"Honesty needs no disguise or ornament; be plain." - Thomas Otway
The First Thing You Must Do
Before I answer these Top 10 Defense Base Act questions, there are is one thing you absolutely need to do to win you DBA case. And if you don’t do this one thing then answering your top 10 DBA questions isn’t going to help you one bit.
The first thing you must do is always, always tell the truth. No matter what it is you are worried about, you must always be honest with everything to the judge AND your attorney. If you try to lie or exaggerate any part of you case then you will lose your case.
It’s true. Trust me. I have seen it time and time again. So now that you have the first valuable weapon in your arsenal to take down the DBA insurance companies and their lawyers, let’s answer those questions:
Top 10 Most Common Defense Base Act Questions:
1. What is the Defense Base Act?
The Defense Base Act initially applied to persons working on American military bases abroad. The DBA was then broadened to cover most federal contractors working outside of the United States.
The Defense Base Act provides benefits to employees working for defense contractors outside the continental United States. In recent years, there have been thousands of Defense Base Act workers seriously injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.
If you are an employee of a civilian contractor injured while working under a U.S. Government contract in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, or anywhere in the world, your claim possibly falls under the DBA. Civilian employees of contractors that support military and State Department operations worldwide usually fall under the Defense Base Act. The Defense Base Act is a federal workers compensation program for the employees of these civilian contractors.
The DBA requires that federal government contractors and subcontractors provide workers’ compensation insurance for their employees who work outside of the United States. The DBA also covers both United States citizens and foreign nationals.
Basically, all types of service contracts are covered under the DBA. Workers that work for contractors performing service contracts, even those tha do not directly provide for construction, alteration, removal or repair are included in the definition of public work.
* For more in-depth information on what the Defense Base Act is Check out pages 12-16 of the "Win Your Defense Base Act Case” book.
2. What injuries are covered under the Defense Base Act?
The Defense Base Act is different from almost every other workers’ compensation scheme. Unlike other workers’ compensation programs, under the DBA, an injury is covered by the Defense Base Act even if your injury didn’t happen while you were actually working.
For example, injuries sustained by DBA workers during recreational activities are covered by the Defense Base Act.
Under the DBA, injuries resulting from reasonable and foreseeable recreational activities in isolated or dangerous locales arise out of a “zone of special danger” and are therefore compensable under the DBA. Thus, injuries sustained while off-duty are covered under the Defense Base Act; including recreational activities, such as exercising, training, etc.
Injuries to DBA workers while they are exercising and/ or training are always compensable under the DBA. For example, I have won DBA cases when the Claimant was injured while playing soccer, playing basketball, jogging, swimming and lifting weights.
* For more information on what types of injuries are commonly covered by the DBA check out pages 47-54 of “Win Your DBA Case” book.
3. What does “Injury” mean?
To be entitled to benefits under the Defense Base Act, you must have sustained an injury within the meaning of the Act. And your disability must have resulted from the injury.
The term “injury” means accidental injury or death arising out of, and in the course of, employment. Injuries covered under the Defense Base Act include:
- Tripping and falling on steps and hurting your back
- Automobile collisions causing injuries
- Getting hurt while ducking for cover while under enemy fire
- Injured by IED explosions
- Breaking your ankle playing basketball
- Getting injured playing soccer
- Falling out of your bunk and injuring yourself
If you get hurt in theater then you are most likely covered under the Defense Base Act.
More specifically, if you are experiencing any pain or discomfort you likely have an injury covered by the DBA.
Let’s say you are overseas and while lifting a box you feel something strange in your back - - you just suffered a DBA injury. It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that. If something goes wrong in your body - you have suffered a DBA injury. Whether you are entitled to weekly benefits or medical treatment are different issues under the law.
* For more specific information on what an “Injury” means check out pages 55-61 of “Win Your DBA Case” book.
4. When do I have to file my DBA claim?
One thing you should know about the Defense Base Act is DBA claims are exceedingly slow. This is mainly because Defense Base Act claims fall under the Longshore Act. In many ways the system is broken. The system simply wasn’t ready for thousands of seriously injured Defense Base Act workers coming home from Iraq, Afghanistan and other places around the world. In the simplest terms - there are way too many claims and not enough Judges.
Because of this, you need to make sure your DBA claim stays on track. In order to do this, you - or more importantly your Defense Base Act Lawyer - need to understand where your claim is and what steps are necessary in order to first get your case to trial and then win your DBA trial.
Know this: the only reason why you are going to get full value for your DBA claim is for the DBA insurance company to know that your lawyer has the skill, courage, resources and ability to bring your DBA claim to trial and win.
5. Can I get disability under the Defense Base Act?
Under the DBA, there are four different and distinct categories of disabilities:
1. Temporary Total Disability (TTD)
2. Temporary Partial Disability (TPD)
3. Permanent Total Disability (PTD)
4. Permanent Partial Disability (PPD)
Temporary Total Disability (TTD):
You are entitled to Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits if you are unable to perform your usual and customary DBA employment and your doctor has not declared you have reached maximum medical improvement. Stated in its simplest terms, if you can’t work and your doctor hasn’t released you yet you should be getting a workers’ compensation check (a TTD check) during that time period.
How Much Weekly TTD should I be getting?
You are entitled to 2/3’s of your average weekly wage (AWW) up to the maximum weekly compensation rate. There is a maximum compensation amount that you can receive. This amount is determined based on the year you file your claim.
What if I am not getting paid Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits by the DBA insurance company?
First off, you need to understand that the DBA insurance companies deny claims left and right, even when the Claimant has all the necessary documentation.
You are going to need your doctor to write a report (it can be in handwriting) that says you were injured due to your DBA employment (meaning while you were overseas) and you are currently unable to work (or do your customary DBA employment) due to your injuries.
Here it is important for your doctor to understand your work. Being able to work a desk job or even at Wal-Mart is far different from wearing body armor and having to run for a shelter in the middle of the night.
It’s Time to Do Something
If the DBA insurance company is not providing you with weekly compensation benefits (i.e. a workers’ compensation check), then the insurance company will usually file an LS- 207 (Notice of Controversy with the US Department of Labor) and you will be sent a copy. If the DBA insurance company has sent you an LS-207, you need to make sure you read it and get the documentation necessary to overcome the reasons why the DBA insurance company is denying your claim.
This is no time to dilly-dally. You need to hire a well-seasoned DBA lawyer. You need to get the evidence needed to win your case. And you need to immediately request an Emergency Informal Conference. And then you must have Recommendations issued by the OWCP claims examiner. And after that you must file a LS-18 in order to get a trial scheduled. It’s not simple. But it is necessary.
This is a “get in line and wait” system. The quicker you get your case to the Judge’s office and start waiting in line for your trial and then your “Decision and Order”, the quicker you will get your TTD benefits. Sometimes once you get the necessary documentation (i.e., a medical report), the DBA insurance carrier will start providing you with weekly compensation benefits. A lot of the time, the threat of a trial will get the DBA insurance company to provide benefits or settle cases.
Temporary Partial Disability (TPD):
Under the DBA, if you are temporarily unable to perform your usual and customary work, the DBA insurance carrier is supposed to pay you 2/3’s of your average weekly wage up to the maximum compensation rate.
Temporary Partial Disability (TPD) comes into play mainly under a rare circumstance. If your employer has work for you that pays less than your regular pay - than you may be entitled to the difference between the less pay you get for the “light duty” work and your compensation rate. The reason why this is rare under the DBA is that you will usually have to come home (for example, the United States) to get medical treatment. Your DBA employer will usually not have work for you do to in your home State. This is why TPD under these circumstances is relatively rare.
6. What if I don’t have an incident report?
One of the first things the DBA insurance company asks to see is any incident reports/ injury reports. Obviously, an incident report goes a long way to documenting your injury.
That is why both the DBA insurance company and your lawyer are going to ask to see it. At some point, your attorney will either be settling your case or presenting it to the Judge. The more documentation you have which corroborates your injury incident, the better.
But what if you don’t have an incident/ injury report? What if your supervisor refused to fill one out? Or maybe you didn’t realize you were as badly hurt as you turned out to be and you just didn’t get an accident report filled out? What then?
Report your injury
Whatever the circumstances, 99% of the time you should report your injury as early as possible. If you haven’t reported your injury yet, today would most likely be a good day to do so.
Seriously, every day you wait to report your Defense Base Act injury increases the odds of your claim being denied by the DBA insurance company and, most importantly, your claim being denied by the DBA Judge.
If nothing else, send an email. Tell a supervisor or someone in the company that is higher in rank than you. “Hey, I got hurt on such and such day when I did such and such.... My back hurts....” You don’t need to provide a huge amount of information. Basic details are fine and probably preferable. Send a copy of the email to yourself so you can document that it was actually sent.
* Want more in-depth information on how to report your injury; check out pages 18-19 of the “Win Your Defense Base Act Case” book.
7. What if my employer doesn’t have DBA Insurance?
All Defense Base Act employers are required to secure the payment of compensation. Meaning, they have to have Defense Base Act insurance. If a sub-contractor fails to obtain DBA insurance coverage, then the general contractor is required to provide DBA insurance for the worker.
If the employer fails to obtain DBA insurance, you can sue the employer for civil damages. In uninsured DBA employer cases, the employer cannot defend the claim based upon your injuries being caused by a co-worker, assumption of the risk, or due to your negligence.
DBA Attorney and Partner of Turley and Mara Law Firm - Bill Turley
8. What is the biggest myth about the Defense Base Act?
There’s a huge misconception about the Defense Base Act that needs to be dispelled in order for you to understand why you’ll need a seasoned DBA lawyer to fight for your DBA benefits and it is this:
Just because you have a legitimate injury and cannot work, it does not mean that you will receive Defense Base Act benefits. That’s because benefits are paid by your employer’s insurance company, which has an arsenal of lawyers who are paid to deny your claim.
The fact that you have a legitimate injury means next to nothing when you are going into court asking for money. The only thing that matters is, “What can you prove?” Not, whether you have a legitimate injury.
These highly-paid lawyers working for the DBA insurance companies have the means to twist things around. By the time you get to court they may have you second-guessing yourself. That is what they do.
The Problem with Hiring Local
The local lawyer may do fine with other types of injury or workers’ compensation cases, but the last thing you want is your local lawyer to get steam-rolled by one of the big city DBA insurance company hired guns. In other words, you don’t want a lawyer that is learning on the job, so to speak.
The Defense Base Act (DBA) is very, very different than State workers’ compensation programs. So don’t make the mistake, that so many others do, of hiring a local workers’ compensation attorney to represent them or representing themselves for their Defense Base Act case.
* Discover more common misconceptions about the Defense Base Act on pages 25-29 of the “Win Your Defense Base Act Case” book.
9. How should I interact with the DBA Insurance adjuster?
If you have a Defense Base Act claim and you have not hired a Defense Base Act Lawyer yet, then you need to know how you should deal with the Defense Base Act insurance adjuster.
Once you have a DBA injury you are at war with the DBA insurance company. No matter how nice the Defense Base Act claims adjuster is to you - - at the end of the day, their job is to keep you from getting the medical benefits and money compensation benefits you are entitled to under the law.
However, just because you are at war with the insurance company does not justify or permit you to be rude or short with the DBA insurance adjuster.
You should be polite when dealing with the adjuster. Remember, at the end of the day, the insurance adjuster decides whether they are going to admit or deny your injuries and/or provide you benefits.
Just as your mother may have once said, “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” It is the same with insurance adjusters. They usually have hundreds of files. They have files where they approve the benefits and files where they fight on every issue. Your job is to not give additional incentive to the adjuster to deny your benefits. Be polite. But remember, they are the enemy.
* For more information on how to deal with your DBA adjuster check out pages 41-46 in “Win Your DBA Case” book.
10. What happens if DBA insurance won’t authorize my medical treatment?
Oftentimes, the DBA insurance company adjusters will either not authorize your “free choice” physician or they will only authorize treatment with a doctor of their choosing. Either way, you need to document what is happening and how these insurance companies are treating you.
A letter with a proof of service or an email will do. With email, be sure to send a copy to yourself also, so you can prove you emailed your request to the DBA adjuster. It should look something like this:
Re: 11-7-2013 Afghanistan DBA Injury - XYZ Security Co.
Please be respectfully advised that I hereby choose the
Following physician to be my free choice physician:
Dr. Cindy Hugeheart
101 Hospital Lane City of Anywhere, My State
Please authorize evaluation/ treatment. Please advise.
Dave B. Hurting
You’ll notice that at the end of every answer to all 10 questions you have the opportunity to explore these questions and answers more in depth with my book, Win Your Defense Base Act Case.
It is the most valuable resource you’ll be able to get your hands for going up against the heavily armored DBA insurance companies. It guides you step by step through what actions you need to take to be successful in court. Preparation is key to winning DBA cases so be as ready as you can be by picking up your FREE copy of Win Your Defense Base Act today.
Think I’m tooting my own horn? Not really. Check out these 5 Star Amazon reviews from folks in the exact same situation as you.
We’re here to make sure you don’t get screwed over by the big DBA insurance companies. So, if you have any questions about what you have read here or on your specific DBA claim and before you sign any forms or make a grave mistake, give our office a call today.
We’re here to help you win.
Call us at 619-234-2833