Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

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

Contractor Deaths Exceed Military in Iraq and Afghanistan

This Year, Contractor Deaths Exceed Military Ones in Iraq and Afghanistan

by T Christian Miller ProPublica Disposable Army

More private contractors than soldiers were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent months, the first time in history that corporate casualties have outweighed military losses on America’s battlefields.

More than 250 civilians working under U.S. contracts died in the war zones between January and June 2010, according to a ProPublica analysis of the most recent data available from the U.S. Department of Labor, which tracks contractor deaths. In the same period, 235 soldiers died, according to Pentagon figures.

This milestone in the privatization of modern U.S. warfare reflects both the drawdown in military forces in Iraq and the central role of contractors in providing logistics support to local armies and police forces, contracting and military experts said.

Steven Schooner, a professor of government contracting at George Washington University Law School, said that the contractor deaths show how the risks of war have increasingly been absorbed by the private sector. Private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan provide fuel, food and protective services to U.S. outposts — jobs once performed by soldiers.

“It’s extremely likely that a generation ago, each one of these contractors deaths would have been a military death,” Schooner said. “As troop deaths have fallen, contractor deaths have risen. It’s not a pretty picture.”

Schooner, who conducted a recent study of contractor fatalities published in Contractor Services [1] (PDF), an industry newsletter, said contractors now make up more than 25 percent of total deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan — a proportion that has grown steadily throughout the conflicts. Official figures show that 5,531 troops and 2,008 civilian contract workers have died in Iraq and Afghanistan between the beginning of hostilities in 2001 and June 2010.

Many working under U.S. contracts are local civilians, often working as translators for troops, or are hired from third world countries to do basic labor, such as cleaning kitchens and toilets.

Previous ProPublica stories [2] have noted that companies employing such workers often fail to report their deaths and injuries to the Labor Department, as required by law. Government figures likely understate the total number civilian contractor deaths.

The rising fatalities have received little public attention, concealing the full human cost of the war, Schooner said. When President Obama spoke of troop deaths in Afghanistan earlier this month, he made no mention of fatalities among the private workforce that feeds and fuels U.S. forces.

“I’m not accusing either the Bush or the Obama administration of intentionally deceiving the public,” Schooner said. “But when a president applauds a reduction in military deaths but fails to acknowledge the contractor personnel now dying in their place, someone isn’t telling the whole story.”

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are the most privatized in American military history. Today, there are 150,000 troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. As of March 2010, there were more than 200,000 private contractors, though that number is believed to have declined with the drawdown of U.S. forces.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced [3] a plan last month to sharply reduce the number of contractors, saying the Pentagon has become overly dependent on private workers to carry out jobs once done by soldiers.

A recent Congressional Research Service report [4] (PDF) found that the heavy use of contractors had exposed troops to supply shortfalls, wasted taxpayer money, and stirred anger among locals. In several high-profile incidents, heavily armed private security contractors have killed unarmed Iraqi and Afghan civilians.

“Some analysts believe that poor contract management has also played a role in abuses and crimes committed by certain contractors against local nationals, which may have undermined U.S. counterinsurgency efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan,” the report found.

Marcie Hascall Clark, an advocate for contract workers, said that contractor deaths and injuries reflected contractors’ importance in fighting the wars.

Labor Department figures [5] show that more than 44,000 contractors have reported injuries since 2001, compared to about 40,000 U.S. troops. The figures are not entirely comparable, since contractor injuries include minor workplace injuries.

“I don’t think most contractors expect to be treated as nobly as our soldiers, but they don’t expect to be forgotten, either,” said Hascall Clark, who runs a group called American Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan [6]. “I think there should definitely be some recognition of what they do.”

September 23, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Corruption, Defense Base Act, Iraq | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Honoring Veterans of the Disposable Army

by T. Christian Miller  ProPublica

contractors_veterans_day_475

Today we honor the veterans who have served in the country’s armed forces. Nobody seriously questions whether they deserve such recognition. The men and women who defended this country and fought its wars made immeasurable sacrifices.

I have spent much of the last year writing [1] about another group of people who suffered losses on behalf of U.S. interests abroad: the civilian contractors injured or killed [1] while doing their jobs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

They are not, of course, soldiers. They could quit their jobs and go home any time they wanted. Many were paid far higher wages than their military counterparts. They knew they were signing up to take a specific job in a dangerous part of the world.

And yet, neither are the contractors working in Afghanistan and Iraq ordinary laborers. Civilians compose half the manpower [2] in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have seen and experienced the full horror of war. More than a thousand have been killed. Thousands more have suffered debilitating physical and mental injuries [3]. And yet, the Pentagon does not even know how many have died, nor how many are actually working [4] (PDF).

I have come to see the civilian contractors as a new kind of class in the demography of war. They are quasi-veterans: civilians who have experienced war much as soldiers do. There are tens of thousands of them. And while it’s hard to argue that they deserve ticker tape parades and Medals of Honor, it’s also hard to believe that they should be sent home with little more than a pay stub and a patchy health care system that doesn’t even address basic medical needs [5].

I received a letter from a former KBR contractor which crystallized the strange position of those who work in a war zone. D.A. Corson, who worked at a variety of companies in Iraq until 2008, wrote the following, which I thought worth sharing:

Civilian contactors in combat zones will likely continue to be a staple of military engagements. They cook, clean, make ice, purify water, install housing, do laundry, install and maintain generators for lighting, air conditioning, truck the beans, bullets and bandages, install latrines, wastewater treatment facilities, and as many of the other logistical functions as the military can give them to do so the troops can do their job, i.e., go out and, God willing, win the peace.

They too left their families, homes, and friends. They too labor 84-hour weeks, endure shellings, mortars, and RPG attacks, IEDS, and heat strokes. They too live on three meals a day of four different flavors of noodles or MREs when the convoys cannot get through and rations are running low. Some of them see to it that the bodies of your fallen sons, daughters, husbands, and wives are seen off from combat airfields with proper honors when no military personnel are available to do the honors themselves. They watch helplessly on Armed Forces media as our homes thousands of miles away are blown and washed away in hurricanes, floods and other disasters and wonder if their families are safe. Many die, are injured, captured and held as POWs; some have been beheaded. They too suffer high divorce rates and come home with their own cases of Combat Stress. Many serve for over a year and then came back 2 and 3 times for another year. Many are still there going on 5 and 6 years now. When they come home they have no Veteran’s benefits, indeed, no benefits at all in many instances, save perhaps a very pricey COBRA.

Yes, all go for the money. They too are doing what they think necessary for their families to get a little piece of the American Dream, but they are not all a bunch of money-grubbing, carpetbagging, war profiteers. We are your neighbors, friends, relatives, and fellow Americans. So many are there because they have to be. One young lady had just had a baby. Her husband had cancer, and she had to leave her newborn infant and other children, as well as her terribly ill husband to pay the bills and keep a roof over their head. But more than that, each wanted to serve our troops. They wanted to do their part. So many are Viet Nam veterans. They do their jobs; they serve our troops, proudly. They do it for them. They do it for freedom; they do it for our country. The American contractors all still take off their hats and get tears in their eyes when hearing the national anthem. When they go home their benefits end. Many are having to fight to get their medical insurance benefits for the injuries received and many families are fighting to get their life insurance benefits for their fallen loved ones.

They knew going in that returning to bands playing, flags waving, and such were not part of their bargain. That’s not why they went. However, in your churches and other ceremonies, when you ask your veterans to stand, after you have given them their well-deserved honors, you might want to give a thought to then asking any civilian contractors who served the troops in combat zones to stand up beside the vets too. I’ll bet they’d be proud to do so, again. Maybe there won’t be many in your particular gathering, but they are there: one for every soldier according to the Congressional Budget Reports and one dying for each 3 soldiers killed.

And by the way, you’re welcome. Maligned, appreciated, even counted or not, I am sure most would do it all again. It was an honor.

D. A. Corson
Camp Anaconda, Balad, Iraq –June 2004 through October 2006 B.I.A., Basrah, Iraq –July 2006 through May 2007 Ali Al-Saleem Air Base, Kuwait — September-October 2007

God Bless America !

November 12, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment