Washington Law Review


Claire Been


In 1941, Congress passed the Defense Base Act (DBA) to provide workers’ compensation coverage to civilian workers employed overseas under U.S. government contracts or on U.S. military bases. Congress modeled the DBA after the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (Longshore Act), modifying certain provisions to provide for accidents that occur overseas. In 1972, Congress amended the procedures governing review of claims under the Longshore Act. The amendments required workers to appeal claim-related decisions to a new administrative board and then to a U.S. court of appeals. Before the amendments, a worker’s first appeal under the Longshore Act was to federal district court. Because the amendments failed to mention the DBA, the U.S. courts of appeals have disagreed over whether judicial review of administrative decisions under the DBA should take place in district courts, as it previously did, or in the courts of appeals, mirroring the changes to the Longshore Act. The resulting uncertainty has led to inconsistency in administration of the DBA and to difficulty for this growing class of workers. This Comment argues that context, statutory canons, legislative history, construction of other Longshore Act extensions, and policy considerations establish that review of final agency decisions in DBA cases must be in the courts of appeals.

First Page