Lynch Introduces Legislation to Enhance Fairness for Overseas Federal Contractors Killed In Line of Duty

Nov 17, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, Congressman Stephen F. Lynch (MA-08) introduced H.R. 5721, the Overseas Security Personnel Fairness Act. This legislation would remove a significant penalty in federal law that currently prohibits the families of overseas federal contractors who are killed in the line of duty from receiving full death benefits if the deceased employee is unmarried with no children or other dependents. The families of overseas federal contractors, including the family of former Navy SEAL and C.I.A. security contractor Glen Doherty, have faced significant difficulty in receiving death benefits under federally-required insurance policies when their loved one is killed on the job but is single with no dependents. Mr. Doherty was killed during the September 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate and classified Annex in Benghazi, Libya.    

The Defense Base Act of 1941 requires that overseas federal contractors obtain so-called Defense Base Act insurance in order to make certain that injured workers are entitled to workers’ compensation for employment-related injuries and their survivors are entitled to death benefits in the event of a job-related tragedy. Regrettably, current law does not extend death benefits, aside from $3,000 in funeral expenses, to the family or designated beneficiary of a federal contractor who is killed in the line of duty overseas but is unmarried with no dependents. H.R. 5721 would therefore amend the Defense Base Act to ensure that full death benefits are extended to the families or designated beneficiaries of these federal contractors who have died in service to our country as a result of a war-risk hazard or an act of terrorism. H.R. 5721 would also provide retroactive death benefits to the designated beneficiaries or families of such federal contractors who have been killed in the line of duty since September 11, 2001, including Defense Base Act cases resulting from Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and the terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

"It is flatly wrong that the Defense Base Act requires federal workers to take out an insurance policy before they are deployed overseas and accepts the payment of insurance premiums from those workers, but does not provide death benefits to their families or estate solely based on marital and child status,” said Congressman Lynch. “The Overseas Security Personnel Fairness Act would ensure that courageous Americans, like Glen Doherty, are allowed to provide the protections and benefits that they intended their loved ones to receive in the event of their death in the line of duty and in the service of their country,” added Lynch.

Glen Doherty was killed in September of 2012 while defending the classified Annex near the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi against a terrorist attack that also resulted in the deaths of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, former Navy SEAL and C.I.A. contractor Tyrone Woods, and U.S. State Department officer Sean Smith. While Mr. Doherty was unmarried with no children or other dependents, he activated his mandatory Defense Base Act insurance policy before deploying for a scheduled 54-day mission to Libya beginning on September 7, 2012 with the reasonable belief that his policy would pay benefits to his estate or next of kin in the event of his death.