The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA): Overview of Workers’ Compensation for Certain Private-Sector Maritime Workers




The Longshore and Harbor Workers’
Compensation Act (LHWCA):
Overview of Workers’ Compensation for
Certain Private-Sector Maritime Workers

Updated March 3, 2021
Congressional Research Service
https://crsreports.congress.gov
R41506




The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA)

Summary
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) is a federal workers’
compensation program that covers certain private-sector maritime workers. Firms that employ
these workers are required to purchase workers’ compensation or self-insure and are responsible
for providing medical and disability benefits to covered workers who are injured or become ill on
the job and survivors’ benefits to the families of covered workers who die on the job. The
LHWCA is administered by the Department of Labor (DOL), and all benefit costs are paid by
employers and their insurance carriers. In 2017, more than $2 billion in LHWCA benefits were
paid to beneficiaries.
Congress has extended the LHWCA provisions to cover workers outside of the maritime industry,
such as overseas government contractors and civilian employees of military post exchanges. As
part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), persons who repair
recreational vessels of any size were added to the LHWCA exemption list. In 2011, the DOL
implemented this provision; since then, those regulations have proven controversial and
numerous bills have been introduced to modify the regulatory definition to increase the number of
workers exempted from the LHWCA.
The LHWCA pays for all medical care associated with a covered injury or illness. Disability
benefits are based on a worker’s pre-injury wage, and, unlike comparable state workers’
compensation benefits, are adjusted annually to reflect national wage growth.
Covered workers with employment-related Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) may be
eligible for LHWCA benefits but may find it difficult to demonstrate a link between their
employment and diagnoses. Section 2014 of H.R. 1319, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021,
as passed by the House of Representatives and under consideration in the Senate, would create a
presumption of eligibility for LHWCA benefits for covered workers with COVID-19 and
reimburse their employers or employers’ insurance carriers for the costs of these benefits from the
Employees’ Compensation Fund. This legislation would appropriate from the general fund such
sums as necessary to reimburse the Employees’ Compensation Fund for these reimbursements.
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Contents
Introduction ..................................................................................................................................... 1
Workers’ Compensation in the United States .................................................................................. 1
History of the LHWCA ................................................................................................................... 2
Firms and Workers Covered by the LHWCA .................................................................................. 2

Covered Firms ........................................................................................................................... 2
Covered Workers ....................................................................................................................... 2

Workers Excluded by Statute .............................................................................................. 2
2009 Amendment to the LHWCA ...................................................................................... 3
2011 DOL Regulations Defining Recreational Vessel ........................................................ 4
Legislation to Change the DOL’s Definition of Recreational Vessel ................................. 5
Extensions of Coverage Under the LHWCA ...................................................................... 5

Insurance and Financing .................................................................................................................. 5
Special Fund .............................................................................................................................. 6
Administrative Costs ................................................................................................................. 6

LHWCA Benefits ............................................................................................................................ 6
Medical Benefits ....................................................................................................................... 6
Vocational Rehabilitation .......................................................................................................... 6
Disability Benefits ..................................................................................................................... 7
Total Disability Benefits ..................................................................................................... 7
Partial Disability Benefits ................................................................................................... 7
Permanent Partial Disability Benefits ................................................................................. 7
Disability After Retirement ................................................................................................. 8
Survivors’ Benefits .................................................................................................................... 8
LHWCA Claims Process ................................................................................................................. 9
LHWCA and COVID-19 ................................................................................................................. 9

Legislation in the 116th Congress to Create a Presumption of Eligibility for COVID-
19 Cases ................................................................................................................................. 9
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 .................................................................................... 9
Reimbursement of Employers and Insurers ...................................................................... 10
Limitation on Reimbursement .......................................................................................... 10


Tables

Table A-1. Scheduled Benefits for Permanent Partial Disability Under the Longshore and
Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act ............................................................................................ 11

Appendixes
Appendix. Benefits Schedule for LHWCA PPD ............................................................................ 11

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Contacts
Author Information ......................................................................................................................... 11

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The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA)

Introduction
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) requires that private-sector
firms provide workers’ compensation coverage for their employees engaged in longshore, harbor,
or other maritime occupations on or adjacent to the navigable waters of the United States.1
Although the LHWCA program is administered by the Department of Labor (DOL), most
benefits are paid either through private insurers or self-insured firms.
The LHWCA is a workers’ compensation system and not a federal benefits program. Like other
workers’ compensation systems in the United States, the LHWCA ensures that all covered
workers are provided medical and disability benefits in the event they are injured or become ill in
the course of their employment, and it provides benefits to the survivors of covered workers who
die on the job. In 2017, the LHWCA paid approximately $2.06 billion in cash and medical
benefits to injured workers and the families of deceased workers.2
Workers’ Compensation in the United States
Nearly all private- and public-sector workers in the United States are covered by some form of
workers’ compensation. The federal government has a limited role in workers’ compensation and
administers workers’ compensation programs only for federal employees and several classes of
private-sector workers, including longshore and harbor workers.3 For most occupations, workers’
compensation is mandated by state laws and administered by state agencies.
There is no federal mandate that states provide workers’ compensation. However, every state and
the District of Columbia has a workers’ compensation system. There are no federal standards for
state workers’ compensation systems. However, all U.S. workers’ compensation systems provide
for limited wage replacement and full medical benefits for workers who are injured or become ill
as a result of their work and survivors’ benefits to the families of workers who die on the job.
Workers’ compensation in the United States is a no-fault system that pays workers for
employment-related injuries or illnesses without considering the culpability of any one party. In
exchange for this no-fault protection and the guarantee of benefits in the event of an employment-
related injury, illness, or death, workers give up their rights to bring actions against employers in
the civil court system and give up their rights to seek damages for injuries and illnesses, including
pain and suffering, outside of those provided by the workers’ compensation laws.4 Workers’
compensation is mandatory in all states and the District of Columbia, with the exception of Texas.
In Texas, employers may, under certain conditions, opt out of the workers’ compensation system,
but in doing so subject themselves to civil actions brought by injured employees.

1 P.L. 69-803; 33 U.S.C. §§901 et seq.
2 Elaine Weiss, Griffin Murphy, and Leslie I. Boden, Workers’ Compensation: Benefits, Costs, and Coverage, National
Academy of Social Insurance, (2017 Data), October 2019, p. 73, https://www.nasi.org/research/2019/report-
workers%E2%80%99-compensation-benefits-costs-coverage-%E2%80%93-2017.
3 The federal government provides workers’ compensation for federal employees under the Federal Employees’
Compensation Act [5 U.S.C. §§8101 et seq.] and also provides limited workers’ compensation programs that cover
specific illnesses contracted by coal miners under the Black Lung Benefits Act [30 U.S.C. §§901 et seq.], and workers
involved in the development and testing of atomic weapons under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness
Compensation Program Act [42 U.S.C. §§7384] and Radiation Exposure Compensation Act [42 U.S.C. §2210 note].
4 Under Section 5(b) of the LHWCA [33 U.S.C. §905(b)], an injured person may bring a civil action under certain
circumstances against the owner of a vessel that was the cause of his or her injury.
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History of the LHWCA
Prior to the enactment of the LHWCA in 1927, longshore and harbor workers were not covered
by any workers’ compensation system. Although persons who worked entirely on land were
covered by workers’ compensation laws in those states that enacted such laws, pursuant to the
Supreme Court’s 1917 decision in Southern Pacific Co. v. Jensen, state workers’ compensation
systems did not have jurisdiction over persons working on the “navigable waters” of the United
States because the Constitution granted the authority over “matters of admiralty and maritime
jurisdiction” to the federal government.5 The LHWCA created a federal workers’ compensation
program to cover these workers.6 In 1972, the LHWCA zone of coverage was extended to include
areas adjacent to navigable waters that are used for loading, unloading, repairing, or building
vessels.7
Firms and Workers Covered by the LHWCA
Covered Firms
The LHWCA provisions apply to any private firm with any covered employees who work, full- or
part-time, on the navigable waters of the United States, including in any of the following
adjoining areas: piers; wharves; dry docks; terminals; building ways; marine railways; or other
areas customarily used in the loading, unloading, repairing, or building of vessels.
Covered Workers
With the exception of workers excluded by statute (listed below), the LHWCA covers any
maritime employee of a covered firm, including longshore workers (those who load and unload
ships) and harbor workers (i.e., ship repairmen, ship builders, and ship breakers).
Workers Excluded by Statute
Sections 2(3) and 3(b) of the LHWCA exclude the following workers from coverage:8
 Workers covered by a state workers’ compensation law, including
 employees exclusively engaged in clerical, secretarial, security, or data
processing work;
 persons employed by a club, camp, recreational operation, museum, or retail
outlet;
 marina employees not engaged in the construction, replacement, or
expansion of the marina;

5 Southern Pacific Co. v. Jensen, 244 U.S. 205 (1917). In its decision, the Court cited Art. 3 §2 of the Constitution,
which extends the judicial authority of the United States to admiralty and maritime matters and Art. 1 §8 of the
Constitution, which grants Congress the power to make all laws necessary and proper to execute the powers of the
federal government as the basis for its decision.
6 P.L. 69-803.
7 Longshoreman’s and Harbor Workers Compensation Act Amendments of 1972, P.L. 92-576.
8 33 U.S.C. §§902(3) and 903(b).
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 suppliers, transporters, and vendors doing business temporarily at the site of
a covered employer;
 aquaculture workers; and
 employees who build any recreational vessel under 65 feet in length, or
repair any recreational vessel, or dismantle any part of a recreational vessel
in connection with the repair of the vessel.9
 Workers, whether covered or not covered by a state workers’ compensation law,
including
 masters and crew members of vessels;10
 persons engaged by the master of a vessel to unload any vessel under 18 tons
net; and
 employees of the federal government, or any state, local, or foreign
government or any subdivision of such a government.
2009 Amendment to the LHWCA
Section 803 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) modified one of
the excluded classes of workers under the LHWCA by adding additional exclusions for persons
who work on recreational vessels over 65 feet in length.11 Prior to the amendment, Section
2(3)(F) of the LHWCA read as follows:
(3) The term “employee” means…but such term does not include…
(F) individuals employed to build, repair, or dismantle any recreational vessel under sixty-
five feet in length.
This section, as amended, reads as follows (with additions in italics):
(3) The term “employee” means…but such term does not include…
(F) individuals employed to build any recreational vessel under sixty-five feet in length, or
individuals employed to repair any recreational vessel, or to dismantle any part of a
recreational vessel in connection with the repair of such vessel.12

By granting an exemption from the LHWCA to persons engaged in the repair of any recreation
vessel, regardless of its size, this amendment limits the scope of the LHWCA and increases the
types of workers excluded from coverage.

9 This provision was amended by Section 803 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), P.L.
111-5.
10 Masters and crew members of private vessels on the navigable waters of the United States are not covered by any
workers’ compensation laws. They can, however, bring civil actions against their employers under the Merchant
Marine Act of 1920 [46 U.S.C. §§30104 et seq.], commonly referred to as the Jones Act. Civil service mariners
working on government-owned ships, such as those of the Military Sealift Command, are federal employees and are
covered by the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act.
11 P.L. 111-5.
12 33 U.S.C. §902(3)(F).
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2011 DOL Regulations Defining Recreational Vessel
In 2011, the DOL promulgated implementing regulations for the new recreational vessel
provision provided by Section 803 of ARRA.13 These regulations provided definitions of
recreational vessel for the purposes of the determination of LHWCA coverage. These definitions
are based on the classification of vessels used by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and provided in
statute and regulation.
General Definition
Specifically, under these current DOL regulations, a vessel is considered a recreational vessel if
the vessel is
 being manufactured or operated mainly for pleasure or
 leased, rented, or chartered to another person for his or her pleasure.14
Definition for Vessel Being Built or Repaired Under Warranty
In addition, for a vessel being built or repaired under warranty by its manufacturer or builder, the
vessel is considered a recreational vessel if it appears based on its design and construction to be
intended for recreational uses.15 The manufacturer or builder bears the burden under this
regulation to establish that the vessel is a recreational vessel.
Definition for Vessel Being Repaired or Dismantled
For a vessel being repaired, dismantled for repair, or dismantled at the end of its life (ship
breaking), the vessel is not considered a recreational vessel if it was operating, more than
infrequently, in one of the following categories provided in the U.S. Code:
 “passenger vessel” (46 U.S.C. §2101(22));
 “small passenger vessel” (46 U.S.C. §2101(35));
 “uninspected passenger vessel” (46 U.S.C. §2101(42));
 vessel routinely engaged in “commercial service” (46 U.S.C. §2101(5)); or
 vessel that routinely carries “passengers for hire” (46 U.S.C. §2101(21a)).16
A vessel being repaired, dismantled for repair, or dismantled at the end of its life is considered a
recreational vessel
if the vessel is a public vessel owned, or bareboat chartered, by the federal
government or a state or local government and shares elements of design and construction with
traditional recreational vessels and is not used for military or commercial purposes.17

13 Department of Labor, “Regulations Implementing the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act:
Recreational Vessels,” 76 Federal Register 82128, December 30, 2011.
14 20 C.F.R. §701.501(a).
15 20 C.F.R. §701.501(b)(1).
16 20 C.F.R. §701.501(b)(2).
17 20 C.F.R. §701.501(b)(3). In a bareboat the charter, the vessel, but not the crew, is chartered.
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Legislation to Change the DOL’s Definition of Recreational Vessel
Since the promulgation of the DOL’s 2011 rules providing regulatory definitions of recreational
vessels for the purposes of the LHWCA, numerous bills have been introduced that would, if
enacted, remove the existing regulatory definitions for a vessel being repaired, dismantled for
repair, or dismantled at the end of its life so that the USCG categories of vessels provided in
Section 2101 of Title 46 of the United States Code would no longer be used in the classification
of such a vessel under the LHWCA.18 This legislation would expand the types of recreational
vessels. Because persons who work on recreational vessels are not covered by the LHWCA, the
legislation would allow employers to purchase workers’ compensation for these workers under
state laws rather than the LHWCA, which, due to the more generous benefits frequently offered
by the LHWCA and the limited number of providers, may be more expensive.
In the 115th Congress, Section 3509 of H.R. 2810, the National Defense Authorization Act for
2018 (NDAA), as initially passed by the House of Representatives on July 14, 2017, contained
this legislative provision. This provision was not included in the Senate version of the bill or in
the final NDAA enacted into law.19
Extensions of Coverage Under the LHWCA
The LHWCA has been amended four times to extend coverage to occupations outside the original
scope of the law. In 1928, coverage was extended to employees of the District of Columbia.20 The
provision was repealed, effective for all injuries occurring on or after July 26, 1982, with the
enactment by the District of Columbia government of the District of Columbia Workers’
Compensation Act of 1982.21 Benefits for injuries that occurred prior to July 26, 1982, continue to
be paid under the LHWCA.
Coverage was extended to overseas military and public works contractors in 1941 with the
enactment of the Defense Base Act.22 In 1952, coverage was extended to civilian employees of
nonappropriated fund instrumentalities of the armed forces
, such as service clubs and post
exchanges.23 Coverage was extended in 1953 to employees working on the Outer Continental
Shelf in the exploration and the development of natural resources
, such as workers on offshore oil
platforms.24
Insurance and Financing
Employers required by the LHWCA to provide workers’ compensation coverage to their
employees may either purchase private insurance or self-insure. The DOL is responsible for
authorizing insurance carriers to provide coverage under the LHWCA program and for
authorizing companies to self-insure. However, the DOL does not set or regulate insurance
premiums. These insurance arrangements are the primary means of providing LHWCA benefits

18 See for example H.R. 2354 in the 115th Congress.
19 P.L. 115-91.
20 District of Columbia Workmen’s Compensation Act of 1928, P.L. 70-419.
21 D.C. Code §§36-501 et seq.
22 P.L. 77-208.
23 Nonappropriated Fund Instrumentalities Act, P.L. 82-397.
24 Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, P.L. 83-212.
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to injured, sick, and deceased workers and their families. General revenue is not used to pay any
LHWCA benefits.
Special Fund
The DOL operates the Special Fund to provide LHWCA benefits in cases in which the
responsible employer or insurance carrier cannot pay or in which benefits must be paid for a
second injury under Section 8(f) of the LHWCA.25 The Special Fund is financed through an
annual assessment charged to employers and insurance carriers based on the previous year’s
claims, payments required when an employee dies without any survivors, disability payments due
to an employee without survivors after his or her death, and penalties and fines assessed for
noncompliance with LHWCA program rules.
Administrative Costs
The administrative costs associated with the LHWCA are largely provided by general revenue.
General revenue is used to pay for most oversight functions associated with the LHWCA and the
processing of LHWCA claims. General revenue is also used to pay legal and investigative costs
associated with the DOL Office of the Solicitor and Office of the Inspector General. Revenue
from the Special Fund is used to finance oversight activities related to the Special Fund and the
program’s vocational rehabilitation activities.
LHWCA Benefits
The LHWCA provides medical benefits for covered injuries and illnesses and disability benefits
to partially cover wages lost due to covered injuries or illnesses, and it provides survivors’
benefits to the families of workers who die on the job.
Medical Benefits
The LHWCA provides medical benefits to fully cover the cost of any medical treatment
associated with a covered injury or illness. These medical benefits are provided without any
deductibles, copayments, or costs paid by the injured worker. Prescription drugs and medical
procedures are fully covered, as are costs associated with travelling to and from medical
appointments. A covered worker may select his or her own treating physician, provided the
physician has not been debarred from the LHWCA program for violating program rules.
Vocational Rehabilitation
Covered workers are entitled to vocational rehabilitation services provided under the LHWCA.
Vocational rehabilitation services are designed to assist the covered worker in returning to
employment. There is no cost to the covered worker for vocational rehabilitation and workers

25 33 U.S.C. §908(f). A second injury is covered by Section 8(f) if an employee who was previously partially disabled
on the job incurs a subsequent injury that renders him or her totally disabled. The use of special funds for second
injuries is designed to lessen the risks associated with hiring partially disabled employees who may become totally
disabled from injuries that would not normally totally disable other employees. Recently, states have been closing their
second injury funds, in part because of the employment discrimination protections provided by the Americans with
Disabilities Act [42 U.S.C. §§12101 et seq.] and difficulties in administering and financing the funds. For additional
information on second injury funds, see Robert K. Briscoe and Robert J. Mayer, “The Rise and Fall of Second Injury
Funds,” Risk and Insurance, vol. 18, no. 11 (2007).
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actively participating in a rehabilitation program are entitled to an additional benefit of $25 per
week. All costs associated with vocational rehabilitation under the LHWCA are paid out of the
Special Fund. Vocational rehabilitation services may be provided by public or private
rehabilitation agencies.
Disability Benefits
The LHWCA provides disability benefits to covered workers to partially cover wages lost due to
the inability to work because of a covered injury or illness. The amount of disability benefits is
based on the worker’s pre-disability wage, subject to maximum and minimum benefits based on
the National Average Weekly Wage (NAWW) as determined by the DOL. The NAWW is updated
October 1 of each year and is based on average wages across the United States for the three
calendar quarters ending on June 30 of that year. The minimum weekly benefit that can be paid to
a covered employee is equal to 50% of the NAWW and the maximum weekly benefit that can be
paid is equal to 200% of the NAWW.26
Disability benefits under the LHWCA, like all workers’ compensation benefits, are not subject to
federal income taxes.27 Unlike most state workers’ compensation benefits, however, LHWCA
benefits are adjusted based on wage inflation rather than price inflation. Benefits are adjusted
annually each October 1 to reflect the change in the NAWW from the previous year, up to a
maximum increase of 5%.
Total Disability Benefits
The LHWCA provides benefits in cases of total disability. Under the LHWCA, a worker is
considered totally disabled if he or she is unable to earn his or her pre-injury wage because of a
covered injury or illness. In addition, a worker is also considered totally disabled if he or she
loses both hands, arms, feet, legs, or eyes, or any two of these body systems, such as the loss of
one arm and one leg. Total disability benefits under the LHWCA are equal to two-thirds of the
covered worker’s wage at the time of the injury or illness. Total disability benefits continue until
the worker is no longer totally disabled or dies.
Partial Disability Benefits
If a covered worker is able to partially return to work or return to work at a wage level less than
his or her wage at the time of injury, then he or she is considered partially disabled. In cases of
temporary partial disability, the LHWCA benefit is equal to two-thirds of the difference between
the workers’ pre-injury wage and his or her current earning capacity or actual earnings.
Permanent Partial Disability Benefits
Section 8(c) of the LHWCA provides a schedule of benefits to be paid in cases of permanent
partial disability (PPD), such as the loss of a limb.28 The benefit schedule provides the number of
weeks of compensation, at two-thirds of the pre-injury wage, for each type of PPD. For example,

26 For additional information on the NAWW, see the website of the DOL at http://www.dol.gov/owcp/dlhwc/
NAWWinfo.htm.
27 For additional information on the exclusion from federal income taxes of workers’ compensation benefits, see U.S.
Congress, Senate Committee on the Budget, Tax Expenditures: Compendium of Background Material on Individual
Provisions
, committee print, prepared by Congressional Research Service, 114th Cong., 2nd sess., December 2016, S.
Prt. 114-31 (Washington: GPO, 2017), pp. 921-926.
28 33 U.S.C. §908(c).
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the LHWCA schedule provides that a worker who loses an arm is entitled to 312 weeks of
compensation. Benefits in cases not listed on the schedule are paid at two-thirds of the difference
between the pre-injury wage and current earning capacity for the duration of the disability.
Schedule benefits for PPD are paid regardless of the current work status or earnings capacity of
the employee. Thus, an employee with a PPD can fully return to work and earn his or her wage in
addition to the PPD compensation. A copy of the LHWCA PPD schedule can be found in the
Appendix to this report.
Disability After Retirement
If a worker has an illness that was caused by his or her covered employment but did not manifest
itself until after his or her retirement, then he or she is entitled to disability benefits equal to two-
thirds of the NAWW multiplied by the percentage of his or her impairment. The percentage of
impairment is determined using the current edition of the American Medical Association’s Guides
to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment
(AMA Guides), or another professionally recognized
source if the condition is not listed in the AMA Guides.29
Survivors’ Benefits
The LHWCA provides cash benefits to the surviving spouses and minor children of workers
killed on the job. Benefits for a surviving spouse end when the spouse remarries or dies and
benefits for surviving children continue until the children reach the age of 18, age 23 if a full-time
student, or for the life a child with a disability.30
A surviving spouse with no eligible children is entitled to one-half of the deceased worker’s wage
at the time of death under the LHWCA. A surviving spouse with one or more eligible children is
entitled to two-thirds of the deceased worker’s wage at the time of death. Once all children
become ineligible for benefits because of their ages, the surviving spouse’s benefit is reduced to
the level of a spouse without any eligible children.
If an eligible spouse becomes ineligible for benefits because of death or remarriage, or if there is
no surviving spouse, benefits are still paid to any surviving children. Under the LHWCA, a single
surviving eligible child is entitled to one-half of the deceased worker’s wage at the time of death,
and two or more surviving children are eligible for a combined two-thirds of the wage at the time
of death.
The survivors of a covered worker killed on the job are entitled under the LHWCA to a cash
payment to provide for the burial and funeral of the deceased. The burial and funeral allowance is
capped by Section 9(a) of the LHWCA at $3,000, and this cap not adjusted to reflect changes in
prices or wages.31
If a covered worker who is receiving scheduled PPD benefits dies of a cause unrelated to his or
her illness or injury, then the balance of any remaining PPD benefits is paid to his or her
survivors. If a covered worker who dies on the job leaves no survivors, his or her employer or the
employer’s insurance carrier is required to pay $5,000 into the Special Fund.

29 For additional information on the AMA Guides, see Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, ed. Robert
D. Rondinelli, 6th ed. (Chicago: American Medical Association, 2008); and Steven Babitsky and James J. Mangraviti,
Jr., Understanding the AMA Guides in Workers’ Compensation, 4th ed. (Austin, TX: Aspen Publishers, 2008).
30 A surviving spouse is entitled to a lump-sum payment equal to two-years of benefits upon remarriage.
31 33 U.S.C. §909(a).
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LHWCA Claims Process
Although the responsibility for the payment of benefits under the LHWCA rests with the
employer or the employer’s insurance company, decisions on benefit eligibility and the amount of
benefits are made by the DOL. Upon the report of an injury, illness, or death, the LHWCA claims
process begins. If the employer or insurance carrier does not controvert the claim, then
arrangements are made by the DOL for the claim to be paid.
If, however, the employer controverts any part of the claim, then the DOL sets up an informal
conference, either in person or by phone, between the employer or insurance carrier and worker
with the goal of resolving any disputes over the claim. If this informal conference fails to resolve
all outstanding disputes, then a formal hearing before a DOL administrative law judge (ALJ) is
scheduled. If the employer or insurance carrier or the worker is dissatisfied with the decision of
the ALJ, then this decision may be appealed to the Benefits Review Board (BRB). The BRB is
made up of five members appointed by the Secretary of Labor. Either party dissatisfied with the
decision of the BRB may file a petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the circuit in which the
injury occurred praying that the BRB’s decision be set aside or modified.
If an employer or insurance carrier fails to pay compensation in accordance with a final decision
on a claim, the covered worker or the DOL may request that the U.S. District Court order that
payment be made.
LHWCA and COVID-19
Covered workers who contract Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the course of their
employment may be eligible for LHWCA benefits. However, due to the nature of COVID-19
transmission, including the lack of complete understanding about how SARS-CoV-2, the virus
that causes COVID-19, is transmitted by asymptomatic individuals and how long the virus can
remain viable on a variety of surfaces, there is concern that demonstrating a link between
employment and COVID-19 could prove difficult for some employees, preventing them from
receiving LHWCA benefits.
Legislation in the 116th Congress to Create a Presumption of
Eligibility for COVID-19 Cases
In the 116th Congress, H.R. 6800, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency
Solutions Act (HEROES Act), included a provision that would have created a presumption of
LHWCA eligibility for covered workers who have COVID-19 or are unable to work because of
COVID-19. The costs of providing benefits determined in accordance with this presumption
would have been reimbursed by the Special Fund if the employer was in compliance with
applicable guidelines and standards issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration
(OSHA) and other federal, state, and local authorities. This provision was included in the version
of H.R. 6800 that passed the House, but no provision establishing a presumption of LHWCA
eligibility for COVID-19 became law in the 116th Congress.
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021
Section 2104 of H.R. 1319, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, as passed by the House of
Representatives and under consideration in the Senate, would create a presumption of LHWCA
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eligibility for covered employees with COVID-19.32 This presumption would apply to any person
working in covered employment at any time between January 27, 2020, and January 27, 2023,
who meets one of the following conditions:
 at any time between January 27, 2020, and January 27, 2023, the employee was
diagnosed with COVID-19; or
 at any time between January 27, 2020, and January 27, 2023, the employee was
ordered not to work by the employer or a federal, state, or local agency because
of exposure or the risk of exposure to persons diagnosed with COVID-19 in the
workplace.
Reimbursement of Employers and Insurers
An employer or employer’s insurance carrier that pays LHWCA benefits provided by this
provision could be reimbursed from the Employees’ Compensation Fund for the cost of those
benefits and reasonable expenses related to the claim.33 To receive the reimbursement, an
employer would have to be in compliance with all applicable guidelines and standards related to
the prevention of COVID-19 in the workplace, including guidelines and standards issued by
OSHA. For an insurance carrier to receive the reimbursement, the carrier would have to be
providing insurance for an employer that meets all applicable COVID-19 prevention guidelines
and standards and the carrier would be prohibited from adjusting the experience rating or
premiums charged to an employer because of COVID-19 claims subject to this reimbursement.
This legislation would appropriate from the general fund such sums as necessary to reimburse the
Employees’ Compensation Fund for COVID-19 reimbursements.
Limitation on Reimbursement
The authorization to reimburse employers and insurers for the costs of LHWCA benefits paid
based on determinations of eligibility in accordance with the COVID-19 presumption would end
on September 30, 2030. After that date, LHWCA benefits based on the COVID-19 presumption
would continue to be paid by the responsible employers or insurers without the opportunity for
the employers or insurers to be reimbursed for these benefit costs.

32 Pursuant to H.Res. 176, this section was redesignated as Section 2103 after passage by the House.
33 The Employees’ Compensation Fund, established by 5 U.S.C. §8147, is used to pay workers’ compensation benefits
for federal employees under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA). For additional information on FECA,
see CRS Report R42107, The Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA): Workers’ Compensation for Federal
Employees
.
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Appendix. Benefits Schedule for LHWCA PPD
Table A-1. Scheduled Benefits for Permanent Partial Disability Under the Longshore
and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act
Injury
Maximum Duration of Benefits in Weeks
Loss of arm
312
Loss of leg
288
Loss of hand
244
Loss of foot
205
Loss of eye
160
Loss of thumb
75
Loss of first finger
46
Loss of second finger
30
Loss of third finger
25
Loss of fourth finger
15
Loss of great toe
38
Loss of toe other than great toe
16
Loss of hearing in one ear
52
Loss of hearing in both ears
200
Disfigurement
One-time payment of $7,500
Source: 33 U.S.C. §908(c).
Notes: The loss of use of a body system is paid the same as the complete loss of the system. Benefits for a
partial loss of a system are paid for a percentage of the maximum duration equal to the percentage of loss.

Author Information

Scott D. Szymendera

Analyst in Disability Policy

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Congressional Research Service
R41506 · VERSION 10 · UPDATED
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