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Returning War Contractors Face Second Battle, Against AIG

After his rig bottomed out in a bomb crater, AIG made former KBR trucker David Boiles of Willis suffer through 14 months of agonizing back pain and sciatica before they authorized surgery. – Photo Daniel Kramer

In the summer and fall of 2004, 58-year-old William Manning was working east of the Green Zone in Iraq. As a labor foreman, Manning, a marine Vietnam vet, was overseeing and escorting other civilian contractors at a work site near the police academy where Iraqi rookie cops were trained. ~Mine Fields: Injured Iraq/Afghanistan Contractors Fight to Get Compensated for War Wounds

Whatever your role in the U.S. war effort, if you were injured overseas, at least you’d be covered back home, right?

John Nova Lomax – November 14, 2012 – Ever since that June day in 2010 when the roadside bomb detonated ten feet from the cab of his truck on a dusty road in Iraq, Terry Enzweiler has not been the same. He gets lost coming back from the same grocery store he’s shopped in hundreds of times; his daughter had to buy him a GPS to help him navigate his own neighborhood. He takes Xanax and Zoloft to combat the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

“The Xanax stops me from jumping through the roof when a pencil falls on the floor,” he says.

Even medicated, his blood still curdles when he hears Arabic spoken on TV or drives through one of the Chicago area’s Muslim neighborhoods. He wore earplugs for much of the week leading up to and right through the Fourth of July. “Those half-sticks sound just like a .50-cal,” he says, referring to a type of heavy machine gun.

The chuck-chuck of helicopter blades terrifies him, as does the sight of his own 25-year-old son. In Iraq, 46-year-old Enzweiler, a recent client of Houston attorney Gary Pitts, saw a dead Iraqi child who looked just like his boy did 13 years ago. “My psychiatrist said it’s like a marriage where there’s been infidelity,” he says in a phone interview. “The wife forgives the husband. Two years later, she sees a blond woman in a blue dress. Two years prior, the other woman looked like that. So in the mind, the two images come together, and for absolutely no reason, you become furious, and your subconscious takes over. It’s the same thing now. When I see my son, I think of that kid. I saw some horribly gruesome stuff over there.”

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Gone Fishin’ and other news

We imagine the lobbyist stalking the halls of Congress trying to use cash to influence important people. But it doesn’t always work that way. Often, the Congressman is stalking the lobbyist, asking for money. ~ NPR, Money in Politics Series

Army probes drug use by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan
Lolita C. Baldor – (The Associated Press) – WASHINGTON – April 21, 2012 –  The U.S. Army has investigated 56 soldiers in Afghanistan on suspicion of using or distributing heroin, morphine or other opiates during 2010 and 2011, newly obtained data shows. Eight soldiers died of drug overdoses during that time.

While the cases represent just a slice of possible drug use by U.S. troops in Afghanistan, they provide a sombre snapshot of the illicit trade in the war zone, including young Afghans peddling heroin, soldiers dying after mixing cocktails of opiates, troops stealing from medical bags and Afghan soldiers and police dealing drugs to their U.S. comrades.

In a country awash with poppy fields that provide up to 90 per cent of the world’s opium, the U.S. military struggles to keep an eye on its far-flung troops and monitor for substance abuse.

But U.S. Army officials say that while the presence of such readily available opium — the raw ingredient for heroin — is a concern, opiate abuse has not been a pervasive problem for troops in Afghanistan. (Click HERE for article)

Government Worker Claims Rape on the Job
Iulia Filip – (Courthouse News) – MONTGOMERY, Ala. – April 20, 2012 – The U.S. government faces federal claims that a manager in the Defense Department harassed and repeatedly raped a contract worker.

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Not in my backyard and other news

Monsanto cannot toss claims that it caused  damage to a woman’s nervous system by practicing “open pit burning” of a chemical used in “Agent Orange,” a federal judge ruled.

Lead plaintiff Mary B. Spaulding, who lived near Monsanto’s manufacturing plant in Nitro, W. Va., says she developed “peripheral neuropathy” from exposure to dioxin, one of the key ingredients in the most notorious herbicide of the Vietnam War. ~ Adam Klasfeld, Courthouse News

Missile defense system fight in Washington puts Lockheed’s Syracuse-area jobs in crosshairs
Mark Weiner – (The Post Standard) – Washington, D.C. – October 2, 2011 -  Hundreds of Central New York workers building a long-delayed missile defense system could lose their jobs if Congress proceeds with a plan to eliminate the program’s funding.

Lockheed Martin’s plant in Salina has a $625 million share of the multibillion-dollar contract to design and develop the Medium Extended Air Defense System, or MEADS.

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Scandal in Mistreatment of Silent Service Members

Scott J. Bloch – September 28, 2011 – I like representing heroes. I did it in the federal government, helping whistleblowers who were taking it on the chin for protecting us. One of the more rewarding things I had the privilege of doing in government as U.S. Special Counsel was protecting the jobs of heroes returning from National Guard or reserve duty under USERRA. Now back in private practice, I have been privileged to protect the rights of our silent service members – private contractors who work in Iraq and Afghanistan and Kuwait in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

While about 150,000 troops from America have served in Afghanistan and Iraq at any given time over the last few years, we don’t hear much about the 200,000 private contractors, about 100,000 from America, the rest from England, South Africa, Australia and other countries such as Kuwait, Iraq, India, Afghanistan, South America, Uganda and so on. There have been several thousand deaths among these contractors, and over 50,000 injuries, some catastrophic, some psychological, sometimes both.

Many of them are decorated veterans of the two current wars, Operation Desert Storm, the Bosnian conflict, or Vietnam, some with purple hearts, silver and bronze stars and other combat medals and awards. Many have been in the special forces of their countries’ armed services. They believe in helping America fight terrorists and defend freedom. They have placed their lives on the line as security personnel, carrying guns, or as combat drivers, as firefighters on bases where they are attacked, bombarded by mortar fire, shot at, and subjected to extremes of war and heat, during long work days usually seven days a week. These are not“mercenaries,” with all of the negative connotations contained in the word. They are patriots.

Many of these ordinary heroes have suffered physical and mental injuries, including having their limbs blown off, contracting brain injuries from concussion blasts of roadside bombs, or severe post traumatic stress disorder from being subjected to horrifying scenes of dismemberment, death, and threats of same every day. What has the American government done for them, and what have the insurance companies being paid billions done for these men and women?

T. Christian Miller – 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. (Click HERE for original article) (Click HERE for complaint PDF)