Defense Base Act Death Benefits Overview

Defense contractors and subcontractors often think that just because they’re not “military,” they don’t have anything to worry about when they head to global hot spots. However, the danger in some parts of the world is just as real for civilians as it is for soldiers. 

Before heading overseas to your next worksite, you need to understand what your Defense Base Act (DBA) death benefits are. Discussing DBA death benefits with your immediate family can not only give them peace of mind while you’re away, it can also help them understand important deadlines and information in advance if the worst should happen.

Speaking with an experienced DBA lawyer can also help put everyone’s mind at ease. Grossman Attorneys at Law has been working with families navigating Defense Base Act claims for decades. 

What Are DBA Death Benefits?

The Defense Base Act (DBA) provides workers compensation and other benefits, including death benefits, to those who are employed as civilian contractors in the following places:

  • On U.S. military bases; 
  • On U.S. government contracts in certain countries; 
  • Upon land used for certain government purposes outside the U.S.; and 
  • On extraterritorial public works projects under government contracts. 

The U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs, Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation (OWCP) states that those who are covered under the DBA are entitled to death benefits. 

Who Is Eligible to Receive My DBA Death Benefits?

Your survivors can get DBA death benefits if you were killed in the course of employment or from circumstances arising from your DBA-eligible employment. Survivors eligible to receive your DBA death benefits include:

  • Your surviving spouse,
  • Any surviving children, and
  • Any other surviving dependent.

If you do not have a spouse, children, or other dependents (as identified from your tax returns), then your DBA death benefits will not be paid out. 

What Costs and Expenses Do DBA Death Benefits Cover?

The Defense Base Act sets out a formula for paying out DBA death benefits. For one survivor (a spouse or child), death benefits are paid out at a rate of 50% of the employee’s average weekly wage.

A surviving spouse receives these payments weekly until death or remarriage. Upon remarriage, the surviving spouse receives a lump sum payment that equals two years’ worth of the deceased employee’s compensation.

If there are two or more eligible survivors, the death benefits are paid at the rate of 66.6% (or two-thirds) of your average weekly earnings. The Defense Base Act caps benefits at a set maximum. These maximums are subject to increases, especially due to inflation.

Children can receive DBA death benefits only until age 18, or age 23 if they are in school. Mentally and physically disabled surviving children may be able to receive DBA death benefits for a longer period of time. Any other dependents may receive 20-25% each of your average weekly earnings. 

DBA death benefits also pay for any funeral expenses up to $3,000.

How Do DBA Death Benefits Work?

DBA death benefits are a benefit, not an insurance policy. With something like life insurance, you’re able to designate a beneficiary, and that person will receive a lump sum when you die. DBA death benefits are paid weekly after you die. You don’t get to select who will receive the benefit.

In the event that you have concerns about who your survivors are or whether your employer can properly identify your next of kin to help them obtain your DBA death benefits, you’d benefit from a conversation with an experienced Defense Base Act lawyer. 

How Can My Family Obtain DBA Death Benefits?

Communication

Providing your family with as much information about the Defense Base Act and DBA death benefits before heading to a danger zone can help protect them. If anything should happen to you, this open communication in advance of a disaster can prepare them for the worst.

Helping them understand the importance of notifying your employer on time can be key. Providing them with access to important information and forms can mean the difference between your DBA death benefits claim being paid out on time and being denied.

Notification and Timing

There are a few forms your family will need to file to obtain DBA death benefits. Filing the forms in a timely manner is also extremely important. The forms include the following:

These forms can be filed securely on the Longshore’s Secure Electronic Access Portal (SEAPortal). Your family can also fax the forms to the Case Create hotline: 202-513-6814. 

What If My DBA Death Benefits Are Denied?

Like any claim, the insurance company may try to deny your family’s claim for DBA death benefits. Insurance companies often premise their denials on incorrectly completed forms or administrative errors. Don’t let them get away with that.

An experienced Defense Base Act lawyer can help your family fight for compensation. Grossman Attorneys at Law will fight for your rights at the negotiation table and in the courtroom. 

Speak with an Experienced Defense Base Act Lawyer Today

Grossman Attorneys at Law has been helping defense contractors and their families navigate all aspects of the Defense Base Act for decades.

We’ve handled thousands of claims under the DBA, and we know how to investigate, negotiate, and litigate when it comes to dealing with the Department of Labor and insurance companies. Contact us today to discuss how we can help put your family’s mind at ease. 

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