Halliburton and its former KBR Inc. subsidiary knowingly sent military supply convoys into danger on roads in the Baghdad area.
High court won’t hear case against Halliburton
In its order Tuesday, the court said it will not review a federal appeals court ruling that threw out suits filed by truckers and their families claiming that Halliburton and its former KBR Inc. subsidiary knowingly sent military supply convoys into danger on roads in the Baghdad area.
The attacks killed seven KBR drivers and injured at least 10 others in April 2004.
The appeals court said a federal law prohibits the lawsuits because it provides workers’ compensation to civilian employees injured while under contract with defense agencies.
Tierney and Cummings Seek Administration Help on Legislation to Save Taxpayers Billions on Defense Base Act Insurance
“IT”S TIME TO FIX THIS PROGRAM”
Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Rep. John F. Tierney, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations, sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget requesting support for, and input on, H.R. 5891, The Defense Base Act Insurance Improvement Act of 2012.
“This is a common-sense bill that would save the American taxpayers billions of dollars,” said Tierney. “Numerous government audits have concluded that we are paying too much for workers’ compensation insurance for overseas government contractors, and that these workers aren’t getting what they deserve. It’s time to fix this program.”
The legislation would transition the existing Defense Base Act (DBA) insurance program to a government self-insurance program. According to a 2009 Pentagon study, this change could save as much as $250 million a year. The study found: “In the long run, the self-insurance alternative may have the greatest potential for minimizing DBA insurance costs, and it has several administrative and compliance advantages as well.”
“We are sponsoring this legislation because several audits of the current DBA program have documented enormous unnecessary costs incurred by taxpayers,” Cummings and Tierney wrote.
The existing system has been a boondoggle for private insurance companies, which have reaped enormous profits under the program. According to an Oversight Committee investigation, insurance companies providing DBA insurance in Iraq and Afghanistan have made enormous underwriting profits that are significantly higher than those of traditional workers’ compensation insurers.
The letter from Tierney and Cummings requests support for the legislation and notes that “OMB may be evaluating similar options.”
The President of the United States: Include U.S Civilian Contractors in Deaths/Injured in Iraq & Afghanistan
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
U.S. insurer faces criminal probe over Iraqis’ unpaid death benefits
An administrative law judge has referred a U.S. insurance company for criminal investigation after the firm failed to pay benefits owed to survivors of Iraqi translators killed while working for the American government.
Under a federally funded program, Chicago-based CNA Financial Corp. provides insurance coverage to contractors killed or injured while working overseas for the United States. The slain translators were helping to train Iraqi police recruits.
Instead of paying out benefits, however, CNA withheld information from the federal government and avoided making payments to nine families who lost relatives in a 2006 attack, according to court files and interviews. One widow lost her home, unable to keep up payments after her son and other translators were ambushed by insurgents in the southern city of Basrah, one of her attorneys said.
In a ruling this week, administrative law Judge Daniel Solomon ordered CNA to begin making payments to the families. In an unusual move highlighting the government’s concern over potential fraud, the judge also told the Labor Department, which oversees the program, to investigate whether the insurance carrier should face criminal charges. A Labor spokesman said the agency would “fully investigate” the allegations to determine whether to ask the Justice Department to prosecute the case.
CNA said it was also looking into the case.
“We are investigating the matter and will take all appropriate actions,” said Katrina Parker, a company spokeswoman.
Attorneys for the families said they believe CNA withheld documents to avoid making payments.
CNA’s failure to pay out benefits underscores the continuing problems with the Defense Base Act, essentially the workers compensation system for overseas federal contractors.
The system was little-used until the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan sent hundreds of thousands of private contractors onto the battlefield. All told, the government has paid out nearly $1.5 billion in premiums since 2001.
Reporting in 2009 by ProPublica, the Los Angeles Times and ABC’s 20/20  revealed deep flaws in the program. Workers fought long battles for medical care, including such things as prosthetic devices and treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. Foreign workers, including Iraqi and Afghan translators, often did not receive payments or treatment. The Labor Department seldom took action to enforce the law. One official called the system a “fiasco.”
Congress subsequently held hearings  that showed that American insurers were reaping large profits from the program. Documents showed that CNA reported the highest profits margins, taking in nearly 50 percent more in premiums than it paid out in benefits.
The case decided this week began on Oct. 29, 2006, when insurgents boarded a bus and killed 17 Iraqi-born translators working in Basrah for Sallyport Global Services, a logistics and security contractor. The insurgents later scattered their bodies around the city.
Under the law, CNA was responsible for paying death benefits to the translators’ dependents. CNA paid when translators had children and spouses, according to interviews and court records, but not to other survivors. Several translators had no children, but supported parents or other family members.
In such cases, the Labor Department demands proof that survivors relied on contractors’ earnings. CNA hired investigators who interviewed nine families, confirmed their eligibility, and even set up bank accounts. But CNA withheld portions of the investigators’ findings when it submitted the claims to the Labor Department, court records show.
One CNA file shows that the slain translator had supported his mother, a widow, since his father was killed in the Iraq-Iran war. The town council even issued a statement of support, confirming the translator was his mother’s “sole provider.” Another CNA file shows that another translator killed in the ambush was sole support for his family, which “could be described as very poor.”
But those pages were missing from the information CNA submitted to the Labor Department. As a result, Labor officials accepted CNA’s declaration that there were no dependents to pay in any of the nine cases.
The translators’ attorneys at Cohen Milstein, a well-known Washington firm doing pro bono work on the case, estimated that CNA owed a total of about $500,000 to the nine families. Instead, CNA paid about $45,000 into a special federal fund set up to help support the workers compensation system.
The company subsequently recovered some of that money plus additional fees under an obscure law—the War Hazards Compensation Act—that allows insurance carriers to recoup costs for contractors killed in hostile acts, court documents show.
In one case, CNA paid $5,000 into the special fund and $518 to a translator’s family for burial expenses, but was reimbursed $9,289 by the federal government for investigating and handling the claims.
A Sallyport official said the company believed that CNA had made payments to all of the translators’ families except one, which declined to accept money because of security concerns.
In an emailed statement, the company declined further comment due to the litigation. It said it would “continue to monitor the situation and support the families within our remit.”
Update: A large number of Defense Base Act Death and Injury Claims were filed this year by one company though the casualties occurred prior to this year. We’ll let you know who did this and what, if any, the consequences are.
One Hundred Forty Civilian Contractors Dead in the last quarter of 2010
Civilian Contractors killed since Sept 2001 2,540
Civilian Contractors injured 66,470
Unknown (?) Category 1,123
Contractor Deaths for 2009 336
Contractor Deaths for 2010 513
Is DynCorp having employees sign a separate waiver releasing them of liability or are they relying on the normally undisclosed Exclusive Remedy Clause in the Defense Base Act insurance?
There is no DBA insurance “policy” for employees to read or sign.
In a decision that could have broad implications for government contractors, the Delaware Supreme Court on Dec. 8 upheld a lower court ruling that an employee-signed agreement waiving liability precludes lawsuits for wrongful death and negligence.
On Aug. 29, 2004, John Deuley and Gerald Gibson, two civilian police officers working for a subsidiary of DynCorp International, were killed in an attack on the State Department’s civilian police headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Joseph Dickinson, another civilian police officer, was severely injured in the attack.
Deuley’s and Gibson’s wives filed wrongful death and survival lawsuits, while Dickinson filed a personal injury lawsuit against DynCorp, headquartered in Delaware.
DOD, State, and USAID Face Continued Challenges in Tracking Contracts, Assistance Instruments, and Associated Personnel
The Departments of Defense (DOD) and State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have relied extensively on contracts, grants, and cooperative agreements for a wide range of services in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, as GAO previously reported, the agencies have faced challenges in obtaining sufficient information to manage these contracts and assistance instruments.
As part of our third review under the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year (FY) 2008, as amended, GAO assessed the implementation of the Synchronized Predeployment and Operational Tracker (SPOT) and data reported by the three agencies for Afghanistan and Iraq for FY 2009 and the first half of FY 2010 on the (1) number of contractor and assistance personnel, including those providing security; (2) number of personnel killed or wounded; and (3) number and value of contracts and assistance instruments and extent of competition for new awards. GAO compared agency data to other available sources to assess reliability.
In response to GAO’s 2009 report, DOD, State, and USAID did not agree with the recommendation to develop a plan for implementing SPOT because they felt ongoing coordination efforts were sufficient. GAO continues to believe a plan is needed to correct SPOT’s shortcomings and is not making any new recommendations.
What GAO Found
While the three agencies designated SPOT as their system for tracking statutorily required information in July 2008, SPOT still cannot reliably track information on contracts, assistance instruments, and associated personnel in Iraq or Afghanistan. As a result, the agencies relied on sources of data other than SPOT to respond to our requests for information. The agencies’ implementation of SPOT has been affected by some practical and technical issues, but their efforts also were undermined by a lack of agreement on how to proceed, particularly on how to track local nationals working under contracts or assistance instruments. The lack of agreement was due in part to agencies not having assessed their respective information needs and how SPOT can be designed to address those needs and statutory requirements. In 2009, GAO reported on many of these issues and recommended that the agencies jointly develop a plan to improve SPOT’s implementation.
The three agencies reported to GAO that as of March 2010 there were 262,681 contractor and assistance personnel working in Iraq and Afghanistan, 18 percent of whom performed security functions. Due to limitations with agency-reported data, caution should be used in identifying trends or drawing conclusions about the number of personnel in either country. Data limitations are attributable to agency difficulty in determining the number of local nationals, low response rates to agency requests for data, and limited ability to verify the accuracy of reported data. For example, a State office noted that none of its Afghan grant recipients provided requested personnel data. While agency officials acknowledged not all personnel were being counted, they still considered the reported data to be more accurate than SPOT data.
Only State and USAID tracked information on the number of contractor and assistance personnel killed or wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan during the review period. State reported 9 contractor and assistance personnel were killed and 68 wounded, while USAID reported 116 killed and 121 wounded. Both agencies noted that some casualties resulted from nonhostile actions. DOD still lacked a system to track similar information and referred GAO to Department of Labor data on cases filed under the Defense Base Act for killed or injured contractors. As GAO previously reported, Labor’s data provide insights but are not a good proxy for the number of contractor casualties.
DOD, State, and USAID obligated $37.5 billion on 133,951 contracts and assistance instruments with performance in Iraq and Afghanistan during FY2009 and the first half of FY2010. DOD had the vast majority of contract obligations. Most of the contracts were awarded during the review period and used competitive procedures. State and USAID relied heavily on grants and cooperative agreements and reported that most were competitively awarded.
While DOD and State did not comment on the draft report, USAID commented on the challenges of implementing SPOT and provided revised personnel data that GAO reviewed and included in the report.
Last week a Department of Labor
Adminstrative Law Judge deemed his
many permanent disabilities to be
What a relief that was to him and his family
Maybe this is just a bad dream after all
Remember Contractors, if you are injured
under the Defense Base Act you too could
be in a seven year battle to get those inadequate
benefits for your “alleged” disabilities
Or maybe your widow and children…….
WASHINGTON — U.S. government contractor deaths in Afghanistan more than doubled last year as violence and American troop levels increased, federal government records show.
The Labor Department received at least 141 insurance claims for contractor deaths in Afghanistan last year, up from 55 in 2008, department records show. U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan doubled to 311 last year.
The department collects the claims figures as part of a workers’ compensation program that provides benefits for injuries or deaths at companies doing U.S. government work overseas. The program paid out about $200 million in 2008, up from $9.4 million in 2001, when the war in Afghanistan began after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The increase in deaths in Afghanistan comes as tens of thousands more contractors are surging into the country while insurgent violence there spikes, said Doug Brooks, president of the International Peace Operations Association, a trade group of companies that provide security and other services in war zones. The number of contractors for the U.S. military in Afghanistan rose by 50 percent last year to 107,000, according to the Pentagon’s Central Command.
A State Department report released this month said “all Westerners and Afghans associated with Westerners are targets” in Afghanistan.
“Things are getting more dangerous in Afghanistan because insurgents are getting more bold,” Brooks said. “For contractors, Afghanistan used to be the place where you went on vacation, because it was safer than Iraq. Now it’s turned around, and Iraq is relatively safe.”
Still, Iraq remains a dangerous place for contractors — almost as risky as it is for U.S. troops.
The number of contractors killed in Iraq declined only slightly. There were at least 146 death claims for contractors in Iraq last year, down from 174 the year before. Meanwhile, U.S. military deaths in Iraq were cut in half from 313 in 2008 to 148 last year.
President Obama last year ordered more U.S. troops to Afghanistan to fight a resurgent Taliban insurgency and provide better security for Afghan civilians. Gen. David Petraeus, head of Central Command, said last week that nearly half of the 30,000 new troops have arrived.
There are currently about 99,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. The Pentagon plans to withdraw all but about 50,000 non-combat troops by the end of August.
There is no way of knowing the exact number of overseas contractors working for the U.S., or precisely how many have been killed or injured.
A 2008 law requires agencies to track information about overseas contractors, including statistics on casualties, but that database is not complete, John Hutton of the Government Accountability Office told Congress in March. Also, the Labor Department figures may underestimate the number of contractors killed because some firms, particularly subcontractors, may not report those casualties.
The contractors provide a wide range of services, including building U.S.-funded reconstruction projects, guarding civilian officials and cooking meals for American troops. Deaths and injuries reported to the Labor Department include both war-related casualties, such as from roadside bombs, and other work-related incidents, such as vehicle crashes.
Contractors’ survivors receive weekly payments equal to as much as two-thirds of the deceased’s pay up to $64,740 per year. Disabled workers can get up to two-thirds of their previous wages, subject to the same cap.
Allied World Assurance is brand new to Defense Base Act Workers’ Comp
PEMBROKE, Bermuda, March 30 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ —
Allied World Assurance Company Holdings, Ltd (NYSE: AWH) announced today that Kevin Behan, Senior Vice President for General Casualty in the United States, will be speaking at the IPOA’s 2010 EuroConference. The conference will focus on RiskManagement in Conflict and Post-Conflict Zones, and examine how companies, military and governments can prepare to manage risk in these environments. The event takes place in London on April 8 & 9, 2010.
Mr. Behan joined Allied World in October 2008, as Senior Vice President for General Casualty. He is responsible for Primary Casualty, working with brokers to develop Allied World’s Primary Casualty business capability. Primary Casualty includes Defense Base Act Business, General Liability, Automobile Liability and Physical Damage. Mr. Behan has over 25 years of experience in the insurance industry.
About Allied World Assurance Company
Allied World Assurance Company Holdings, Ltd, through its subsidiaries, is a global provider of innovative property, casualty and specialty insurance and reinsurance solutions, offering superior client service through offices in Bermuda, Europe, Hong Kong, Singapore and the United States. Our insurance and reinsurance subsidiaries are rated A (Excellent) by A.M. Best Company. For further information on Allied World, please visit our website at http://www.awac.com.
Allied World Assurance, new to Defense Base Act Insurance, has just been awarded the contract.
The International Peace Operations Association has an admirable goal in mind, promoting higher standards and requiring ethical operations of their membership.
We support the IPOA and it’s goals but would like to see some support for the injured employees some of their members have abused.
Senior stability operations figure believes that contractors must endeavour to educate the public on the facts.
Mar 25, 2010 – In recent years, the demand for stability operations has risen sharply, coming from both NATO and many struggling nations. Yet the majority of publicity tends to cast a negative shadow over private contractor involvement in these regions, claiming that governments are faced with a conflict of interests in involving contracting companies in the formation of defence budgets.
Sometime-cynics include David Isenberg of The Huffington Post, who has written extensively on both the pros and cons of the PMC emergence. Yet for vocal opponents like author and activist Naomi Klein, such firms are seen to merely exploit disaster-struck countries for profit. The Facebook group “No Shock Doctrine for Haiti”, based on Klein’s condemnation, has well over 37,000 members.
J.J. Messner, Director of the International Peace Operations Assosciation (IPOA), the umbrella association for the stability operations industry, described this view as a “very unfortunate”
Speaking to DefenceIQ, Messner spoke of the support that contractors offer in terms of freeing the army to deal with foreign policy affairs and focusing on the suppression of insurgents, actions fundamental to transitioning a region out of warzone status. Likewise, disaster-hit areas can benefit from the speedy action of these companies in the immediate aftermath of the emergency.
“Ultimately what we can see is that – in the wake of the earthquake in Haiti – there was an immense amount of suffering, there was an immense amount of capacity needed at very short notice, and some private contractors were able to provide airlift support, medical support and logistics at very short notice.”
With the resources of the US military already strained across Afghanistan and Iraq, and with this situation coinciding with a period of military downsizing, Messner holds that IPOA’s companies can provide peace-keeping support and expertise that otherwise wouldn’t be there or are not so widely available in non-profit organisations.
He also addressed the misconception that private contractors in conflict zones are dominated by private military companies such as the extremely controversial and former-member Blackwater.
“It becomes abundantly clear with many of the critics of the industry that they really don’t quite understand what the industry does. If you look at the industry as a whole, I think it’s probably fair to say that 90% of the industry concerns itself with logistics and non-security services, whereas the average man on the street will often think it’s all about heavily armed security contractors.”
“Those kinds of perceptions are very important to tackle because – when it comes to a public perception point of view – if you are sending a number of contractors into a particular country, if the public at large believe that those contractors are going to be heavily armed security contractors…their amount of support is probably going to be different than to if they act knew that the vast majority of them are going to be providing services such as logistics, or medical support, or air lift.”
He added that re-balancing the argument for private contractors and making the public aware of the positive aspects of the firms “really is one of the key roles that IPOA has to fill over the years – an educational role”.
As for critics who argue that the actions of contractors need to be transparent, Messner couldn’t agree more.
Civilian Contractors Accuse Insurer of Continuing To ‘Delay and Deny’ Claims
AIG and CNA have ruthlessly denied medical and disability benefits to Injured Contractors causing many to lose their homes, their cars, their wives, their families, and for some their lives.
AIG and CNA do readily accept the DBA insurance premiums
While the DBA is far from adequate the immediate problem is that AIG and CNA are refusing to pay legitimate claims in order to keep the money in their pockets no matter how many lives they ruin.
Civilian contractors who were injured or wounded while supporting American troops in Iraq continue to face long battles with insurance giant AIG for payment of their disability claims, despite Congressional inquiries and calls to reform the system that has handled tens of thousands of disability claims from employees of overseas contractors.
The injured workers, including some wounded by small-arms fire or IEDs during insurgent attacks, complain that AIG has continued to “delay and deny” their claims nearly a year after a joint investigation by ABC News, ProPublica, and the Los Angeles Times first exposed serious problems with AIG’s handling of disability claims under a government-funded insurance system. An analysis found that AIG challenged nearly half of the claims involving the most serious injuries.
“They will spend whatever it takes, or do whatever it takes, to berate, belittle and humiliate us,” said Bill Carlisle, an injured Arkansas man who drove trucks in Iraq for nearly two years.
The joint investigation last year exposed how AIG, which handles 90 percent of the contractor disability claims, engaged in a pattern of “delaying and denying” benefits to civilian workers injured in the war-zone, while it pampered executives with millions in bonuses and hundreds of thousands in spa retreats and private jets.
A ProPublica analysis of 30,000 claims found that AIG challenged 43 percent of the claims involving the most serious injuries. AIG contested more than half of the claims from contractors who said they were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
“People like myself who went outside the wire, we went out there without a weapon, and we come back haunted by certain things, and then we have to have the added stress of AIG doing these things or not doing things – it’s just horrible,” said Carlisle.
Carlisle says he lives in constant pain from a severe groin injury he sustained while loading his truck for a convoy mission, and that he also suffers from PTSD. He says he has tried to look for work, but cannot find a job that will accommodate his work restrictions.
Carlisle says he fell behind on car and home mortgage payments after AIG cut off his disability pay last September. He expects the bank to re-possess his car in the next few days. His home, which is now under foreclosure, is scheduled to go on the auction block next month.
“It’s just horrible. I’ve gone from having good credit to having bad credit, and now I’m one step from being homeless,” said Carlisle.
Filings with the Department of Labor (DOL), which oversees the civilian contractor insurance program, show that AIG halted Carlisle’s payments, stating that he had been released to work by doctors with no restrictions. A DOL claims examiner later found that Carlisle was still entitled to receive the benefits under the program because doctors had determined that Carlisle could not return to his job in Iraq and he established that he had been making efforts to obtain other work.
In a statement, AIG spokesman Mark Herr said the company was “committed to handling and resolving” benefit claims from injured contractors “professionally, ethically and fairly.”
“We owe all these injured contractors a debt for their service to our country,” said Herr. “They have been supporting our military in a hostile war zone, often incurring very serious injuries while engaged in that service,”
But Herr said that the claims were “exceedingly complex,” and blamed the 60-year-old law governing civilian contractor insurance, the Defense Base Act, for part of the delay in resolving the claims.” Said Herr, “Resolution under an act that is ill-suited for its purpose makes timely conclusion that much more complicated.”
The ABC News investigation found that the injured workers’ cases often took months, and sometimes years, to go through the Department of Labor’s administrative judicial process. Even when the judge ruled in favor of the worker, AIG did not always pay promptly.
In December of 2008, an administrative law judge ordered AIG to reinstate and pay back pay to Kevin Smith, another injured truck driver, after the insurer contested his claim and cut off his benefits for months. Smith says that AIG started sending him his disability checks after the ruling, but has still not paid the $91,000 in back pay, penalty and interest payments the DOL said it still owed him.
Smith says he has had to pay hundreds of dollars out of pocket for psychological therapy to treat his PTSD because AIG has not approved any of his psychologists.
Herr said AIG does not ordinarily comment on individual claims but stated “in this instance, we paid and are continuing to pay all medical and disability claims that are due and payable to Mr. Smith and Mr. Carlisle under this program.” Herr invited the two men to have their attorneys contact AIG’s chief claims officer, Charles Schader, if there was “any continuing disagreement regarding that conclusion.”
Smith and Carlisle’s cases also illustrate the shortcomings of the World War II-era system for handling claims of those civilian workers who say they were psychologically traumatized after experiencing IED attacks and insurgent ambushes.
Carlisle says he has suffered from depression and anxiety since returning from Iraq in 2008. As a naval veteran, he has been able to see a local Veteran Affairs psychiatrist to treat his psychological symptoms, but he says that many of the other traumatized drivers have nowhere to turn for help.
The injured truck drivers expressed frustration that officials and lawmakers in Washington have not done anything to fix the system in the months since a Congressional hearing examined the problems.
At the hearing last June, the deputy secretary of the Department of Labor called for “fundamental reform” of the law governing insurance claims by civilian contractors, the Defense Base Act, that was first enacted in 1941 and originally designed for claims from only hundreds, not thousands, of contractors.
“Tinkering around the edges is not going to work here,” said Seth Harris, the number-two official in the DOL, to lawmakers on the House Government Oversight and Reform committee.
At the same hearing AIG’s Schader testified that the company had done its best to handle the contractor claims under a law he described as “ill-suited” for handling the complexities of the injuries faced by today’s war-zone workers. For the post-traumatic stress claims, AIG specifically recommended “interagency cooperation” between the DOL and the Department of Veterans Affairs for the diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Since that hearing, said a DOL spokesman in a statement Wednesday, the DOL’s Office of Workers Compensation has “initiated new performance measures intended to facilitate the delivery of benefits to claimants.” The spokesman also said that the DOL is continuing its efforts to shorten the dispute process, which has dropped from 285 days in 2002 to a current average of 251 days. “We remain ready to work with Congress to improve the Defense Base Act.”
Carlisle worries that if the system isn’t fixed it will ultimately end up hurting U.S. war efforts overseas.
“No civilian will be willing to go and do what we’ve done, because they’ll be afraid to,” said Carlisle. “What’s going to happen if they get hurt or injured? What’s going to happen to their spouse if they get killed? They’re going to have to deal with companies like AIG.” Original Story here
Vetted International, Ltd. (www.vetted-intl.com) has announced that it has launched new capabilities in Kuwait to provide & manage medical care for injuries covered under the Defense Base Act (DBA).
Raleigh, NC (PRWEB) February 25, 2010 — Vetted International, Ltd. (www.vetted-intl.com) has announced that it has launched new capabilities in Kuwait to provide & manage medical care for injuries covered under the Defense Base Act (DBA).
Civilian contractors in support of United States strategies abroad are covered by a 1941 law titled the Defense Base Act (DBA). . The DBA covers civilian contractors in a similar fashion as a traditional state worker’s compensation policy; however, there are many challenges that are difficult to overcome without a physical presence in the areas in which losses occur. Vetted initially provided that presence throughout the world to act as liaisons to expedite claims handling. As those challenges became more evident, Vetted expanded its services to include medical management and treasury services.
Numerous companies supporting coalition contracts to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure logistically supported those operations from Kuwait. Workers injured during these activities require ongoing care in Kuwait. While Kuwait has suitable medical facilities to handle illness and injuries, not all facilities are familiar with the Defense Base Act or the American Medical Association Guides on the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment.
Vetted International has maintained certification in their proficiency of those required AMA guidelines from the American Board of Independent Medical Examiners (ABIME). Vetted International is recognized as the industry subject matter expert in DBA medical management and understands the complexities of evaluating impairment per American Medical Association (AMA) Guidelines.
“We have implemented a program in Kuwait to successfully assist DBA insured patients while obtaining care from providers that subscribe to the requirements within the American Medical Association’s Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment,” said Brian Sjostedt, Vetted President & CEO.
“Regardless of nationality, insured patients can now expect that they can obtain care with reporting that will assist insurers with addressing losses under the Defense Base Act.”
About Vetted International:
Vetted International is a corporate and government solution based company headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA. Vetted utilizes a global network of integrity driven local national professionals to minimize risk and implement responsive action plans in various permissive & non-permissive environments. Foreign and domestic insurance companies, financial institutions, government departments & ministries, government agencies & contractors, and healthcare organizations have relied on Vetted’s unique capabilities in over 40 countries worldwide.
Vetted International has been accredited by the Better Business Bureau in that it meets all standards including a commitment to make good faith efforts to resolve consumer complaints.
For more information, contact:
Mark Pauley One Renaissance Center 3301 Benson Drive, Suite 545 Raleigh, North Carolina 27609 919-518-9200 877-838-8331 – Toll Free
Media Contact: Vetted International, Ltd. Mark Pauley 919-518-9200 877-838-8331 – Toll Free
As the military death toll in Afghanistan nears one thousand, T. Christian Miller reports on the sad plight of the non-soldiers who support our troops there.
by T Christian Miller at The Daily Beast
REDDING, Calif. — Wade Dill does not figure into the toll of war dead. An exterminator, Dill took a job in Iraq for a company contracted to do pest control on military bases. There, he found himself killing disease-carrying flies and rabid dogs, dodging mortars and huddling in bomb shelters.
Dill, a Marine Corps veteran, was a different man when he came back for visits here, his family said: moody, isolated, morose. He screamed at his wife and daughter. His weight dropped. Dark circles haunted his dark brown eyes.
Three weeks after he returned home for good, Dill booked a room in an anonymous three-story motel alongside Interstate 5. There, on July 16, 2006, he shot himself in the head with a 9 mm handgun. He left a suicide note for his wife and a picture for his daughter, then 16. The caption read: “I did exist and I loved you.”
More than three years later, Dill’s loved ones are still reeling, their pain compounded by a drawn-out battle with an insurance company over death benefits from the suicide. Barb Dill, 47, nearly lost the family’s home to foreclosure. “We’re circling the drain,” she said.
While suicide among soldiers has been a focus of Congress and the public, relatively little attention has been paid to the mental health of tens of thousands of civilian contractors returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. When they make the news at all, contractors are usually in the middle of scandal, depicted as cowboys, wastrels or worse.
No agency tracks how many civilian workers have killed themselves after returning from the war zones. A small study in 2007 found that 24 percent of contract employees from DynCorp, a defense contractor, showed signs of depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, after returning home. The figure is roughly equivalent to those found in studies of returning soldiers.
If the pattern holds true on a broad scale, thousands of such workers may be suffering from mental trauma, said Paul Brand, the CEO of Mission Critical Psychological Services, a firm that provides counseling to war zone civilians. More than 200,000 civilians work in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to the most recent figures.
“There are many people falling through the cracks, and there are few mechanisms in place to support these individuals,” said Brand, who conducted the study while working at DynCorp.”There’s a moral obligation that’s being overlooked. Can the government really send people to a war zone and neglect their responsibility to attend to their emotional needs after the fact?”
The survivors of civilians who have committed suicide have found themselves confused, frustrated and alone in their grief.
“If I was in the military, I’d at least have someone to talk to,” said Melissa Finkenbinder, 42, whose husband, Kert, a mechanic, killed himself after returning from Iraq. “Contractors don’t have anything. Their families don’t have anything.”
Some families of civilian contractors who have committed suicide have tried to battle for help through an outdated government system designed to provide health insurance and death benefits to civilian contractors injured or killed on the job.
Under the system, required by a law known as the Defense Base Act, defense firms must purchase workers’ compensation insurance for their employees in war zones. It is highly specialized and expensive insurance, dominated by the troubled giant AIG and a handful of other companies. The cost of it is paid by taxpayers as part of the contract price.
If the pattern holds true on a broad scale, thousands of war zone workers may be suffering from mental trauma, said Paul Brand, the CEO of Mission Critical Psychological Services, a firm which provides counseling to war zone civilians.
But the law, which is designed to provide coverage for accidental death and injury, blocks payment of death benefits in the case of almost all suicides. Cases linked to mental incapacity are the lone exception, judges have ruled.
A joint investigation last year by ProPublica, ABC News and the Los Angeles Times revealed that contract workers must frequently battle carriers for basic medical coverage. While Congress has promised reforms, there has been no discussion of changing the law when it comes to suicides involving civilian defense workers.
The military, by contrast, allows survivors to receive benefits in cases in which a soldier’s suicide can be linked to depression caused by battlefield stress.
Hundreds of soldiers have committed suicide since the war in Afghanistan began in 2001, according to studies by the Army and the Department of Veterans Affairs. In response, the Defense Department has become more active in trying to prevent suicide than its hired contractors, military experts said.
The military is “aggressively trying to reach people and do intervention beforehand and set up suicide awareness programs,” said Ian de Planque, a benefits expert at the American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans group. “Awareness of it has increased. I don’t know that it’s transferred over to the civilian sector at this point.”
Birgitt Eysselinck has spent years trying to prove that her husband’s death in Iraq was related to stress from his job with a company specializing in the removal of land mines and explosive ordnance. So far, courts have sided with the insurance firm, Chicago-based CNA, in denying Eysselinck’s claim. (CNA declined to comment, citing privacy reasons.)
Eysselinck, 44, said that neither federal judges nor insurance adjusters understand that civilian contractors face many of the same risks in Iraq and Afghanistan that soldiers do. Her husband, Tim Eysselinck, endured mortar attacks and frequently traveled across Iraq’s dangerous highways, she said.
“There is a huge percentage of contractors who are silently suffering,” Eysselinck said. “That obviously puts them and their families at risk. Communities are bearing the brunt of this, especially the families.”
Wade Dill was working at a local pest control company when he decided to take a job with KBR in Iraq in late 2004. The money was good—almost $11,000 a month for handling extermination and hazardous material disposal, more than double his normal salary.
“He said this was our opportunity,” Barb Dill said. “He could start a college fund for our daughter, pay off the mortgage and have a nice retirement. He told me at his age, 41, he didn’t know if he had enough years left in him to give us what he wanted.”
Wade started that December, working on bases in central and northern Iraq. Violence was ever present. A base near Mosul was shelled frequently. He told Barb that a mortar landed close enough to temporarily deafen him. Once, he called her sobbing.
My husband never cried, ever,” she said. “Marines don’t cry. A young man, a soldier, had put a pistol to his head and blown his brains out. And Wade had to go in and clean up after they removed the body—he had to clean up brain matter and blood. It really upset him.”
Barb Dill noticed a change in her husband when he returned home for a visit in December 2005. The couple had been high school sweethearts, married for 15 years. They had troubles, but had always worked them out. Now, he seemed moody and often angry, lashing out at her and their daughter, Sara.
“He would say hateful things to me and our daughter—things he had never said before.” Dill said. “This was a man that loved his little girl and his wife. He always called us his girls.”
When Wade returned for another visit in June 2006, he abruptly quit his job and began acting erratically, Dill said. He ripped the wiring out of appliances, smashed mirrors and poured lighter fluid on their furniture.
After a few weeks, Wade took a room at a local motel. On July 15, he asked Barb to come see him. Their conversation spiraled into a confrontation. Frightened and angry, Barb sped off in her car. The next day, the Shasta County coroner’s office called to tell her that Wade’s body had been found in the room.
“He told me that he was sick and needed help,” Dill said. “I told him to get help and then we would talk. The last time I saw him was in my rearview mirror.”
Dill soon found herself in financial difficulty. Her husband had always taken care of the bills. He had spent lavishly with his higher salary, buying two BMWs during trips home. Now, Dill discovered the couple was $300,000 in debt on their mortgage and car loans.
She plunged into depression, struggling to cope with her daughter’s grief and the sense that she had failed her husband in his time of need. She sold the cars and nearly lost her home after falling behind on mortgage payments.
She suffered mostly by herself. Except for a handful of Web sites, no support groups exist for widows of civilian contractors. The federal government offers no counseling for civilians returning from work in war zones.
Dill said that she felt abandoned by everyone: her husband’s employer, the insurance company and especially the federal government, which oversees the Defense Base Act system through the Labor Department.
“Shouldn’t our government be responsible for the companies they hire?” Dill said. “Shouldn’t our government take care of its own people, who are doing jobs our government, ultimately, wanted them to do?”
Survivors of civilian contractors whose death is related to their work in Iraq have the right to apply for compensation benefits that pay up to $63,000 a year for life.
Dill applied, asserting that her husband’s PTSD made him an exception to the rule against payments in suicide cases. Her claim was denied by AIG, KBR’s insurance provider.
She protested, sending her claim into a dispute resolution system run by the Labor Department. Her case is still grinding its way through the system, which can take years to produce a final result.
Experts hired by the family and the insurance company differed on what led to Wade Dill’s suicide.
psychiatrist hired by her attorney found that job stress in Iraq was one of the factors that drove Wade to suicide: “The bottom line is that the combination of physical separation and work-related stress resulted in increasingly emotional distance, greater distortion of the relationship, increasing emotional intensity, and a pattern of increasing erratic behaviors that culminated in suicide,” wrote Charles Seaman, an expert in PTSD.
A Labor Department examiner recommended that AIG pay the claim, but the company refused. AIG and KBR declined comment about the case. In court filings, AIG has argued that the Defense Base Act does not cover suicides.
AIG attorneys also have said that Wade Dill’s actions were related to marital and family problems. A psychiatrist hired by AIG testified at a hearing in San Francisco in January that he had performed a “psychological autopsy” on Wade Dill based on interviews with his family and court documents.
The psychiatrist, Andrew D. Whyman, said his evaluation led him to conclude that Dill suffered from depression and that his suicide was unrelated to the violence he witnessed in Iraq.
“Take out the Iraq experience, (the suicide) would have happened,” Whyman testified. “He had a choice. … He could have chosen not to do that.”
Barb Dill insists her husband came back from Iraq a changed man.
“No matter how strained our relationship could get at times, we always pulled out of it with no problem,” Dill said. “Iraq changed all that.”
Now, she said, she is trying to hold her life together. A final decision in her case is not expected for months.
“We’re just slowly sinking,” she said. “It’s hard to be strong.”
T. Christian Miller is a senior reporter for ProPublica. He reported for the Los Angeles Times from 1997-2008. He won the 2010 Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting for his work on insurance coverage for defense contractors deployed in war zones. Miller is the author of Blood Money: Wasted Billions, Lost Lives, and Corporate Greed in Iraq. “For more information on contract workers killed and injured in war zones, please visit www.propublica.org/contractors”