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Who's in charge of managing the Defense Base Act?

In previous posts, we have looked at the responsibilities of the various parties involved in Defense Base Act claims:

  • Employee responsibilities
  • Employer responsibilities
  • Insurance company responsibilities

In this post, we will look at the role played by the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs, which oversees the administration of the Defense Base Act.

The OWCP and its role

The Defense Base Act is a federal workers' compensation insurance program that covers employees who work overseas for U.S. government contractors and subcontractors.

The OWCP says the mission of its Defense Base Act division is "to minimize the impact of employment-related injuries, illnesses and deaths on employees and their families by ensuring that workers' compensation benefits are provided promptly and properly."

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the DBA responsibilities of the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs include:

  • Creating and maintaining files for DBA claims
  • Making proper payments to people who have filed DBA claims
  • Supervising and monitoring medical care
  • Providing vocational rehabilitation services
  • Helping to resolve claims
  • Approving settlement awards after all parties reach an agreement
  • Referring cases to administrative law judges when no settlement can be reached 

The OWCP also assesses penalties and fines, as we will see below.

An example of what the OWCP does

One of the OWCP's responsibilities is to issue fines when parties do not meet their responsibilities under the Defense Base Act.

In 2013, for example, the OWCP fined a Washington, D.C.-based company $75,000 for failing to report the injuries and deaths of 30 people in Iraq between 2003 and 2005. The company provided security and other services in support of U.S. military operations in Iraq.

The OWCP's director explained why it's important for companies to report work-related injuries, illnesses and deaths: "In the case of injuries and illnesses, this enables timely medical treatment, payment of compensation benefits and, when possible, return to work, and for fatalities, timely issuance of death benefits for eligible survivors."

Have you been injured?

If you have been injured while working overseas for a U.S. government contractor or subcontractor, contact an experienced Defense Base Act attorney.

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