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Are death benefits available under the Defense Base Act?

With a global economy and the privatization of United States military operations in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, there are more jobs for defense contractors overseas than ever. In the last quarter of 2018, the United States Central Command reported 49,451 contractor personnel working for the Department of Defense.

If you are a contractor or thinking of entering this field of employment, what kind of insurance benefits are available to take care of your family should the worst happen to you overseas?

Defense Base Act overview

In the Defense Base Act, the Federal Government mandates that all employees of United States contractors receive workers' compensation insurance. Originally drawn up to cover employees on military bases, the Act now encompasses all federal contractors, including those working on public works contracts, projects funded by the Foreign Assistance Act and contractors working for American employers providing welfare services in foreign countries.

Benefits include disability, medical and death benefits.

Death benefit details

As a contractor, you receive death benefits under the Defense Base Act if you die during your employment overseas, whether or not it happens at your work site or during work hours.

Should the worst happen, your spouse or surviving child receives half of your average weekly earnings. If you have two or more surviving family members, they receive two-thirds of your average weekly earnings up to the current maximum weekly rate of $1,030.78 (September 2019).

If you are a non-resident of the United States or legal alien, the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs may commute your benefits to half the present or future value.

Have a plan in place

Being an overseas contractor can be lucrative, but there is a great deal of risk involved with that reward. If you find yourself placed in a dangerous area, make sure your family knows what benefits you have and how to file a claim if you are unable to do so yourself.

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