Returning War Contractors Face Second Battle, Against AIG
Pitts describes a worst-case scenario. “Early on in the war, I had a guy who got hit by a mortar in Afghanistan. He comes home, and they just ignore him. So we got the approval conference reservations; we’re on our way to a judge. During this whole process, which can take from the time you get home to the time you get a decision making the insurance company do something, we’re looking at maybe a year and a half. And during that time, you are getting nothing. No comp. Your wages have stopped. Your medical insurance gets cut off within 60 days generally.” By the time that client got paid his $100,000-plus settlement, he had been living in his car for a full six months.
“Lag time” certainly describes the process for David Boiles of Willis, Texas, another of Pitts’s former clients. A Marine who served overseas in the Vietnam era, and later a stateside big-rig driver, Boiles was a 58-year-old KBR truck convoy commander in 2006. (Boiles says convoy commanders are civilians who ride shotgun in a rig and act as liaisons between the other civilians and the military escorts. In court documents, the gruff Boiles likened the position to that of a “glorified secretary.” )
On February 20, his convoy came under insurgent attack. Boiles was in the second truck, a beat-up 23-year-old KBR 915, just behind the lead vehicle, a mine-resistant, ambush-protected “Buffalo.” “They can go through anything and just haul ass,” says Boiles in a deep East Texas drawl. His driver could not keep up in the battered 915. “My driver was doing the best he could, and there was all this dust in the road.”
And then came the end of his days in Iraq. “They blowed a hole in the goddamn road,” he says. “We bottomed out in that hole.”
The impact sent Boiles headfirst into the top of the cab. The next day, his back was throbbing with jolts of pain. On March 4, Boiles was sent home. After an X-ray, a doctor told him he had severe back injuries. (He also says that he has been told he has PTSD, but he seems loath to accept that diagnosis.)
“I had a big ol’ bulging disk, my neck hurt, my back was killin’ me, my left leg still hurts,” he said. A doctor recommended surgery to repair the disk. He would get that surgery, but only 14 months later, after a federal administrative judge ordered AIG subsidiary Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania to pay for it.
For the entire year-plus before the operation, Boiles had been in agonizing pain. “I was takin’ a lot of medicines, so many it’d knock me out, but I was still hurtin’. I’d lay in bed and the sheets and everything would be wet from sweat, I was hurtin’ so bad.”
Worse, Boiles was told that the surgery was approved several times before it actually came to pass. “I got snake-eyed three or four times,” he says. “I’d go down to the hospital, they’d start drawin’ blood and get ready to do the surgery, and then they’d say, ‘We have to do a ‘medical review.’” And the surgery would be postponed…again and again.
Boiles said one of the surgeons told Boiles he was walking away from operating on him. “He was so mad he told me he wasn’t gonna have anything to do with me, them or anybody else. He said there were a bunch of people at AIG who ought to be in jail for practicin’ medicine without a license. That’s what a lot of us are runnin’ into: There’s these people who go by some book that tells them what they are allowed or not allowed to do, and they are not doctors.”
Enzweiler’s story was similar, albeit focused more on his mental health than his physical well-being. Shortly after his return to the States, AIG sent an investigator around for a little chat. “We sat at my kitchen table for about two hours, and the first thing she asked me was, ‘Can you prove you were actually blown up?’”
Enzweiler laughed bitterly. Evidently AIG had not availed itself of the reams of paperwork filed on the incident. There was a KBR report. There was another from the 101st Airborne. There was an Explosive and Ordnance report and a Quick Reactionary Force report. “And they found a projectile in my vehicle,” Enzweiler says. “That conversation set the tone.”
Nevertheless, for a little more than a year after his return, Enzweiler did get treatment and benefits. He was receiving PTSD treatment with the doctor of his choice. “I was very happy with it,” he says. “I wanted it to continue. It was recommended that it be continued.”