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War zone wounds: Work injuries for defense contractors

Annapolis is home of the U.S. Naval Academy. The entire Washington, D.C., region is a hub for the defense contracting industry. The deliverables those companies provide to U.S. activities around the world run the gamut from general services, supplies, construction and private security. According to some recent data, the number of U.S. contract employees in Afghanistan is more than double the number of regular military troops.

It should surprise any reader to learn that this population of individuals faces unique on-the-job risks. Being in a war zone has a way of doing that. And, just like any employee of nearly any company in the United States, there is a federal law that requires employers with workers on overseas U.S. military bases to provide worker's compensation insurance to them. It's the Defense Base Act (DBA) and it's an extension of the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act.

What DBA covers

Much of what follows will sound familiar to anyone with an understanding of workers' compensation. DBA, like all such coverage, is no-fault. If you are injured in a danger area or on the job, you have a right to seek medical treatment, obtain cash compensation for total disability equal to a certain percentage of your average weekly earnings, up to a maximum level. If killed, death benefits are available to the surviving spouse and children at varying rates. What's available depends on the circumstances of your case.

What it takes to apply

Of course, as with any insurance, there is no guarantee a claim will be honored. Insurers do what they can to limit the amount they pay on any claim and the process of applying for benefits can be complicated. Working with an attorney experienced in the broad scope of possible injuries and illnesses, whether it is something as simple as a slip-and-fall or exposure to war hazards, is the surest way to be confident that your efforts yield optimal results.

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