Defense Base Act Attorneys
For Civilians Injured Overseas
Is Hearing Loss Covered Under the Defense Base Act?
Hearing loss is a common occurrence as a person ages, and it is easy to assume the loss is due to age alone. However, many workers have been subjected to high noise levels on the job, which over time can be a significant factor in hearing loss. Excessive noise levels on military bases and facilities handling military aircraft and other heavy military vehicles are a constant issue. Fortunately, hearing loss is considered a compensable injury under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, as extended by the Defense Base Act (Section 8(c)(13)).
This fact is not generally known by most military contract workers. There is the assumption amongst many employees that the noise associated with the workplace is just an annoying fact of life. Therefore, employees may not even be aware that they may be eligible to file a workers’ compensation claim for their hearing loss, and may retire without filing a claim because they are unaware that they can.
In this article our Defense Base Act case attorneys explain what benefits are available to workers who have sustained a hearing loss on the job and how they can seek compensation due to them.
Hearing Loss Covered by the Defense Base Act
It is almost axiomatic that working on a military base is a noisy proposition. A combination of heavy equipment, machinery and vehicles produce noise levels that over time can create hearing loss. Fortunately, the Defense Base Act anticipates this tendency, and includes hearing loss as a compensable injury.
Interestingly, the DBA views hearing loss as a traumatic injury, as opposed to an “occupational disease” (an injury that increases, and is eventually discovered, over time). The difference in classification is important because when someone makes a claim for workers’ compensation under the Defense Base Act, he or she needs to specify the time period during which he or she was exposed to excessive or harmful levels of noise.
Covered Defense Base Act Hearing Loss Claims
The Defense Base Act covers both monaural and binaural hearing losses, and makes the determination by means of an audiogram that is administered by a professional audiologist.
A monaural hearing loss involves hearing loss in only one year. If it is determined that there has been a 100 percent (or total) monaural hearing loss, the employee is eligible for one year of compensation at a rate specified in the Defense Base Act.
If an employee sustains a hearing loss that is less than 100 percent, compensation is tied to the actual percentage of hearing loss. For instance, if the hearing loss is determined to be 50 percent in one ear, the employee would be paid for 26 weeks of compensation at the appropriate compensation rate.
Binaural hearing loss involves the loss of hearing in both ears. If an employee sustains a 100 percent binaural hearing loss, compensation would be equal to 200 weeks of pay at the appropriate compensation rate. Similar to monaural loss, any percentage of hearing loss less than 100 percent would result in compensation for a percentage of the 200 weeks.
Presumptions in Defense Base Act Hearing Loss Claims
Because hearing loss can also be a natural consequence of aging, insurance companies appear to apply stricter standards when it comes to accepting hearing loss claims, as opposed to other types of workers’ compensation claims. However, there are certain presumptions that weigh in a claimant’s favor in terms of hearing loss.
Specifically, whenever a hearing loss claim is submitted under the Defense Base Act, there is the presumption that it was caused by conditions in the workplace. In other words, if a military base worker makes a claim for hearing loss based upon the fact that he or she was exposed to loud or excessive noise on the job, it is presumed that the hearing loss was a result of the working environment.
That places the burden to prove otherwise upon the insurance company. The insurance company may attempt to prove that the hearing loss was due to a pre-existing condition, or that it occurred prior to the current employment. However, proving a negative (that something didn’t happen) is difficult. And, as stated, the burden is on the insurance company, not on the claimant.
Limits on Your Time to File a Defense Base Act Hearing Loss Claim
The limitations upon when a claimant must file a claim for hearing loss under the Defense Base Act also favor claimants. The time period within which a claim must be filed doesn’t begin for the claimant until the following has occurred:
The claimant receives an audiogram that indicates a loss of hearing,
The claimant has received the results of that test, and
The claimant realizes that there is a connection between the loss of hearing and the noise levels associated with the workplace.
Defense Base Act Attorneys for Hearing Loss
There are some defenses to hearing loss claims under the Defense Base Act. For instance, the Aggravation Rule applies to hearing loss claims. This rule applies if an employee sustains hearing loss with Employer #1, and subsequently went to work for another covered employer, Employer #2.
If further hearing loss was sustained during the second period of employment, it would fall to an administrative law judge to determine which employer would be responsible for the hearing loss, and in what percentage.
Because the filing of a workers’ compensation claim for hearing loss under the Defense Base Act can be difficult, it is wise to retain competent counsel to represent you. There are many issues involved and many rules to follow. You need an attorney who is familiar with the Defense Base Act, and who understands the intricacies of the law.
Our attorneys at the Long Beach offices of Cantrell Green have the experience and expertise that you need. We have handled Longshore and Defense Base Act claims for a vast number of clients. Call us today for a free consultation regarding your case, and we will help you get the compensation to which you are entitled.
Our highly specialized Defense Base Act attorneys have successfully filed hundreds of Defense Base Act applications and appeals – obtaining millions of dollars in DBA benefits in our four decades of legal service.
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