

You don’t pay any out-of-pocket expense for our services. We will keep track of the amount of time we spend on your case, and the expenses generated in representing you for your claim, and at the end of a successful claim, we file a petition with the court, and ask the court to order the insurance company to pay our fees. If your case is settled, then our fees will likely be negotiated with the insurance company. 

We Come to You

Unlike many other practice areas that are state-specific, the Defense Base Act applies around the world, and our attorneys can represent you regardless of where you are. Practice under the Defense Base Act is a very narrow field and there may not be a law office near you that has knowledge of this unique and narrow practice area. When there is a deposition, or hearing taking place on your case, one of our skilled attorneys will usually come to you and meet with you in person at a venue in or near your town, so long as locations are available and it reasonably practical to do so. 

We help civilian contractors worldwide. Request your free consultation with MJA. Call (843) 773-5501 now.

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Our Battles Won

Results Matter. When your career, reputation, and freedom are on the line, you need an experienced law firm in your corner. With more than 75 years of combined legal experience, the attorneys at MJA know how to fight and win. Our results speak for themselves.


    Quantico, Virginia. Marine Corporal (E-4) Acquitted at Court-Martial of Wrongful Drug Use After Positive Urinalysis.

    Drug Use

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    Sexual Assault

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    Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. Senior Airman (E-4) Accused of Rape and Abusive Sexual Contact Acquitted by Military Judge.

    Sexual Assault

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