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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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Courtroom Battle Brewing for Guardsmen, KBR

April Baer – (OPB News) – October 8, 2012 – This week, the case pitting a small group of Oregon Guardsmen against one of the giants of military contracting gets underway in a Portland courtroom.

Soldiers assigned to patrol the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant in Iraq are suing the contractor KBR. They claim they weren’t told of contaminants at the plant, including hexavalent chromium, that put their health at risk. Some claim their health has already suffered.

Have the soldiers developed health problems?

A: Yes. One Oregon soldier stationed at Qarmat Ali, Sgt. Nicholas Thomas, died of complications from leukemia at age 21. One of the Oregon plaintiffs, Larry Roberta, has been weakened by a variety of debilitating respiratory and digestive problems. Others have complained of symptoms including nosebleeds, rashes, lung problems and immune system disorders. And an Indiana National Guard commander stationed at Qarmat Ali, Lt. Col. James Gentry, died of lung cancer.   (Setting up the case of Bixby, et al. vs. KBR – The Oregonian)

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Judge to Seal Filings in KBR False Claims Suit

Rose Bouboushian – (Courthouse News) – December 9, 2011 – Halliburton and KBR can redact portions of their motion to dismiss claims that they knowingly billed the United States for fictitious services, a federal judge ruled.

The whistle-blower, Benjamin Carter, worked as a reverse osmosis water purification unit (ROWPU) operator for Halliburton’s former subsidiary KBR in Iraq from January 2005 to April 2005.

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Firefighters Say They Were Stiffed in Iraq

Ryan Abbott – (Courthouse News) – WASHINGTON – December 8, 2011 – In a federal class action, 28 firefighters say Wackenhut, KBR and Halliburton forced them to work around the clock in Afghanistan and Iraq but paid them for only half their time, and responded to requests for fair pay with “shorthand threats to fire” them, such as “‘chicken or beef,’ which referred to the dining choices one had on the flight home from Iraq.”
The firefighters sued the contractors for fraud, conspiracy and breach of contract.
“This complaint alleges actions and omissions of defendants, in conspiracy with each other, and individually, done to defeat the right of American citizens to receive their lawful wages required by government contracts – including in-country pay, danger pay, on-call pay, up-lift pay, overtime, and other benefits and compensation,” the complaint states.
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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)