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Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation (DLHWC)

Defense Base Act (DBA) Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

 

DISCLAIMER: The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) were created solely to assist employees and employers in gaining a general understanding of portions of the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA), as extended to the Defense Base Act (DBA). These FAQs may not constitute the complete or official opinion of the Department of Labor, the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs, or the Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation on any subject. This page does not necessarily contain an exhaustive or current treatment of the DBA and should not, under any circumstances, substitute for a party's own research into the statutory, regulatory, and case law authorities on any given subject addressed by the following FAQs. The FAQs are an informational tool, not a final authority, and should not be cited or otherwise considered an authoritative statement of agency policy. Additional sources of information, including the statutes and implementing regulations, can be accessed on the Laws, Regulations & Related Materials section of our website.


  1. What is the Defense Base Act (DBA)?
  2. Who is covered under the DBA?
  3. What does "public work" mean?
  4. Is work performed pursuant to a grant covered under the DBA?
  5. Who administers the DBA?
  6. Where should new Defense Base Act claims be filed?
  7. What types of benefits are available under the DBA?
  8. How is the rate of compensation determined?
  9. Are there any payment provisions specific to aliens and non-U.S. residents?
  10. What should I do if I get injured at work?
  11. How do I obtain medical treatment for my injuries?
  12. How do I obtain compensation for my disability?
  13. How do I give notice of my injury to my employer?
  14. How do I file a claim for compensation based on my injury?
  15. How do I obtain death benefits?
  16. What should an employer do upon notice of an employee's injury?
  17. What services do the OWCP district offices provide?
  18. What if the parties to the claim are unable to resolve their dispute(s) informally?
  19. How do I contact the OWCP district office?
  20. How do I file documents from overseas without access to a fax machine?
  21. What are the insurance requirements under the DBA?
  22. Who is authorized to write DBA coverage?
  23. Must an employer acquire DBA coverage for foreign nationals?
  24. What if an employer fails to secure payment of compensation as required by the DBA?
  25. Does the Department of Labor regulate DBA insurance premium rates?
  26. What is a waiver?
  27. How does one obtain a waiver?
  28. Can an employer voluntarily provide DBA benefits even if a waiver is in place?
  29. What is the employer posting requirement under the DBA?
  30. Why is the Form LS-241 or LS-242 not available for download from the internet ?
  31. Where can I obtain Longshore forms?
  32. Where can I obtain more general claims information?

1. What is the Defense Base Act (DBA)?

The DBA is an extension of the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA) which provides disability compensation and medical benefits to employees and death benefits to eligible survivors of employees of U.S. government contractors who perform work overseas. With a few exceptions, the DBA incorporates the provisions of the LHWCA. See the Longshore FAQs for additional information.


2. Who is covered under the DBA?

The DBA covers the following employment activities:

  • Work for private employers on U.S. military bases or on any lands used by the U.S. for military purposes outside of the United States, including those in U.S. Territories and possessions;
  • Work on public work contracts (see FAQ 3) with any U.S. government agency, including construction and service contracts in connection with national defense or with war activities outside the United States;
  • Work on contracts approved and funded by the U.S. under the Foreign Assistance Act, which among other things provides for cash sale of military equipment, materials, and services to its allies, if the contract is performed outside of the United States;
  • Work for American employers providing welfare or similar services outside the United States for the benefit of the Armed Services, e.g. the United Service Organizations (USO); and
  • Any injury or death occurring to any such employee during transportation to or from the place of employment, where the employer or the U.S. provides the transportation or the cost thereof.

If any one of the above criteria is met, all employees engaged in such employment, regardless of nationality including U.S. citizens and residents, host country nationals and local hires as well as third country nationals (individuals hired from another country to work in the host country), are covered under the Act.

The DBA does not apply to the injury or death of (1) an employee subject to the provisions of the Federal Employees' Compensation Act; (2) an employee engaged in agriculture, domestic service, or any employment that is casual and not in the usual course of the trade, business, or profession of the employer; and (3) a master or member of a crew of any vessel


3. What does "public work" mean?

"Public work" is defined in the Act as any fixed improvement or any project, whether or not fixed, involving construction, alteration, removal or repair for the public use of the United States or its allies. However, "public work" is not limited to construction. It includes any project or operation under service contracts and projects in connection with the national defense or with war activities.


4. Is work performed pursuant to a grant covered under the DBA?

Section 1651(a)(4) of the DBA covers employment under a "contract entered into with the United States" where such work is to be performed outside the continental United States for the purpose of public work. The Department of Labor agrees with the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in University of Rochester v. Hartman (Vishniac), 618 F.2d 170 (2nd Cir. 1980), that work performed pursuant to a grant is not covered under section 1651(a)(4) because Congress has enacted statutes to distinguish grants from contracts. Similarly, work performed pursuant to a cooperative agreement is not covered under 1651(a)(4).

Section 1651(a)(5) of the DBA, however, covers employment under a "contract approved and financed by the United States" if such work is to be performed outside the continental United States under the Foreign Assistance Act. Thus, if the recipient of the federal funding (whether provided pursuant to a contract, grant or cooperative agreement) hires a contractor or subcontractor to perform work that is financed by funds supplied under the Foreign Assistance Act, it is likely covered by the DBA under Section 1651(a)(5). The Benefits Review Board has recognized that Section 1651(a)(5) does not require the injured employee to have been working under a contract to which the United States is a party. See Delgado v. Air Serve International, 47 BRBS 39 (2013). It is sufficient that the claimant's employment was performed under a contract that was "approved and financed" by the United States.


5. Who administers the DBA?

The U. S. Department of Labor (DOL), Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (OWCP), Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation (DLHWC), administers the DBA through ten district offices located throughout the United States.


6. Where should new Defense Base Act claims be filed?

If there is no OWCP file number and the claim is new, the claim form should be sent to our New York City DLHWC District Office, which is designated as the Central Case Create site for the entire program. This site creates cases for all new injuries or deaths, regardless of the location of the accident or the employee's or survivor's home address. After the case is created, it is viewable electronically by the District Office with jurisdiction for the case.

U. S. Department of Labor
Office of Workers' Compensation Programs
Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation
201 Varick Street, Room 740
Post Office Box 249
New York, NY 10014-0249

If there is already an OWCP file number, do not submit documents to this address. Use Longshore's Secure Electronic Access Portal (SEAPortal) to electronically upload documents directly to the OWCP case file. The SEAPortal can be found at this website: https://seaportal.dol-esa.gov/portal/. Alternatively, documents can be submitted to our Central Mail Receipt site.

See the Document Submission and Communication with OWCP FAQs for specific information on where to submit new claim forms and how to submit documentation to OWCP/DLHWC.


7. What types of benefits are available under the DBA?

The Defense Base Act provides disability and medical benefits to covered employees injured in the course of or arising from employment and death benefits to eligible survivors of employees killed in the course of employment or who died of causes arising from employment. Compensation for total disability is two-thirds of the employee's average weekly earnings, up to a current maximum weekly rate. Compensation is also payable for partial loss of earnings.

Death benefits are paid at the rate of one-half of the employee's average weekly earnings to a surviving spouse or one child, or two-thirds of average weekly earnings for two or more eligible survivors up to the current maximum weekly rate. The Defense Base Act also incorporates the LHWCA's provision for payment of reasonable funeral expenses up to $3,000.

Permanent total disability and death benefits are subject to annual cost of living adjustments.

The injured employee is also entitled to medical treatment by a physician of his/her choice, as the injury may require.

The LHWCA minimum benefits rate does not apply to DBA claims.


8. How is the rate of compensation determined?

Compensation benefits are two-thirds of an employee's average weekly wage (AWW), up to a maximum rate per week.

The AWW used should reasonably represent the annual earning capacity of the employee. Documents that may be considered to calculate the AWW include the employment contract, W-2 tax forms, payroll documents and Social Security records. In computing wages overseas, allowances generally include: foreign housing, cost of living adjustments, completion awards/bonus, vacation or holiday pay, overtime, and per diem so long as it is not duplicative of other allowances provided.


9. Are there any payment provisions that are specific to aliens and non-U.S. residents?

Yes. There are two such provisions:

a. Cases involving aliens and non-U.S. residents can be resolved by commuting benefits paid for permanent disability and death. In such cases, a one-time lump sum payment may be issued by the employer/carrier representing half of the present value of future compensation as determined by OWCP. Medical benefits may not be commuted.

b. Death benefits may be paid only to the surviving spouse or child or children, or if no surviving spouse or child or children, to dependent parents.


10. What should I do if I get injured at work?

  • You should notify your supervisor or employer representative immediately or as soon as possible.
  • If you require medical attention for your injury, you should obtain treatment as soon as possible.
  • You are entitled to select a physician of your choice to treat the effects of your injury. You should ask your employer for a Form LS-1, Request for Examination and/or Treatment, which authorizes medical treatment. However, in a medical emergency, you may request authorization from your employer or its insurance carrier after obtaining emergency treatment.

See Longshore FAQs for additional information.


11. How do I obtain medical treatment for my injuries?

If you need medical treatment for your work injury, ask your employer to authorize treatment by a doctor of your choice. If it is an emergency or if you are unable to contact your employer, go to the nearest hospital or physician, but be sure to let your employer know as soon as possible.

Cost of medical transportation and/or repatriation for medical care (if necessary) is the responsibility of the DBA insurance carrier.


12. How do I obtain compensation for my disability?

If you are disabled more than 3 days, payments are to be issued 14 days from the date your employer first has knowledge of your loss in wages. However, payment is not overdue until 14 days after that date. This provides the carrier 28 days to issue the first payment. Thereafter, payments should be paid in bi-weekly installments except when the employer or insurance carrier disputes liability for benefits and files a Notice of Controversion, Form LS-207. See Longshore FAQ 23 describing the Notice of Controversion.

If you do not receive your initial compensation check in a timely manner, contact the district office handling your claim for assistance as there could be additional compensation due for the late payment of benefits.


13. How do I give notice of my injury to my employer?

Give written notice of your injury to your employer on Form LS-201 (Notice of Employee's Injury or Death) within 30 days. Additional time is provided for certain hearing loss and occupational disease claims.


14. How do I file a claim for compensation based on my injury?

File a written claim for compensation with the OWCP on Form LS-203 (Employee's Claim for Compensation) within one year after the date of injury or last payment of compensation, whichever is later. The time for filing claims in occupational disease cases is within two years after the employee or eligible survivor is aware of the relationship between the disease, death or disability and his/her employment.

If you already have an OWCP file number, you should electronically upload your claim form to your case file using Longshore's Secure Electronic Access Portal (SEAPortal). The SEAPortal can be accessed at this website: https://seaportal.dol-esa.gov/portal/. Alternatively, you can submit the form to our Central Mail Receipt site. If you do not have an OWCP file number, you should send your claim form to our Central Case Create site.

See the Document Submission and Communication with OWCP FAQs for specific information.


15. How do I obtain death benefits?

Give written notice of the employee's death to the employer on Form LS-201 (Notice of Employee's Injury or Death) within 30 days. File a written claim for compensation on Form LS-262 (Claim for Death Benefits) with the OWCP within one year after the date of the employee's death.

If you already have an OWCP file number, you should electronically upload your claim form to your case file using Longshore's Secure Electronic Access Portal (SEAPortal). The SEAPortal can be accessed at this website: https://seaportal.dol-esa.gov/portal/. Alternatively, you can submit the form to our Central Mail Receipt site. If you do not have an OWCP file number, you should send your claim form to our Central Case Create site.

See the Document Submission and Communication with OWCP FAQs for specific information.


16. What should an employer do upon notice of an employee's injury?

The employer should notify its insurance carrier or, if it is self-insured, its claims administrator, as soon as it has knowledge of an injury. Medical treatment, if needed, should be authorized immediately. Form LS-202 (Employer's First Report of Injury or Occupation Illness) must be filed with the OWCP Central Case Create Site within 10 days of the injury if it causes loss of one or more work shifts. Additional forms and notices, as well as medical reports, should be filed with the OWCP as regulations require.


17. What services do the OWCP district offices provide?

  • The OWCP/DLHWC maintains records of injuries and deaths reported under the LHWCA and its extensions and reviews claims to determine whether appropriate benefits are paid promptly and accurately in compliance with the Act's provisions.
  • Claims staff provides information and technical assistance regarding entitlement to compensation, medical benefits and vocational rehabilitation benefits to employers, insurance carriers, and injured employees.
  • Should claim disputes arise, the OWCP/DLHWC assists the parties to resolve the disputes by conducting informal conferences and making written recommendations regarding benefit entitlement. If the parties cannot resolve their differences and any party requests a formal hearing before the Office of Administrative Law Judges (OALJ), the OWCP/DLHWC refers the case for a formal hearing.
  • Vocational rehabilitation services are provided to permanently disabled employees in appropriate cases. See the Vocational Rehabilitation FAQs for more detail.
  • The OWCP/DLHWC also administers the "Special Fund" which pays disability compensation to injured employees or their survivors in certain circumstances. See Longshore FAQ 41 for additional information about the Special Fund.

18. What if the parties to the claim are unable to resolve their dispute(s) informally?

If the parties are unable to resolve their dispute(s) informally, they may request referral of the claim to the Office of Administrative Law Judges (OALJ) for formal hearing. Decisions rendered by the Administrative Law Judge may be appealed to the Benefits Review Board (BRB) and thereafter, depending on where the claim is administered, to the U.S. District Court or to the U.S. Court of Appeals.


19. How do I contact the OWCP district office?

The DBA jurisdictional boundaries and the corresponding district office contact information can be found on the Longshore Defense Base Act Jurisdiction page for claimants residing outside of the U. S. For all others, the contact information can be found in the Contact Us section on the DLHWC website.


20. How do I file documents from overseas without access to a fax machine?

You can use Longshore's Secure Electronic Access Portal (SEAPortal) to electronically upload documents directly to the OWCP case file. The SEAPortal can be found at this website: https://seaportal.dol-esa.gov/portal/.

To learn more about the SEAPortal, see the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on the SEAPortal site.


21. What are the insurance requirements under the DBA?

The insurance requirements under the DBA are identical to those found in the LHWCA. The Longshore Act requires every employer (including contractors and subcontractors) either to secure insurance for the payment of workers' compensation benefits provided under the Act or to be permissibly self-insured. If a subcontractor fails to secure the payment of compensation, the contractor will be liable and will be required to secure the payment of such benefits.


22. Who is authorized to write DBA coverage?

The OWCP is responsible for the authorization of insurance carriers and self-insurance of employers. To view a list of authorized Carriers and Self-Insured Employers visit the Insurance Carrier section on our website.


23. Must an employer acquire DBA coverage for foreign nationals?

Yes. Benefits under the DBA are payable regardless of nationality. Therefore, employers should secure insurance coverage for all of their employees working outside the United States under a U.S. government contract, including U.S. citizens and residents, host country nationals (local hires), and third country nationals (hired from another country to perform work in the host country).


24. What if an employer fails to secure payment of compensation as required by the DBA?

An employer who fails to secure the payment of compensation under the Act through an insurance carrier or to obtain authorization to be self-insured may face criminal prosecution and be subject to imprisonment and/or fines. If the employer is a corporation, the president, secretary and treasurer can be prosecuted individually and may be personally and severally liable for compensation and other benefits.

If the employer is not insured, an injured employee also may elect to either claim compensation under the Act or sue for damages for his/her injury under general tort law. In such a lawsuit, the employer may not rely on the customary tort defenses that the employee is prevented from recovery by (1) his/her own contribution to the cause of the injury or (2) his/her own negligence or wrong-doing.


25. Does the Department of Labor regulate DBA insurance premium rates?

No. The Department of Labor has no authority to regulate insurance premium rates. All authorized carriers are regulated by the states in which they operate.


26. What is a waiver?

The Secretary of Labor may waive application of the Defense Base Act with respect to any contract, work location, or class of employees upon the written request of the head of any department or other agency of the United States. It is Department of Labor policy that waivers do not apply to citizens or legal residents of the U.S. or to employees hired in the U.S. In addition, once granted, the waiver is only valid if alternative workers' compensation benefits are provided to the waived employees pursuant to applicable local law. If there are no local workers' compensation laws, the waiver has no effect and local and foreign nationals working under a U.S. contract are covered under the DBA.


27. How does one obtain a waiver?

The request for waiver can be made by submitting a request for DBA waiver package, by the head of a department or agency of the United States government. The package can be mailed to the Director, OWCP, U.S. Department of Labor, OWCP, Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation, 200 Constitution Avenue NW, Rm C-4319, Washington, DC 20210. The package can also be sent by e-mail to DLHWC-Public@dol.gov.

A complete waiver package includes the following:

  • Form BEC 565, Request for Waiver - Defense Base Act
  • A translated copy of the applicable workers' compensation law for the country in question.
  • Website addresses if the information was obtained via the internet.
  • A comparison of the workers' compensation benefits available in the country compared to DBA benefits, to include a specific reference to the section of the country's workers' compensation law for each relevant provision. The DBA Comparison Chart that may be used as the outline for that analysis. While use of the attached excel chart is not a requirement, an analysis of all benefits listed on that chart is required.

Also, please note that OWCP/DLHWC may also consider other pertinent factors not on that chart and that the items on that chart are not necessarily an exhaustive list.


28. Can an employer voluntarily provide DBA benefits even if a waiver is in place?

Yes. There is no prohibition against providing DBA coverage for waived employees.


29. What is the employer's posting requirement under the DBA?

The DBA incorporates the LHWCA's provision that every employer who has secured compensation under the Act must keep posted in a conspicuous place in and about its place of business Form LS-241 (Notice to Employees) or LS-242 (Notice to Employees for Self-Insured Employers). Such notice must also contain the name and address of the employer representative to whom notice of injury is given, and the carrier, if any, with whom the employer has secured payment of compensation and the date of the expiration of the policy.


30. Why is the Form LS-241 or Form LS 242 not available for download from the internet?

The Forms LS-241, Notice to Employees and LS-242, Notice to Employees (for Self-Insured Employers), are controlled forms and are not available to the general public. The employer receives the LS-241 from its insurance carrier upon confirmation of insurance coverage or renewal. The self-insured employer receives the Form LS-242 from the OWCP upon confirmation of its self-insurance authorization. For further information, contact the OWCP Longshore National Office at (202)693-0038 or DLHWC-Public@dol.gov.


31. Where can I obtain Longshore forms?

Most Longshore forms can be found in the Forms section on our website.

Forms are also available at any Longshore district office. To request a form, or for additional information and assistance on how to complete the forms, contact the district office where your claim is administrated. Office contact information can be found in the Contact Us section on our website.


32. Where can I obtain more general claims information?

With a few exceptions, the DBA incorporates the provisions of the LHWCA; therefore, additional claims information can be found in Longshore FAQs starting with question 6.