Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

Post Traumatic Stress and the Hired Gun

What is not known is the impact among those who work in the armed private security sector

“There’s loads of loose cannons running around”

BBC Scotland  October 1, 2012

Former SAS soldier Bob Paxman – who served in Iraq as well as other hostile environments – is one of a growing number of former servicemen who say they have suffered with the mental health condition Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

After a number of years in the military, Paxman retrained as a private security contractor, on protection contracts in Africa and Iraq.

He says as a result of being constantly in a dangerous environment and witnessing colleagues being killed and maimed he was diagnosed with PTSD.

The stress disorder is thought to affect up to 20% of military personnel who have served in conflict zones, according to research published by the National Center for PTSD in the US.

What is not known is the impact among those who work in the armed private security sector, many of whom are drawn from the military.

Yet the condition, says Paxman, led to him having flashbacks and becoming violent and paranoid.

“I was a danger to the public, a danger to myself,” Paxman says.

“A danger to whoever was perceived as being the enemy.”

Please read the entire article here

October 1, 2012 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Defense Base Act, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor, Safety and Security Issues, Security Clearances, Traumatic Brain Injury, Vetting Employees | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CTE, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy due to failure to diagnose and treat Traumatic Brain Injury

“But we may be able to learn that early treatment of the initial acute [brain] injury may avoid this cascade from brain injury to CTE.”

As a civilian contractor you will be denied early treatment by the defense base act insurance company. 

David Woods The Huffington Post  September 20, 2012

WASHINGTON — Almost a quarter million American troops diagnosed with traumatic brain injury are at risk of developing a degenerative disease that causes bursts of anger and depression and can lead to memory loss, difficulty walking and speaking, paranoia and suicide, according to military researchers.

At present, medical officials cannot diagnose or prevent the disease, called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, and there is no known treatment for it, said Army Col. Dallas Hack, director of the Army’s Combat Casualty Care Research Program.

But researchers are hot on the trail of new procedures to detect and diagnose the disease, and there is hope that early detection of brain injury among troops exposed to blasts from improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan could prevent them from falling victim to CTE.

“We don’t fully understand the incidence of CTE with the occurrence of traumatic brain injury,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Randall McCafferty, chief of neurosurgery at the San Antonio Military Medical Center. “But we may be able to learn that early treatment of the initial acute [brain] injury may avoid this cascade from brain injury to CTE.”

Please read the entire post here

September 21, 2012 Posted by | AIG and CNA, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties, Defense Base Act, Traumatic Brain Injury | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

War is Brain Damaging

The Defense Base Act Insurance Companies and the Department of Labor are as negligent as the Department of Defense when it comes denying the dangers of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury, and most negligently when a contractor suffers from both.

“a potentially lethal combination of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. When the frontal lobe — which controls emotions — is damaged, it simply can’t put on the brakes if a PTSD flashback unleashes powerful feelings. Seeing his buddy’s leg blown off may have unleashed a PTSD episode his damaged brain couldn’t stop”

The New York Times Sunday Review

These vets suffer from a particular kind of brain damage that results from repeated exposure to the concussive force of improvised explosive devices — I.E.D.’s — a regular event for troops traveling the roads in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It’s Russian roulette,” one vet told me, “We had one guy in our company who got hit nine times before the 10th one waxed him.” An I.E.D. explosion can mean death or at least a lost arm or leg, but you don’t have to take a direct hit to feel its effects. A veteran who’d been in 26 blasts explained, “It feels like you’re whacked in the head with a shovel. When you come to, you don’t know whether you’re dead or alive.”

The news that Robert Bales, an Army staff sergeant accused of having killed 16 Afghan civilians last week, had suffered a traumatic brain injury unleashed a flurry of e-mails among those of us who have been trying to beat the drums about this widespread — and often undiagnosed — war injury. New facts about Staff Sgt. Bales are coming out daily. After we heard about the brain injury that resulted when his vehicle rolled over in an I.E.D. blast, we were told that he had lost part of his foot in a separate incident. Then we learned that the day before his rampage, he’d been standing by a buddy when that man’s leg was blown off. There are also reports of alcohol use.

People with more appropriate professional skills than mine will have to parse these facts, but from what I have learned in my work as a storyteller, this tragedy may be related to something I heard about in my interviews: a potentially lethal combination of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. When the frontal lobe — which controls emotions — is damaged, it simply can’t put on the brakes if a PTSD flashback unleashes powerful feelings. Seeing his buddy’s leg blown off may have unleashed a PTSD episode his damaged brain couldn’t stop. If alcohol was indeed part of the picture, it could have further undermined his compromised frontal lobe function

Please see the original and read more here

March 18, 2012 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Defense Base Act, Department of Defense, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Afghan shooting suspect’s friend had leg blown off

From the AP  March 16, 2012

Attorney John Henry Browne talks to reporters, Thursday, March 15, 2012, in Seattle. Browne will be representing the U.S. soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The soldier’s attorney, Seattle attorney John Henry Browne, told reporters Thursday that the day before the rampage, he saw his friend’s leg blown off.

Browne told The Associated Press that his client’s family provided him with details of the injury to another U.S. soldier. The details have not been independently verified.

“His leg was blown off, and my client was standing next to him,” he said Thursday.

It isn’t clear whether the incident might have helped prompt the horrific middle-of-the-night attack on civilians in two villages last Sunday. Browne said it affected all of the soldiers at the base.

The suspect had been injured twice during his three previous deployments to Iraq and didn’t want to go to Afghanistan to begin with, Browne said.

Browne declined to release his client’s name, citing concerns for the man’s family, which is under protection on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, near Tacoma. But he said the soldier has two young children, ages 3 and 4.

Please see the original and read more here

March 16, 2012 Posted by | Afghanistan, Legal Jurisdictions, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury | , , | Leave a comment

Include US Civilian Contractors in US Deaths/Injured in Iraq and Afghanistan

The President of the United States: Include U.S Civilian Contractors in Deaths/Injured in Iraq & Afghanistan

Please go here to sign the petition

Why This Is Important

As Americans, we all feel a sense of patriotism when it comes to our great country. The men and women who chose to go to Iraq and Afghanistan in a civilian capacity to serve our country are NOT included in the numbers when they tally the numbers of Deaths and Injured. Why should they be included you may ask? Why should they be excluded I ask.

When a civilian contractor is killed or injured the American people are paying the bill. Survivor benefits, worker’s compensation, funeral expenses, medical expenses etc are all paid for by the American people. While the multi-billion dollar private military companies like (DynCorp, KBR, Xe, etc.) sit back and continue to reap the benefits of the continued international conflicts.

If you know a civilian contractor who is currently employed, has been injured, has been killed please sign our petition. Although many of these men and women who chose to serve our country in the civilian capacity are retired military personnel, they receive no acknowldgement of their sacrafices when they are injured or killed.

Instead our Government wants to hide these brave men and women and not include these losses in the numbers of Americans who have sacrificed

Please sign the petition here

December 15, 2011 Posted by | Afghanistan, AIG and CNA, Blackwater, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties, Contractors Missing, Defense Base Act, Department of Defense, Follow the Money, Iraq, KBR, Pentagon, Politics, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor, State Department, Traumatic Brain Injury, USACE, USAID, Wartime Contracting | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Injured War Contractors Sue Over Health Care, Disability Payments

T Christian Miller ProPublica September 27, 2011

Private contractors injured while working for the U.S. government in Iraq and Afghanistan filed a class action lawsuit [1] in federal court on Monday, claiming that corporations and insurance companies had unfairly denied them medical treatment and disability payments.

The suit, filed in district court in Washington, D.C., claims that private contracting firms and their insurers routinely lied, cheated and threatened injured workers, while ignoring a federal law requiring compensation for such employees. Attorneys for the workers are seeking $2 billion in damages.

The suit is largely based on the Defense Base Act, an obscure law that creates a workers compensation system for federal contract employees working overseas. Financed by taxpayers, the system was rarely used until the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the most privatized conflicts in American history.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians working for federal contractors have been deployed to war zones to deliver mail, cook meals and act as security guards for U.S. soldiers and diplomats. As of June 2011, more than 53,000 civilians have filed claims for injuries in the war zones. Almost 2,500 contract employees have been killed, according to figures [2]kept by the Department of Labor, which oversees the system.

An investigation by ProPublica, the Los Angeles Times and ABC’s 20/20 [3] into the Defense Base Act system found major flaws, including private contractors left without medical care and lax federal oversight. Some Afghan, Iraqi and other foreign workers for U.S. companies were provided with no care at all.

The lawsuit, believed to be the first of its kind, charges that major insurance corporations such as AIG and large federal contractors such as Houston-based KBR deliberately flouted the law, thereby defrauding taxpayers and boosting their profits. In interviews and at Congressional hearings, AIG and KBR have denied such allegations and said they fully complied with the law. They blamed problems in the delivery of care and benefits on the chaos of the war zones

September 27, 2011 Posted by | AIG and CNA, Blackwater, Civilian Casualties, Civilian Contractors, Civilian Police, Contractor Casualties, Contractor Corruption, Defense Base Act, DynCorp, Follow the Money, Government Contractor, Interpreters, KBR, Legal Jurisdictions, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor, Ronco, Ronco Consulting Corporation, State Department, Traumatic Brain Injury, Veterans, Wackenhut, War Hazards Act, Whistleblower | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Defense Base Act Class Action

Statement concerning filing of class action for fraud and bad faith against KBR, DynCorp, Blackwater, G4S/Wackenhut/Ronco Consulting, CNA Insurance, AIG Insurance and others who conspired to deny benefits to severely injured contractors and to harm them further

Scott Bloch  files complaint for $2 billion against major government contractors like

KBR, Blackwater.XE,  DynCorp, G4S/Wackenhut/Ronco Consulting and the global insurance carriers AIG, CNA, ACE and Zurich, on behalf of thousands of former employees, for unlawful, fraudulent and bad-faith mistreatment of injured employees and their families   

WASHINGTON, DC (September 26, 2011)

Since 2003, top government contractors like Blackwater, KBR, DynCorp, CSA/AECOM and ITT have been perpetrating a fraud on their employees and on the American public. 

The silent warriors who work for these companies, many of them decorated former military service members, have been injured, mistreated and abandoned by the contracting companies and their insurance carriers who have been paid hundreds of millions of dollars in premiums.

“It is a grave injustice,” Bloch said, “to those who rode alongside American soldiers, including Iraqi and Afghani Nationals, to be case aside without the benefits of the law.  We are supposedly trying to bring them the rule of law.  We are supposedly trying to encourage them in democratic institutions. 

We are the ones asking them to believe in justice and individual rights. 

This is a travesty to all Americans and those around the world who look to America for an example of humanitarian aid and proper treatment of workers.”

This is a lawsuit for damages in the amount of $2 billion to remedy the injuries and destruction caused to the lives, finances and mental and physical well being of thousands of American families and others whose loved ones were injured while serving America under contracts with the United States. 

It seeks an additional unspecified amount to punish the companies who made massive profits while causing this harm to people unlawfully and maliciously and working a fraud on the American public who paid them.  
“This abusive and illegal scheme by the defendants has been allowed to go on for too long. 

We are talking about loss of life, suicide, loss of homes, marriages, families split up, “ Bloch said, “and the culprits are the large government contractors who should have treated their employees better, and the mega-insurance companies who were paid a hefty sum to make sure the employees were taken care of with uninterrupted benefits in the event of injuries in these war zones.”
This complaint is filed due to actions and omissions of defendants, in conspiracy with others, and individually, to defeat the right of American citizens and foreign nationals to receive their lawful benefits and compensation under the Defense Base Act (“DBA”),  as it adopts the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (“LHWCA”).  
The lawsuit explains that those sued engaged under the RICO statute in an enterprise of fraudulent and or criminal acts to further their scheme to defeat the rights of individuals who have been injured or suffered occupational diseases, and death, while on foreign soil in support of defense activities under the DBA.  

These acts were perpetrated repeatedly through bank fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, using telephones, faxes, and United States mail .
 “These are heroes, decorated by America’s Armed Services,” said Bloch. 

“Some of the foreign contractors were decorated special forces soldiers from their countries who assisted the United States in combating threats.  The sheer disregard for human dignity and law is reprehensible and deserves punishment. 

These families and many others who have been harmed need treatment, need compensation, need redress of the wrongs that have been perpetrated by these huge companies and insurance carriers for the last 10 years. 

They have earned $100 billion per year on the backs of these people, with the blood of these plaintiffs and those whom they represent.”
The complaint was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia and covers individuals from all over the United States, South Africa, Iraq, Afghanistan and other counties.  

Contact Scott J. Bloch, PA:
Scott Bloch, 202-496-1290
scott@scottblochlaw.com

September 26, 2011 Posted by | Afghanistan, AIG and CNA, Blackwater, Civilian Casualties, Civilian Contractors, Civilian Police, Contractor Corruption, Contractor Oversight, Defense Base Act, DynCorp, Follow the Money, Government Contractor, Interpreters, Iraq, KBR, L-3, Legal Jurisdictions, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor, Ronco, Ronco Consulting Corporation, State Department, Traumatic Brain Injury, USACE, USAID, Veterans, Wackenhut, War Hazards Act, Whistleblower | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Gov’t Watchdog Criticizes Pentagon Center for PTSD, Brain Injuries

By T Christian Miller and Joaquin Sapien at ProPublica  July 11, 2011

If you want more explanation about the military’s troubles in treating troops with traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress, read no further than two recent but largely unnoticed reports from the Government Accountability Office.

It turns out the Pentagon’s solution to the problems is an organization plagued by weak leadership, uncertain priorities and a money trail so tangled that even the GAO’s investigators couldn’t sort it out. The GAO findings on the Pentagon’s Defense Centers of Excellence (DCOE) echo our own series [1] on the military’s difficulty in handling the so-called invisible wounds of war.

“We have an organization that exists, but we have considerable concern about what it is that it’s actually accomplishing,” said Denise Fantone, a GAO director who supervised research on one of the reports. She added: “I can’t say with any certainty that I know what DCOE does, and I think that’s a concern.”

First, some background. After the 2007 scandal over poor care delivered to soldiers at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Congress ordered the Pentagon to do a better job treating soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. The Pentagon’s answer was to create DCOE [2]. The new organization was supposed to be a clearinghouse to foster cutting-edge research in treatments.

DCOE was rushed into existence in late 2007. Since then, it has churned through three leaders, including one let go after alleged sexual harassment of subordinates [3]. It takes more than five months to hire each employee because of the federal government’s glacial process. As a result, private contractors make up much of the center’s staff.

“DCOE’s development has been challenged by a mission that lacks clarity and by time-consuming hiring processes,” according to the first report in the GAO series [4], focusing on “management weakness” at DCOE.

Just as concerning, the GAO says that it can’t quite figure out how much money DCOE has received or where it has all gone. DCOE has never submitted a budget document that fully conformed to typical federal standards, according to a GAO report released last month [5]. In one year, the center simply turned in a spreadsheet without detailed explanations.

Please read the entire article at ProPublica

July 11, 2011 Posted by | Department of Defense, Pentagon, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In harm’s way

Press Democrat.com  July 3, 2011

As the sun blazed on a rocky southern Afghanistan hillside, Air Force Staff Sgt. Mark Badger watched his bomb squad teammate get blown up by a buried explosive device.

Moments earlier, Badger, 30, who was born and raised in Santa Rosa, had stepped away from Senior Airman Daniel Johnson along the road where they were clearing bombs in the violence-prone Kandahar province, a Taliban stronghold.

Johnson took a single step in exactly the same direction Badger had just walked, and 40 pounds of chemicals packed in a plastic jug exploded beneath his feet.

“I remember it like it happened yesterday,” said Badger, now stationed at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo. He lives near the base with his wife, Trisha, and their 8-month-old daughter, Scarlet, and still suffers headaches, confusion, sleep loss and other symptoms of brain injury from two bomb blasts in the span of three days last October.

There are about 5,500 bomb techs in the four branches of the service, and their job is probably the most dangerous one in Afghanistan. Unable to match American firepower on the ground or in the air, the Taliban plant roads, fields and some buildings with IEDs (improvised explosive devices), most of them buried and triggered by pressure plates or by command wires up to a half-mile long.

“Anywhere you step could be an IED that will blow off your legs or kill you,” Badger said.

Please read the entire story at the Press Democrat

July 3, 2011 Posted by | Afghanistan, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Traumatic Brain Injury, Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

U.S. Army misled public about Acinetobacter outbreak’s origins, report shows

Injured Civilian Contractors were infected with Acinetobacter baumannii in the military medical evacuation system causing many to lose limbs and some their lives.  At a minimum, treatment for an Acinetobacter baumannii infection causes a much longer recovery time and life long implications.

If you suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury your freshly compressed brain cells were bathed in the huge doses of highly nuerotoxic antibiotics prophylacticly whether or not you had this infection creating a hostile environment for recovery at the very least.

by Bryant Furlow at EpiNewsWire  May 30, 2011

The U.S. Army Public Health Command has released an incomplete list of epidemiological consultation (EPICON) studies from the past decade to epiNewswire, without mentioning the fact that the titles of some studies were not on the list.

One politically-sensitive Army report excluded from the disclosed list is a 2005 EPICON study detailing the spread of multidrug-resistant Acinetobacter infections from contaminated military hospitals in Iraq throughout the military hospital system.

That report details evidence that that improper use of antibiotics and unsanitary conditions at U.S. military hospitals were responsible for the deadly outbreak of Acinetobacter infections among wounded troops, and that the outbreak had spread to civilian patients in the U.S. and Germany, killing several of them.

But for several years after the study’s completion, Army health officials continued to downplay the risk to civilians and to make misleading statements to soldiers and the public, claiming Acinetobacter infections were from Iraqi soil in soldiers’ blast wounds.

In reality, Acinetobacter “wound infections were relatively uncommon,” the 2005 Acinetobacter EPICON report states. “Pre-hospital, primary wound infections in-theater are not likely to have a significant role in transmission.”

In Iraq, military surgeons were using broad-spectrum antibiotics as prophylactics against infection, “introducing a greater risk of multi-drug resistant organisms (MDRO) evolving as a result,” the report notes.

Hand hygiene practices were inconsistently observed by military healthcare workers, the report states.

“Proper hand washing has been the single most important measure in controlling hospital spread of Acinetobacter,” the report states.

All seven military hospitals in Iraq were found to be “contaminated” with Acinetobacter, the report states.

Civilians were at much greater risk from infections than soldiers, the report states.

The report recommended adoption of standardized infection control practices at military hospitals and the air evacuation system, including disinfection and hand washing practices – and noted a pressing need for improved medical record-keeping “at all levels of care, particularly in-theater.”

A German hospital accepting U.S. troops on a referral basis, experienced an Acinetobacter outbreak that spread to German patients, the report states. That outbreak “reflects the potential importance that the outbreak can have, and probably has had, outside of the direct chain of evacuation,” the report states. Similar outbreaks had occurred in British hospitals where UK troops had been treated, the report notes.

Missing and incomplete medical records complicated the study, the report states.

“Relatively few surveillance and infection control data are available from in-theater, although progress has been made,” the report states. “Data quality from patient chart reviews indicates large variation in data available and no standardization.”

The “absence of good documentation either precludes any ability to draw scientific conclusions or significantly complicates investigations and analyses that are critical for prioritizing interventional resources and saving lives,” the report states.

epiNewswire’s Bryant Furlow first reported on an Acinetobacter outbreak among Iraqi and U.S. patients on the U.S. Navy’s hospital ship Comfort in July 2006, in the International Affairs Journal’s International Update newsletter.

In February 2007, Wired magazine writer Steve Silberman subsequently broke the story of Acinetobacter’s spread to Europe, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and elsewhere. Silberman’s report details how the family of a U.S. Marine who died of his infection, was initially told he had died of his wounds.

That summer, citing two medical journal publications based on parts of the EPICON research effort,  Reuters reported that “new research” showed that contaminated hospitals, not Iraqi soil, caused the Acinetobacter outbreak.

In reality, military medical officials had suspected as much since spring 2003, the EPICON report indicates — and had known it to be the case since the first, 2004 symposium on the project’s initial findings.

Further reading:

EPICON #12-HA-01-JK-04, “Investigating Acinetobacter baumannii infections at U.S. Army military treatment facilities 27 August 2004 to 27 May 2005.” (View here, via Document Cloud.)

Steve Silberman. “The invisible enemy.” Wired magazine, February 2007.

Reuters Health. “Field hospitals source of soldier infections.” June 18, 2007.

The Iraq Infections

Please see the original at EpiNewswire

June 1, 2011 Posted by | Acinetobacter, Contractor Casualties, Department of Defense, Friendly Fire, Safety and Security Issues, Traumatic Brain Injury | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Army Plans New Guidelines to Resolve Denials of Purple Hearts to Brain-Injured Soldiers

T Christian Miller and Dan Zwerdling ProPublica and NPR March 18, 2011

Acknowledging that commanders have sometimes wrongly denied the Purple Heart to soldiers who suffered battlefield concussions, the Army plans to issue new guidance to clarify when such recognition is warranted, Army officials said Wednesday.

In addition, the Army is planning to prioritize appeals from brain-injured soldiers who feel they should not have been turned down for the medal, a hallowed military honor that recognizes those injured in combat.

Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army’s second in command, said hereviewed the Army’s policies on the Purple Heart and called for the new guidelines as a result of an investigation byProPublica and NPR [1]. In a report published last September [2], we found that Army commanders denied Purple Hearts to some soldiers who sustained concussions, despite regulations that make those who suffer such wounds eligible for the medal.

Please read the entire article here

March 21, 2011 Posted by | Pentagon, Traumatic Brain Injury | , , , | Leave a comment

Deployment brain injuries, amputations jumped in 2010, U.S. Army reports

There are no numbers available for Contractors though there are more Contractors than Military in the War Zones.

By Bryant Furlow at Epinewswire

Despite the Obama administration’s ramping down of combat operations in Iraq, 2010 saw the highest number of troops with reported traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) for any year of the U.S. occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan — and more than twice the number of deployment-related amputations seen in 2009, according to a newly-released report by the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center.

2010 saw 7,270 deployed troops hospitalized or treated for TBIs, or about 20 new cases per day, the report shows.

That is more than any other year between 2003 and 2010, and represents a 34 percent jump from 2009′s count of 5,818 soldiers with TBI. Only 2008 came close to matching the 2010 numbers, with 7,263 soldiers with brain injuries during deployment. Between 2003 and 2010, a total of 33,446 soldiers have been hospitalized or treated for TBIs during or within 30 days of deployments, according to the report.

Only raw counts, not incidence rates, were described in the report.

The actual numbers are likely higher than reported, however. Data for 2010 was compiled in January and February 2011, for example, before administrative records for hospitalizations in late 2010 had all been reported. And even though the Pentagon acknowledges TBI symptoms may not emerge, or may not be recognized, until after soldiers return home from combat deployments, the new study only reports TBIs diagnosed during deployment or within 30 days of the end of a soldier’s deployment. Furthermore, a footnote in the report reveals that more than 2,700 soldiers hospitalized or treated for TBI during deployment were excluded from analysis because of pre-deployment histories of TBI.

Only a soldier’s first TBI diagnosis is counted, so the report does not reveal how many soldiers have suffered repeated brain injuries.

Reported brain injuries prior to 2008 are also likely underestimates.  During that time, military physicians noted in memos obtained by epiNewswire that reporting of combat injuries was incomplete. And as epiNewswire revealed in 2007, the Army had not yet implemented by that year a long-standing order to screen returning combat veterans for brain injuries.

Last year also saw a dramatic rise in amputations during or within a year of deployment, from 88 amputations in 2009 to 182 in 2010, the report shows. That’s more than any year of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan except 2007, when 205 soldiers underwent deployment-related amputations.

A total of 1,138 soldiers had deployment-associated limb amputations between 2003 and 2010, according to the new report.

The report shows a slight increase in sand fly-vectored leishmaniasis infections (called the “Baghdad boil” by soldiers), from 48 cases in 2009 to 65 cases in 2010. While those numbers likely represent genuine declines from the 622 cases reported in 2003, epiNewswire reported in 2007 that the Army had curtailed field reporting of leishmaniasis infections from Iraq, resulting in underestimations of actual infection rates.

The new report was released March 4, and details the numbers of deployment-associated TBIs, pulmonary emboli and deep-vein thrombosis, amputations, heterotopic ossification (aberrant bone growth following trauma), severe pneumonia, and leishmaniasis between 2003 and 2010.

Source: U.S. Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center. Deployment related conditions of special surveillance interest, U.S. Armed Forces, by month and service, January 2003-January 2011 (data as of 01 March 2011). Medical Surveillance Monthly Report, February 2011;18(2):13. (Report released March 4, 2011.)

Please see the original at Epinewswire

March 6, 2011 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties, Improvised Explosive Devices, Iraq, Leishmaniasis, Traumatic Brain Injury | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Invisible Wounds can be Fatal

AUSTRALIAN families, friends and communities have buried 23 soldiers killed in Afghanistan since 2002.   The Courier Mail Sunday Mail Australia

Each one was hailed for their heroism, remembered for their larrikinism and commended for their dedication to their mates and their mission.

But there is an even sadder and often silent statistic that is forgotten – the number of soldiers, sailors and airmen and women who have ended their lives for reasons that don’t command a full military funeral or public acknowledgement by politicians.

New Defence figures show that 31 enlisted Defence personnel have, or are believed to have, committed suicide since 2005.

Of those, 10 were in Queensland  the highest among the states, with seven suspected suicide cases in NSW and six in the ACT.

The suspected suicide deaths of two other Queensland soldiers earlier this year are also being investigated by the coroner but are not included in the figures at this stage.

Young Diggers president John Jarratt believes the number of confirmed suicides is just the tip of the iceberg with many more going unaccounted for once they have been discharged from the defence forces.


“Look at Vietnam. The number killed was far outweighed by the number who took their own life in the years after their service,” Mr Jarratt said.

“We call it the invisible wounds of war, people dying not in combat but as a result of combat, years later.”

Please read the entire story here

February 26, 2011 Posted by | Contractor Casualties, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, Veterans | , , , | Leave a comment

ProPublica Honored With Two George Polk Awards

by Minhee Cho at ProPublica

ProPublica is pleased to announce that it has won two George Polk Awards this year, in collaboration with our partners NPR and Frontline, for the series “Brain Wars” and “Law & Disorder.”

A collaborative project by ProPublica’s T. Christian Miller and NPR’s Daniel Zwerdling and Susanne Reber, Brain Wars ” found that the U.S. military was failing to diagnose and treat traumatic brain injuries suffered by soldiers. It has been selected for the George Polk Award for Radio Reporting.

ProPublica’s A.C. Thompson along with our partners Raney Aronson and Tom Jennings at Frontline and Laura Maggi and Brendan McCarthy at The Times-Picayune won the George Polk Award for Television Reporting for “Law & Disorder,” which took an in-depth look at the controversial and often brutal actions taken by the New Orleans Police Department in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The George Polk Awards are conferred every year to honor special achievement in journalism, particularly investigative and enterprise reporting. ProPublica’s Abrahm Lustgarten [3] was among the winners last year for his reporting on the dangers of drilling for natural gas [4].

Congratulations to all of the winners [5].  Please see the original here

February 22, 2011 Posted by | Department of Defense, Journalists, Traumatic Brain Injury | , , , , | Leave a comment

Congress to Investigate Pentagon Decision to Deny Coverage for Brain Injured Troops

By T Christian Miller ProPublica and Daniel Zwerdling at NPR

WASHINGTON, D.C.–A key congressional oversight committee announced [1] today that it was opening an investigation into the basis of a decision by the Pentagon’s health plan to deny a type of medical treatment to troops with brain injuries.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., the chairman of the subcommittee on contracting oversight, said she wanted to examine a contract issued by Tricare, an insurance-style program used by soldiers and many veterans, to a private company to study cognitive rehabilitation therapy for traumatic brain injury. Such injuries are considered among the signature wounds of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The study, by Pennsylvania-based ECRI Institute, found insufficient or weak evidence to support the therapy. Often lengthy and expensive, cognitive rehabilitation programs are designed to rewire soldiers’ brains to conduct basic life tasks, such as reading books, remembering information and following instructions. ECRI’s findings ran counter to several other studies, including ones sponsored by the Pentagon and the National Institutes of Health, which concluded that cognitive rehabilitation was beneficial.

In a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, McCaskill cited an investigation [2] by ProPublica and NPR in December, which found that top scientific experts had questioned the Tricare-funded study in confidential reviews, calling it “deeply flawed” and “unacceptable.”

“If true, these reports raise significant questions regarding the Department’s award and management of the contract with ECRI Institute, and may have profound implications for hundreds of thousands of injured service members and their families,” McCaskill wrote. “We owe it to our brave service members to find the truth.”

The ProPublica and NPR investigation also found that senior Pentagon officials have worried about the high price of the care, which can cost more than $50,000 per patient. Some studies estimate that as many as 400,000 troops have suffered traumatic brain injuries in the war zones, though only a small percentage of them would need a full-scale program of cognitive rehabilitation therapy.

McCaskill joins a growing chorus demanding that Tricare reconsider its decision to deny coverage for cognitive rehabilitation. In recent weeks, the American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans’ organization, called [3] on Tricare to provide treatment. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Penn., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee with oversight of the Middle East, sent a letter [4] to Gates asking for an explanation of Tricare’s stance.

McCaskill was also one of the senators who signed a letter [5] in 2008 asking Gates to direct Tricare to begin providing cognitive rehabilitation to troops. This November, the Pentagon sent a response [6] to Congress informing them of the Tricare study’s findings. George Peach Taylor Jr., then-acting assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, said the Pentagon would continue to study the treatment, with another report expected later this year.

In strongly worded response [7] on Jan. 19, McCaskill said that the senators who signed the original letter believed that enough evidence existed on the treatment’s benefits to justify covering the cost for brain-damaged soldiers.

She asked for Gates to provide her committee with a series of documents on the contract and critical scientific reviews by Feb. 18.

“While we agreed that further research on cognitive rehabilitation therapy was appropriate, we also called on the Defense Department to err on the side of providing this proven treatment to service members,” McCaskill wrote.

ProPublica and NPR have filed a similar request under the Freedom of Information Act, but Tricare has denied access to the documents, giving contradictory explanations [8] for why. ProPublica and NPR have appealed.

Tricare officials have said their decision to deny cognitive rehabilitation is based on regulations requiring scientific proof of the efficacy and quality of treatment. They have said that the study by ECRI highlighted a lack of rigorous evidence proving the therapy’s benefits.

Tricare officials also noted that the agency does cover some types of treatment considered part of cognitive rehabilitative therapy. For instance, Tricare will pay for speech and occupational therapy, which plays a role in cognitive rehabilitation. Tricare officials deny that cost played any role in their decision. In a statement [9], Tricare said the care of troops was their “utmost” concern.

Tricare did not immediately return requests for comment on McCaskill’s investigation.

ECRI defended its study. The non-profit institute, which has carried out numerous health reviews for Tricare, other agencies and hospital and medical groups, said they applied standard protocols in reviewing scientific literature about the efficacy of cognitive rehabilitation therapy. ECRI provided a document explaining its review here [10].

“The issue of how well cognitive rehabilitation therapy works for traumatic brain injury is important,” said Jeffrey C. Lerner, the president and CEO of ECRI Institute. “ECRI Institute is fully committed to providing information to the U.S. Senate on our report and methodology.”

January 24, 2011 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties, Department of Defense, Follow the Money, Iraq, Pentagon, Traumatic Brain Injury, Veterans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment