The U.S. Department of Defense has been called the largest employer in the world, which is in no small part due to the roughly 762,000 full-time federal civilian employees and 561,000 full-time contractors. Contractors are a vital element of the military’s overall manpower, with many performing hazardous work on a daily basis. What happens when a civilian contractor gets injured on a military base? Are they eligible for workers’ compensation? What if the injury occurs at a base overseas?

Fortunately, the answer is yes. Civilian contractors are covered by workers’ compensation if they’re injured on a military base, whether it is stateside or overseas! However, it is important to learn all you can about the process, so you do not miss out on any benefits you are entitled to receive. This also includes benefits for dependents of contractors killed in the course of their employment.

The Defense Base Act

Civilian contractors hold a unique and valued status among the multitude of personnel working on behalf of our nation’s defense. For example, Active Duty military personnel are not eligible for workers’ compensation but instead may qualify for Veterans Affairs disability benefits. Civilian federal government employees, meanwhile, are covered under the Federal Employee’s Compensation Act.

Civilian contractors, however, are entitled to workers’ compensation under the Defense Base Act (DBA). The DBA was established in 1941 as part of the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act and is administered by the Department of Labor (DOL). The DOL’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs states that coverage includes employment situations where contractors are:

“Working for private employers on U.S. military bases or on any lands used by the U.S. for military purposes outside of the United States, including those in U.S. Territories and possessions;


“Working on public work contracts with any U.S. government agency, including construction and service contracts in connection with national defense or with war activities outside the United States;

Of note, DBA also covers “any injury or death occurring to any such employee during transportation to or from the place of employment, where the employer or the U.S. provides the transportation or the cost thereof.”

Other covered contractors include those working under Foreign Assistance Act contracts and those employed by American companies providing morale and welfare services to military personnel abroad.

VIDEO: Gary Bruce discusses what Active Duty military members should do when injured off post.

What Should Civilian Contractors Do If Injured on a Military Base?

No matter where the base is located — stateside or overseas — any time a civilian contractor is injured on a military base (or in some cases, when en route to a base), there are critical steps they should take as soon as possible. The DBA’s Notice to Employees lists these steps, and though the notice is geared toward contractors working overseas, the checklist is valid for most situations.

When possible, it is advised to notify your employer (usually through a supervisor) of your injury and complete a Notice of Injury form as soon as possible. It is best to do this on the same day as your injury, but that may not always be possible if you are severely injured and need to be rushed to get medical attention.

In such cases, to the greatest extent possible, contractors are advised to “request authority from your employer for treatment by the physician you choose.” This advance request can help ensure medical expense claims will be processed smoothly. Outside of emergency situations, your employer may try to force you to use a doctor of their choice.

When there is no alternative and treatment absolutely must come first, it is imperative to inform your employer as soon as feasible. This will also help ensure any disability claims process faster in the event your injury is considered disabling and you cannot return to work within three days. In these cases, contractors may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for their medical expenses and lost wages.

Related Reading: Do Independent Contractors Get Workers’ Compensation?

When to Get an Attorney

Civilian contractors are well-covered by the Defense Base Act. However, it is not uncommon for issues to arise when filing for disability and medical benefits. In some cases, the injured party may be unaware of their full rights or may be in too much physical or mental pain to effectively manage their case without help. Sometimes it is up to surviving family members to fight for the benefits of their loved ones who were killed in the performance of their contracted duties.

Injured civilian contractors and their eligible surviving loved ones do not have to navigate the complexities of workers’ compensation claims alone. The Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs exists to offer timely assistance for all claimants. However, if the bureaucracy of the process is overwhelming, confusing, or you believe your case is not getting the attention it merits, you have the right to contact a workers’ compensation attorney who can step in on your behalf.

Get Gary Bruce If You Need Help with Your Civilian Contractor Workers’ Compensation or Personal Injury Claims

If you or a loved one are a civilian contractor who is struggling with obtaining your full workers’ compensation benefits after an injury on a military base, we recommend connecting with a seasoned attorney as soon as possible.

Our firm has been proudly serving military families stationed at Ft. Benning for many years, and we know our way around the “red tape” surrounding worker’s compensation claims involving civilian contractors working for the military, at home or abroad. We are also experienced in successfully settling Federal Tort Claims in military-related personal injury claims.

Contact our firm today for a free consultation and learn how we can help you get the full benefits and compensation you are entitled to after an injury that wasn’t your fault.