How the National Defense Authorization Act for 2024 Impacts DBA Benefits
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2024, was signed into law on December 27, 2023. And this brought good news for government contractors who were injured while working overseas. The NDAA implements several significant changes that impact both the scope and the administration of the Defense Base Act (DBA).
The Defense Base ACT (DBA) was enacted by the United States Congress, on August 16, 1941 (§§ 1651–1654) as an extension of the federal Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act 33 U.S.C. which provides compensation and medical care to civilian workers injured or killed while working on U.S. government contracts overseas.
In a nutshell, National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2024 improves benefits, increases protections, and streamlines administration for eligible individuals covered under the DBA. In this article, the experienced DBA attorneys at Cantrell Green explore and explain the impact of the NDAA for 2024 on existing Defense Base Act law.
NDAA for 2024 Overview
The NDAA is an annual federal law defining the budget and policies for the United States Department of Defense. It typically includes provisions affecting numerous and various aspects of national security, including veterans’ affairs and legal frameworks including the Defense Base Act.
This years NDAA (for 2024), however, included more updates than usual that revised and reformed certain DBA benefits and their administration. (And, as it’s an annual act, there will be a new NDAA with potential further changes enacted in in late 2024 that will impact 2025).
The NDAA for 2024 was passed by both chambers of Congress and signed into law by President Biden. The NDAA for 2024 officially took effect on December 27, 2023 – so its provisions regarding the DBA are now in force and affecting eligible claimants.
NDAA for 2024 Increases DBA Survivor Benefits
The NDAA for 2024 brings welcome news for families of deceased DBA beneficiaries. It raises the maximum monthly benefit payable to surviving spouses and children, offering them greater financial security.
For surviving spouses of deceased contractors eligible for death benefits under the DBA, the maximum monthly benefit increased by 1.7%, from $3,628.41 to $3,698.89.
For surviving children of deceased contractors eligible for death benefits under the DBA, the maximum monthly benefit increased by 2.6%, from $1,370.04 to $1,403.85.
These changes reflect the rising cost of living and are aimed at better supporting families who have lost loved ones due to work-related injuries or illnesses covered under the DBA.
NDAA for 2024 Expands Coverage for DBA Medical Conditions
The NDAA for 2024 expands the list of medical conditions “presumed” to be compensable under the DBA. This means that for these specific conditions, DBA claimants DO NOT need to provide extensive evidence linking their illness to their work environment. Stated another way, if an eligible DBA employee incurs one of these illnesses while or after working a defense base overseas, it is “assumed” that the illness was the result of their working situation.
NDAA for 2024 – Mesothelioma Presumed to be Work Related
Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer that affects the mesothelial cells lining the chest, abdomen, or heart. The most common form is pleural mesothelioma, which develops in the lining of the lungs. Mesothelioma is primarily caused by exposure to asbestos fibers, which can be inhaled or ingested and become lodged in the mesothelial tissue, triggering cellular changes that lead to cancerous growths. Occupational exposure to asbestos is the most common cause of mesothelioma. It is most common among workers in industries such as construction, shipbuilding, and asbestos mining.
Under the NDAA for 2024, mesothelioma is now automatically covered for veterans and civilian workers who served on contracts covered by the DBA after 1996.
NDAA for 2024 – Lung Cancer Presumed to be Work Related
For certain individuals exposed to asbestos or beryllium on DBA contracts after 1996, a diagnosis of lung cancer will also be presumed to be work-related. This simplifies and accelerates the DBA claim process, by eliminating the need for DBA covered workers to provide evidence that proves the lung cancer was work related.
These additions aim to expedite compensation for claimants suffering from these serious conditions and acknowledge the potential hazards they faced in their work environments.
NDAA for 2024 – Improving DBA Claim Processing Timeliness
The NDAA for 2024 recognizes the challenges that DBA claimants often face regarding lengthy claim processing times. So, this year’s NDAA changes include measures aimed at improving DBA claim processing efficiency and timeliness. These changes fall into three major administrative areas:
Increased staffing: The Department of Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) has been allocated additional resources by the NDAA 2024 that will enable them to hire more claims processors – thereby speeding up DBA claims processing and reducing backlogs.
Mandatory reporting: The NDAA 2024 also implemented requirements that the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs must submit regular reports to Congress on claim processing times and identify areas for improvement.
Streamlined procedures: The NDAA 2024 also encourages the OWCP to implement improved, streamlined procedures for DBA claims processing with clear-cut medical evidence and minimal disputes.
These efforts are expected to facilitate faster resolution of DBA claims. By reducing waiting times these NDAA changes, it is hoped that financial anxieties and hardships for individuals seeking their rightful benefits will be lessened.
Top DBA Attorneys
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2024 represents a significant step forward in strengthening the DBA and offering improved support to eligible individuals. Increased survivor benefits, expanded medical coverage, and efforts to improve claim processing times demonstrate a commitment to recognizing the sacrifices and potential health risks faced by DBA beneficiaries.
While further advancements and legislative updates are likely in the future, these changes mark a positive development for those navigating the DBA legal landscape. As always, the skilled and experienced DBA attorneys at Cantrell Green stay on top of all legislation and laws that affect our DBA clients claims and benefits.
Our DBA 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.
Call today, or fill out the short form on this page to schedule a FREE CONSULTATION with one of our skilled and experienced DBA Attorneys.
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.
In our Defense Base Act Blog, our attorneys keep you updated on the latest news and information pertaining to issues affecting civilian contractor employees working overseas and abroad.
Read our articles, then fill out the short form below to schedule a FREE CONSULTATION with one of our skilled Defense Base Act Attorneys.
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