Are Defense Base Act Benefits Available to Foreign Nationals?

The United States has military bases, activities, and interests throughout the world.  In addition, the United States military, particularly since the actions in Afghanistan and Iraq began in the early 2000s, has been using private contractors to do a lot of the work necessary to keep the United States presence in foreign regions stable and strong.

Private Contractors Working for the U.S. Military

Those two circumstances mean that there are many people who are protecting the United States’ interests in foreign countries.  Yet, fewer of those people are active military personnel and more are employees of private contractors.  Furthermore, many of those employees overseas in United States military bases are not United States citizens.  In fact, for many reasons, whether it be language skills or knowledge of the region, having foreign nationals working for contractors on U.S. military bases has brought many advantages.

With regard to workers’ compensation, you may be curious as to whether a United States government-run program like the Defense Base Act covers foreign nationals.  The answer to that question is “yes.”  Foreign nationals, eligible under the Defense Base Act, do receive benefits following a work-related injury.

In this week’s blog we are going to dive into some Defense Base Act basics, and then investigate further about the details surrounding the Defense Base Act benefits available to non-United States citizens.

If you are a foreign national, a military contractor, or have a work-related injury under the Defense Base Act and want to learn more after reading this blog, please do not hesitate to contact us at Doolittle & Tucker.  We are the south Florida Defense Base Act attorneys who can help you with any Defense Base Act issue.  In a fairly specialized area of the law, Doolittle & Tucker attorneys have a vast amount of experience and resources to draw from.  Call us at 904-396-1734 for a free case review.  We are ready to help you.

Defense Base Act Basics

  • Defense Base Act is an Extension of the Longshore Act

The Defense Base Act is so titled because it is a federal workers’ compensation law that is primarily focused on providing workers’ compensation benefits to injured workers on United States military “defense bases.”  While the Act covers other types of employees, its primary focus is on those working on military bases and those employees working under United States contracts outside of the United States.

The Defense Base Act operates under the umbrella of the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (“Longshore Act”).  Thus, the benefits available to a Defense Base Act employee are the same as those available to Longshore Act employees.

Defense Base Act employees injured on the job will receive reasonable and necessary medical care under Section 7 of the Longshore Act.  In the event of a lost-time injury, indemnity benefits are to be paid under Section 8 of the Longshore Act.  Finally, if a worker dies as a result of a work-related incident, benefits are paid to the worker’s beneficiaries under Section 9 of the Longshore Act.  Thus, as you can see, the Longshore Act’s provisions inform how Defense Base Act benefits are paid.

  • Average Weekly Wage – Can Be Higher for Defense Base Act Employees

Like the Longshore Act, Defense Base Act uses the average weekly wage (AWW) to determine workers’ compensation benefits.  The calculation of the AWW falls under Section 10 of the Longshore Act.  Interestingly, most Defense Base Act employees in combat zones (who are not foreign nationals) have relatively high AWWs.  That is because most Defense Base Act employees work seven days per week.  Thus, it is common for truck drivers, translators, or metal workers to make four or five times the income that they could earn for the same type of work in the United States.

Defense Base Act Benefits Available to Foreign Nationals

As noted, the Defense Base Act covers both United States citizens and foreign nationals.  The term “foreign national” includes locals, i.e., those employees in the foreign country working near their own home; and third-country nationals, i.e., those from neither the host country nor the United States.  There are, however, some differences between some of the benefits foreign nationals may receive compared to United States citizens.

For example, in the case of the death of a worker involved in a work accident, there are fewer classes of beneficiaries for foreign nationals than for United States citizens.  A “dependent” of a foreign national is limited to the surviving spouse and children, or the foreign national’s mother or father whom the worker supports financially.

In addition, there is also a remedy under the Defense Base Act, called “commutation” with regard to foreign nationals.  The law regarding commutation allows Defense Base Act insurance companies to request to only pay one-half of the Defense Base Act benefits owed to a foreign national.

Commutation applies to death benefits for a fatally injured foreign national, but does not apply to medical benefits.  Therefore, commutation is an efficient way to entirely resolve the death benefit for a foreign Defense Base Act employee (particularly where it may be difficult to make future payments to a family not residing in the United States).  However, future medical benefits are paid to foreign nationals in the same way as United States citizens under the Defense Base Act.

Doolittle & Tucker:  Your Experienced Defense Base Act Attorneys in Southern Florida

If you believe you are covered by the Defense Base Act and have been injured on the job, then you need a seasoned Defense Base Act attorney to assist you with your claim.  That is true regardless of whether you are a United States citizen or foreign national.  In that vein, we invite you to contact us at Doolittle & Tucker.  We have been practicing in the area of Defense Base Act claims for many years.

We at Doolittle & Tucker understand the way to effectively present a workers’ compensation claim under the Defense Base Act.  In so doing, we can make sure that you receive the maximum workers’ compensation benefit you deserve.  If you have any questions or are at all confused by a workers’ compensation claim, then get an experienced lawyer in your corner.  Call us at Doolittle & Tucker, 904-396-1734.  We are available 24/7 to help you.