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Court says civilian with PTSD covered by Defense Base Act

| Feb 5, 2020 | Firm News |

A federal judge ruled early this year that worker’s compensation under the Defense Base Act (DBA) covers a civilian defense employee with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The decision is a reminder that workers on defense contracts mostly do have worker’s compensation rights when working overseas. Also, the DBA covers diagnosed PTSD the same as any other injury.

A private contractor suffering from PTSD is not a new idea. For example, ProPublica, Time Magazine and The Rand Corporation published stories about it in 20102013, and 2015, respectively.

Employer and insurer deny interpreter worker’s comp

The man, Abdulraouf Abdelmeged, worked for two years as an interpreter during the Iraq War. A company that provides interpreters to the U.S. military, Global Linguist Solutions LLC, hired him under a contract that fell under the DBA.

When Abdelmeged returned home from his duties overseas helping U.S. troops, he found he was unable to return to work that paid him his old wages. The problem was psychological.

His psychologist pinpointed the source of his problems as PTSD caused by his time in Iraq. Abdelmeged applied for worker’s compensation. Global Linguist Solutions and its insurer denied his claim.

Interpreter for U.S. war effort decides he must go to court

Abdelmeged turned to the law to secure his rights, getting a hearing with an administrative law judge as well as the Benefits Review Court. His psychologist stood behind the diagnosis in court.

Both the judge and the panel agreed Abdelmeged had earned worker’s compensation. The companies appealed the decision to the circuit court level, the last stop before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Early this year, the Federal 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco decided it would not review the earlier decisions.

Turning down the chance to hear more arguments about the case, the appeals court said the interpreter’s “credible testimony, the opinion of his treating psychiatrist, and his demonstrated inability to earn his former wages” were enough.

Abdelmeged’s evidence met standards spelled out in federal law and he should get his worker’s compensation, the court found.