If you are a federal contractor working abroad, it is critical to have a working understanding of the DBA (Statute 42 USC 1651). We cannot overstate the importance of this law for federal contractors working abroad. It is the critical piece of workers’ compensation law for federal contractors working worldwide on behalf of the United States.
The DBA’s full name is the Defense Base Act. It was initially passed by Congress in 1941 and came into effect in 1942. Congress built the DBA off of the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA). The LHWCA sought to provide workers’ compensation protection to longshore workers working outside of the United States in all U.S.-owned ports worldwide. It gave longshore workers the same types of workers’ compensation protection as if they worked in the continental United States. The DBA then extended LHWCA protection to civilian employees working on U.S. military bases abroad.
The DBA Today
Congress has updated the law several times over the past 70 years. Updates to the DBA mostly consisted of further extending its provisions to more classes of workers. Passage of the DBA’s current version came in 2010 before it took effect in January of 2011. Today, the DBA covers all federal contractors working abroad.
The DBA is a complex federal rule with its own national agency. The Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) currently administers the DBA. As a complex and specific regulation, some aspects of the DBA can be difficult to understand. Not all attorneys are well versed in the DBA and its contents. Therefore, an attorney that focuses on DBA cases is an invaluable asset to have on your side if you need to file a claim under it or have any problems doing so.
General Provisions of the DBA
To understand the answer to the question, What is the DBA (Statute 4 USC 1651)? we can look to the statute’s general provisions. The general provisions of the DBA center on three areas:
- Compensation for work-related injuries and expenses,
- Insurance, and
- Employee rights.
Understanding the rights and responsibilities in these three general areas will help you gain a basic understanding of the law. While most employers try to follow these rules as closely as possible, this is not always the case. Knowing your rights and responsibilities and those of your employer can make a world of difference to whether your DBA claim is successful.
Compensation for Work-Related Injuries
As a federal contractor, the DBA gives you the right to compensation from your employer if you are hurt, disabled, or killed on the job. If you suffer an injury at work, your employer must pay for the medical costs associated with your injuries. Further, they must compensate you for any time you miss from work due to the injury. If you are unable to work, you receive compensation at a rate of 66.66% of your average weekly wage.
If you end up with a permanent disability after an injury sustained at work, you are permanently entitled to compensation. If someone dies as a result of a work-related injury, the spouse of that person is entitled to 50% of their average weekly wage. This amount increases to 66.66% if the deceased has any surviving children.
If you do not receive a compensation installment in a timely manner, you have the right to increased compensation. If your employer does not make a payment installment within 14 days of its due date, your employer is required to pay 10% extra on that installment. In addition, your employer must add 20% to any lump sum of compensation granted as an award if that award is more than ten days late.
OWCP may grant an employer an exception to the late payment rule for conditions reasonably beyond their control. Some of the main circumstances that OWCP regularly deems to be beyond your employer’s control include things like communications outages, issues with access to remote employment locations, and conditions of war.
Any employer covered under the DBA must have the ability to pay for any compensation due to its employees. This securitization can be accomplished through an employment insurance provider or by the employer itself (self-insurance). The Department of Labor (DOL) must expressly authorize any insurance provider covering employers under the DBA. Furthermore, any employer who wishes to self-insure under the DBA must obtain express authorization from the DOL.
As a federal contractor covered by the DBA, you have a right against retaliation by your employer. Your employer may not fire you for filing a claim under the DBA or exercising your right to workers’ compensation. They also may not discriminate against you in any way. Of course, an employer has the right to fire any employee that files a fraudulent claim under the DBA. This is also the case if an injured employee provides false evidence, statements, or any other form of misrepresentation during the DBA claims process.
Any party to a DBA claim has the right to challenge or otherwise appeal any decision related to the claim. This could be a disagreement over anything from the amount of a claim to the existence of a specific injury or impairment. To aid in this process, the OWCP administers mediation services.
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) that is informal. ADR is used to resolve disputes without getting state court systems involved. Mediation can make the dispute resolution process quicker and more amicable (since parties must agree to the resolution).
In their DBA mediation process, the OWCP arranges an informal conference where they hear both parties’ sides of the story. At the meeting, the OWCP representative recommends a resolution to the dispute. If any party does not agree to the recommended resolution, they can request a hearing in administrative court. If either party is not satisfied with the administrative court’s decision, they have the right to appeal the administrative judge’s decision all the way to The Supreme Court.
What to Do After an Injury
If you suffer from an injury at work, follow these steps to ensure a successful claim and a smooth claims process.
Inform Your Employer
The first thing you should do after an injury is to inform your employer. That way, your employer knows what is going on and can take necessary steps, including seeking emergency medical attention for you if necessary.
Seek Medical Attention as Soon as Possible
Next, you should seek medical attention for your injuries. This is essential to ensuring your injury does not worsen and receives proper treatment.
The DBA allows you to seek medical attention from any physician of your choice. However, you should be careful in making your decision, as the DBA allows you to choose only one physician. To change physicians after your injury, you must either make an agreement with your employer to do so or seek an order from the Secretary of Labor’s office. This is not always easy and can hold up your treatment.
Your employer and their insurance company likely have physicians pre-selected, but you should screen these and any other doctors to make sure they are the right fit for you. The best thing to do is to speak with an experienced lawyer and get their recommendation.
Keep a Record of Everything
While it is your employer and/or their insurance company responsible for filing all the right forms with OWCP, you should still keep track of everything. People make mistakes, and people act in bad faith, so it is best to keep a personal record of every aspect of your treatment and injury. Carefully document all of the following: your injuries, injury symptoms, doctor visits, phone calls, and any other correspondence with your employer, doctor, the insurance company, or OWCP. If a dispute arises, this documentation will be essential.
Keep Your Employer Informed
Since it’s up to your employer to file the claim and provide compensation, they need to be aware of everything that’s going on. Be sure that they get a copy of all the right documentation from you. Also, be sure to follow up with your employer to ensure they are taking all of the right steps to file your claim. Doing so can also help preserve a good relationship with your employer, which can help avoid a potential dispute from spiraling out of control.
Contact a Lawyer
We recommend you contact a lawyer who has specific experience with the DBA as soon as possible after your injury. Even if it is just one conversation, consulting with a lawyer and getting their recommendation on the right doctor for your injury can have quite an impact on your claim. Then, if a dispute arises, you will already have an established relationship with an attorney who is familiar with your situation.
Grossman Attorneys at Law has handled numerous DBA claims. Our attorneys, therefore, have specific experience with the DBA that is difficult to match. We are ready to help guide you through the DBA claim process from start to finish. Our attorneys offer free consultations and are accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Furthermore, we have attorneys all over the world, so no matter where you are, you can give us a call at any time. Our goal is to make things easier for you so you can focus on healing. So don’t wait; call us today at 1-800-940-8048, or fill out our contact form, and we will get back to you as soon as possible.