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What is the Defense Base Act?

Established in 1941, the primary goal of the Defense Base Act was to cover workers on military bases outside the United States. The act was amended to include public works contracts with the government for the building of non-military projects such as dams, schools, harbors, and roads abroad. A further amendment added a vast array of enterprises revolving around the national security of the United States and its allies. Today, almost any contract with an agency of the U.S. government, for work outside the U.S., whether military in nature or not, will likely require Defense Base Act coverage.

What are DBA Benefits?

The Defense Base Act provides disability, medical, and death benefits to covered employees injured or killed in the course of employment, whether or not the injury or death occurred during work hours. Compensation for total disability is two-thirds of the employee's average weekly earnings, up to a current maximum of $1,200.62 per week. Compensation also is payable for partial loss of earnings. Death benefits are half of the employee's average weekly earnings to the surviving spouse or to one child, and two-thirds of earnings for two or more such survivors, up to the current maximum weekly rate. Permanent total disability and death benefits may be payable for life, and are subject to annual cost of living adjustments. There is no minimum compensation rate.

Permanent disability and death benefits payable to aliens and non-U.S. residents may be commuted by payment of half of the present value of future compensation, as determined by the OWCP district director.

The injured employee is entitled to medical treatment by a physician of his/her choice, as the injury may require. Medical benefits may not be commuted.

Who is required to have DBA Coverage?

  1. Any employee working on a military base or reservation outside the U.S.
  2. Any employee engaged in U.S. government funded public works business outside the U.S.
  3. Any employee engaged in a public works or military contract with a foreign government which has been deemed necessary to U.S. National Security.
  4. Those employees that provide services funded by the U.S. government outside the realm of regular military issue or channels.
  5. Any employees of any sub-contractors of the prime or letting contractor involved in a contract like numbers 1-4 above.

What are the consequences of failing to obtain DBA Coverage?

Failure to obtain DBA insurance may carry stiff penalties. All government contracts contain a provision that requires bidding contractors to obtain necessary insurance. Failure to do so will result in fines and possible loss of contract. Employers without DBA coverage may be subject to suits under common law, wherein common law defenses are waived. In other words, the claimants or their heirs need only file suit and do not have to prove negligence. Lastly, all claims may be brought in Federal Court and are against the insured directly.

For an excellent overview of DBA, visit the U.S. Dept of Labor website here: http://www.dol.gov/esa/owcp/dlhwc/ExplainingDBA.htm

Read the actual U.S. Defense Base Act Code