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War Hazards Compensation Act

Congress passed the War Hazards Compensation Act (WHCA) in 1942 to provide benefits to employees of government contractors or their survivors for injuries or deaths stemming from war-risk hazards. The WHCA also reimburses insurance carriers for any workers’ compensation benefits paid by the carriers to these employees or survivors. The WHCA replaces wages lost by employees who are held as prisoners of war. It also presumes that missing persons are totally disabled.

The WHCA applies to the following types of workers:
Employees of United States contractors who are not entitled to compensation under the Defense Base Act, which provides workers’ compensation protection to civilian employees working outside the United States under a contract with the federal government;

  • Persons engaged by the United States under a contract for personal services outside the continental United States;
  • Workers employed outside the continental United States as civilian employees paid from nonappropriated funds administered by various military agencies;
  • Persons employed under contracts to be performed outside the continental United States, where those contracts are approved and financed by the United States government;
  • and Employees or contractors providing welfare or other services to the United States armed forces.

The WHCA does not apply to the following types of workers:

  • Workers covered by the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act, which provides workers’ compensation benefits to federal employees; and
  • Persons who live at or in the vicinity of their places of employment and are not living there solely because of their employment (But if the injury or death occurs in the course of employment, it will be covered by the WHCA).

Under the WHCA, the provisions of the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, which provides benefits to maritime workers and other private industry employees who are disabled or killed by employment-related injuries, determines the scale of benefits. Workers are considered to be totally disabled under the WHCA where they are:

  • Found to be missing from their place of employment and circumstances indicate that the absence is due to the action of a hostile force or person,
  • Known to have been taken as a prisoner or hostage, or
  • Are not returned to their home or place of employment because the United States or its contractor failed to provide transportation.

In such cases, employees are entitled to benefits equal to 100 percent of their average weekly wages. The payments of benefits are made from the fund established under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act. When an employee is missing, benefits may be paid to his or her dependents.

Copyright 2013 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.