Does the Defense Base Act Cover Mental Health Conditions?
The Defense Base Act (DBA) is a federal law that was established back in 1941 to provide workers’ compensation protection to employees working overseas on contracts with the U.S. government or its agencies. However, one controversial “grey area” in legal field of Defense Base Act compensation is mental health coverage for workers overseas.
There is increasing recognition of the mental health challenges faced by workers in high-stress environments such as military bases, embassies, and other overseas facilities – especially during times of war or conflict. More workers have recently begun filing claims for mental health conditions under the DBA. But unfortunately, there is considerable debate over the extent to which these claims are covered – and how to assess and compensate for these injuries.
In this article, the experienced Defense Base Act attorneys at the Law Offices of Cantrell Green explain the ins and outs of collecting DBA benefits for mental health claims.
Mental Health Conditions: What the Defense Base Act Covers
The DBA does cover mental health conditions that are related to a covered physical injury or illness, such as depression or anxiety that develops as a result of a traumatic physical injury. In addition, the DBA provides coverage for mental health conditions that arise from exposure to hazardous substances or environmental conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that develops from exposure to combat or other traumatic events.
However, there is debate over the extent to which other types of mental health claims are covered. For example, claims for PTSD that are not related to a physical injury or illness may not be covered, or may be subject to stricter requirements for proving causation.
Unfortunately, claims for other types of mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety that arise from workplace stress or other non-physical factors, may not be covered as well.
Court Cases on Mental Health Condition Benefits Under the DBA
In recent years, there have been several important court cases that have addressed mental health coverage under the DBA. For example, in the case of Collyer v. U.S. Agency for Int’l Dev., the U.S. Department of Labor’s Benefits Review Board (BRB) held that a worker who had been injured in a terrorist attack was entitled to compensation for PTSD that arose from the attack, even though he had not sustained a physical injury.
The BRB held that the worker’s mental injury was related to a “zone of special danger” that he faced as a result of his employment and was therefore covered under the DBA.
In another case, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Benefits Review Board determined that a worker who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder was not entitled to compensation under the DBA, because there was no evidence that the condition was caused by a covered physical injury or illness. In that case, the BRB noted that mental health conditions that arise from non-physical causes, such as workplace stress or personal issues, are not covered under the DBA unless they are related to a covered physical injury.
So, as you can see, Defense Base Act claims for mental health benefits can go either way.
Challenges of Defense Base Act Mental Health Cases
The primary reason the BRB usually gives for denying DBA mental health claims is the difficulty in assessing mental health injuries, as there may be limited medical evidence or objective criteria for measuring these injuries. In other words, since there isn’t a standard blood test or x-ray that proves the existence of mental illness, it can be hard to ‘prove.’
The next hurdle in DBA mental health cases is proving that the mental health issue was caused by working conditions and was not a pre-existing mental illness. Mental health claims require a strong showing of evidence to establish a link between the injury and the claimant’s employment.
In most cases, workers will need to provide detailed documentation of their symptoms and medical treatment to demonstrate both the extent and the causation of their mental health conditions. An experienced DBA workers compensation attorney can help claimants gather and present the necessary evidence, such as medical records, expert testimony, and other documentation, to support their claims.
If a DBA workers comp claim is approved, compensation for mental health injuries may include benefits for medical treatment, lost wages, and other expenses related to the injury. However, the extent and duration of these benefits may vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case.
Defense Base Act Attorneys for Mental Health Conditions
It is crucial for a claimant seeking workers compensation for mental health disability under the Defense Base Act (DBA) to consult an experienced DBA workers compensation attorney due to the complex and highly specialized nature of this area of law. The DBA is a federal law that has unique requirements, procedures, and rules that must be followed to successfully obtain workers compensation benefits for mental health disabilities.
Keep in mind that very few attorneys are specialized in the area of DBA workers compensation law, making it even more critical to seek out an experienced attorney who is familiar with the nuances of this area of law. An attorney who is not familiar with the DBA may not be able to properly represent a claimant in a mental health claim or may not understand certain evidentiary or procedural requirements, leading to the denial of the claim.
The experienced Defense Base Act attorneys at Cantrell Green can provide valuable guidance on the potential benefits and compensation available for mental health injuries under the DBA, including medical treatment, lost wages, and other expenses related to the injury. Our attorneys will help you understand your rights under the DBA and will aggressively advocate on your behalf during negotiations with the insurance companies or in hearings before the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP).
If you suffered from a physical or mental illness while working abroad, schedule a consultation with one of our experienced DBA workers compensation attorneys. We will provide you with valuable guidance and aggressive advocacy throughout the claims process, to ensure that you receive the DBA benefits you are entitled to under the law.
Best Defense Base Act Attorneys
Our highly specialized Defense Base Act attorneys are committed to ensuring that every injured or disabled civilian employee obtains the benefits he or she has earned. We have successfully filed hundreds of Defense Base Act applications and appeals – obtaining millions of dollars in DBA benefits in over four decades of legal service.
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