College and a family can wait. You still have exotic places to visit and a global career to build before settling back down in Louisiana to raise kids and punch that 9-to-5 clock. You signed a contract to work at a U.S. Army base in the Middle East or for the Department of Health and Human Services in east Africa. Both are dangerous hot zones. What happens if you are killed or injured working in a foreign country?

The Defense Base ACT (DBA) provides worker’s compensation benefits to U.S. private and government contractors to cover their disability and medical bills, plus death benefits to their survivors. The federal law extends protections the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act delivers those who load and unload vessels or drill for oil in the Gulf of Mexico to Americans employed overseas.

Who is covered?

The DBA applies to a wide spectrum of injuries. From common slips and falls and forklift accidents to diving away from enemy fire and taking shrapnel from a bomb. It also covers a broad range of non-military workers and employment activities:

  • Working on a U.S. military base or land used for national defense purposes.
  • Supporting U.S. allies under contracts approved and funded by the federal government.
  • Selling military equipment, materials and services under the Foreign Assistance Act.
  • Public works employees contracted by any U.S. government agency involved in national defense or war activities.
  • Providing welfare services and morale-boosting, such as the USO staging entertainment shows.

The DBA covers all contractors and subcontractors regardless of nationality. It also benefits eligible workers and their families whether the employee was injured or killed during work hours. That includes getting hurt exercising or playing softball on the base.

Total disability is two-thirds of the employee’s average weekly wages, up to a maximum of $1,038. Death benefits are half of the worker’s average weekly earnings to the surviving spouse or one child, and two-thirds for two or more survivors, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Fight for your protections

Working overseas can be exciting, even life changing. It can burnish your credentials as an independent adventurer to companies seeking well-rounded workers and risk-takers. But the United States and its allies can be targets for terrorism and political retaliation. Military bases and installations also can be hazardous places because of heavy equipment and explosives.

It is important to know your employment protections when working in a foreign land. How to secure DBA benefits and fight for compensation if your employer denies or shortchanges them. Leaving the United States for a unique opportunity does not mean leaving behind your rights.