Top 10 Things You Need to Know About the Defense Base Act

Sara was an aircraft mechanic at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan.  She handled a full range of military tactical aircraft maintenance and repairs. 

Sara’s Story

Sara’s job was to repair and modify aircraft structures and structural components.  It entailed removing and installing aircraft subsystem assemblies and components such as engines, rotors, transmissions, mechanical flight controls and their components.  Sara also needed to service and lubricate aircraft and subsystems; safely prepare aircraft for inspections and maintenance checks and services; and perform limited maintenance operational checks and troubleshoot aircraft systems using special tools and test equipment.

Sara’s job was strenuous.  She needed to work on ladders and ramps, lift heavy objects from time to time, and had to work in a shop where the environment was drafty, noisy, and dirty. 

One day in particular, Sara was having an issue working on an aircraft and injured her back.  Her back injury required her to have surgery.  She began the workers’ compensation claims process under the Defense Base Act, yet she encountered some major problems. 

Her doctor cleared her to return to work too soon, when she was still healing.  The insurance company then cut off all benefits.  The workers’ compensation process that was supposed to make things easier during her injury became an increasing nightmare.  Sara recalls in particular that the insurance company treated her very poorly, yet she felt helpless to remedy the problem. 

This blog will tell you the Top 10 basics regarding the Defense Base Act, so you can avoid what happened to Sara. 

1.  What is the Defense Base Act?

If this is your first time looking at our blog here at Doolittle & Tucker, then it would be helpful to tell you the basics about the Defense Base Act, given that we are top Defense Base Act claims attorneys in Florida. 

In short, the Defense Base Act is a Federal Workers’s Compensation statute that provides wage loss and medical benefits to civilian contractors who are injured overseas, while working for the Department of Defense or the Department of State.  The Defense Base Act typically contemplates civilian contractors injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.  In certain circumstances, the Defense Base Act covers employees who are injured stateside while training or preparing to go overseas.

2.  Who is Covered by the Defense Base Act?

The Defense Base Act covers civilian contractors working overseas supporting the U.S. military, from food service workers to security forces.  It also covers individuals working under public works, construction, or repairs in United States territories or other countries abroad.  It also covers individuals working for humanitarian relief such as the Peace Corps, or even recovery efforts such as the hurricane recovery effort in Puerto Rico.

3.  What Parts of the World Are Covered by the Defense Base Act?

The Defense Base Act is a worldwide statute.  If you are an employee is working for an employer who has a contract with the Department of State or the Department of Defense, then you are entitled to those workers’ compensation benefits under the Defense Base Act.  We commonly see the Defense Base Act coverage for employees injured in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Qatar, Africa, South America, in some cases, even Antarctica.

4.  What Benefits Are Provided under the Defense Base Act

Under the Defense Base Act and the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, several benefits are available, including lost wages, medical benefits, death benefits and in certain cases vocational rehabilitation benefits.

5.  If Injured on the Job and Covered by the Defense Base Act, What Do You Do?

The first thing to do upon injury is, as soon as possible, immediately report the injury to your supervisor.  You might be required to fill out a notice of injury or a first report of injury.  

Then, you should seek medical attention.  Be sure to obtain documentation of your visits to the doctor, as this might be important evidence later on in your case.

6.  What Kind of Deadlines Apply to the Defense Base Act?

While you have 30 days to notify your employer of your injury, it is recommended that you immediately notify your employer and seek medical treatment.  Also, after the injury, you have one year from the date of accident to file your Defense Base Act claim.  In certain cases, you have two years.  But, in those cases, you only have one year from the date of accident or one year from the last date compensation has been paid.

7.  How Do You File a Defense Base Act Claim?

To file a Defense Base Act claim, you must first file what’s called an LS-203 “claim for compensation.”  You have to give details of your injury, and you file those details with the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs, which is a part of the United States Department of Labor.

Defense Base Act claims are initially filed in the New York Department of Labor office.  Then, it is reassigned to the district office near your (the injured employee’s) residence.  A claims examiner gets assigned, and he or she determines whether there are any disputes in the claim.  The examiner will step in hold an informal conference in the event of any disputes.

8.  How Do You Get Medical Treatment?

The Defense Base Act requires an employer or insurance company to provide medical treatment to an injured individual who is injured on the job.  However, that very rarely happens.  In the event of injury, an injured individual should notify the employer and request medical treatment.  If the treatment is not provided, you can contact the Department of Labor to get assistance in seeking medical treatment.  In most cases, however, you should contact an experienced Defense Base Act attorney in Florida to expedite authorization of medical treatment.

9.  How Do You Get Compensation?

In order to obtain compensation under the Defense Base Act, you first must be injured, and then your physician of choice has to place restrictions on you that the employer cannot accommodate.  Once you have missed a certain amount of days due to the injury, the insurance company or the employer should initiate compensation benefits to you.

10.  Why Do You Need a Defense Base Act Attorney in Florida?

Under the Defense Base Act you need an attorney for several reasons.  First, your attorney will ensure that you are provided with proper benefits on a timely basis. Second, your attorney will monitor your medical progress to make sure that you receive whatever your physician is requesting or recommending.  Third, if the employer and the insurance company have an attorney, then you should too.

Further, it is highly recommended that you get an attorney who regularly handles Defense Base Act cases because the Defense Base Act is a very niche area of the law.  Not everyone or every attorney knows the intricacies of the Act and how things work.

In the vein, Doolittle & Tucker, P.A. has been practicing in Florida for years.  Our Defense Base Act attorneys in Florida know the Act inside and out.  We help people like Sara the aircraft mechanic, and many, many others with getting the maximum compensation possible.  Call us for more information at Doolittle & Tucker, 904-396-1734.