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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. (Click HERE for original article) (Click HERE for complaint PDF)

T. Christian Miller
ProPublica, June 1, 2011

For proof that the wheels of justice turn slowly for private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, and sometimes bog down all together, look no further than the indictment [1] this week of George H. Lee, American businessman.

A federal grand jury indicted Lee on charges that he allegedly paid bribes to military officers to win contracts for his company, Lee Dynamics International. The company, a family affair that included Lee’s son, Justin W. Lee (also indicted this week), provided bottled water, food, living quarters, and all kinds of everyday items that form the backbone of a military logistical operation. George Lee also stands accused of setting up fake bank accounts, buying airplane tickets for contracting officials, and sending them on spa trips.

According to prosecutors, Lee’s wrongdoing began back in 2004 — almost seven years ago. Read the remainder of this entry »

The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight

Posted March 21, 2010 By Forseti

Six billion dollars later, the Afghan National Police can’t begin to do their jobs right—never mind relieve American forces.

Afghani police use a rifle training course in Kabul as a DynCorp employee looks on

By T. Christian Miller, Mark Hosenball, and Ron Moreau | NEWSWEEK 

Mar 19, 2010 – From the magazine issue dated Mar 29, 2010

Mohammad Moqim watches in despair as his men struggle with their AK-47 automatic rifles, doing their best to hit man-size targets 50 meters away. A few of the police trainees lying prone in the mud are decent shots, but the rest shoot clumsily, and fumble as they try to reload their weapons. The Afghan National Police (ANP) captain sighs as he dismisses one group of trainees and orders 25 more to take their places on the firing line. “We are still at zero,” says Captain Moqim, 35, an eight-year veteran of the force. “They don’t listen, are undisciplined, and will never be real policemen.”

Poor marksmanship is the least of it. Worse, crooked Afghan cops supply much of the ammunition used by the Taliban, according to Saleh Mohammed, an insurgent commander in Helmand province. The bullets and rocket-propelled grenades sold by the cops are cheaper and of better quality than the ammo at local markets, he says. It’s easy for local cops to concoct credible excuses for using so much ammunition, especially because their supervisors try to avoid areas where the Taliban are active. Mohammed says local police sometimes even stage fake firefights so that if higher-ups question their outsize orders for ammo, villagers will say they’ve heard fighting.

America has spent more than $6 billion since 2002 in an effort to create an effective Afghan police force, buying weapons, building police academies, and hiring defense contractors to train the recruits—but the program has been a disaster. More than $322 million worth of invoices for police training were approved even though the funds were poorly accounted for, according to a government audit, and fewer than 12 percent of the country’s police units are capable of operating on their own. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the State Department’s top representative in the region, has publicly called the Afghan police “an inadequate organization, riddled with corruption.” During the Obama administration’s review of Afghanistan policy last year, “this issue received more attention than any other except for the question of U.S. troop levels,” Holbrooke later told NEWSWEEK. “We drilled down deep into this.”

Read the remainder of this entry »

Bill Carlisle

T Miller brings to light yet another Injured War Zone Contractor who is about to become  homeless due to the unwarranted  denial of Defense Base Act insurance benefits by AIG.    Bill Carlisle has worked hard his whole life and was working hard when he was injured.  Thanks to AIG and the fact no one in Congress or the DoL seems to give a damn, Bill’s home in foreclosure with a sale date within the month.

So what if he eventually gets the payments he is already supposed to be getting?  His credit is ruined and he won’t be able to buy another home.   He’s just another KBR AIG DBA casualty.  AIG and CNA are ruining one life right after another.

Why is the Taxpayer paying for these benefits?

In recent years, the Pentagon has come to increasingly rely on private military contractors to do the work that members of the military used to do. But as the number of civilian contractors has grown, so too has the number of deaths and injuries of those contractors and with it, the cost of paying health care benefits for their injury claims.

T. Christian Miller [1] recently won the Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting [2] for his coverage of the numerous obstacles contractors face [3] when they’ve been injured and try to collect benefits. We spoke to him about who is responsible for taking care of injured contractors, the ordeal they have to go through to be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, the role AIG plays in this, contractor suicide rates and how Congress is addressing the problem.

We also hear from one of the people facing the difficulties Miller has documented. Bill Carlisle Jr. was a contractor with defense firm KBR. He sustained both physical and psychological injuries, and is now fighting insurer AIG for the benefits he says they owe him. Read the remainder of this entry »

On the one-year anniversary of her husband's suicide, Barb Dill breaks down at her husband's tombstone. Wade Dill, a Marine Corps veteran, took a contractor job in Iraq. Three weeks after he returned home for good, he committed suicide (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times / Redding, CA / July 16, 2007).

by T. Christian Miller, ProPublica – February 26, 2010

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.

Wade Dill

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. Read the remainder of this entry »