Injured U.S Civilian Contractors in War Zones Struggle to Receive Benefits Under Outdated Defense Base Act

  • In his books “Disposable Army: Civilian Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan,” and “Blood Money: Wasted Billions, Lost Lives and Corporate Greed in Iraq”, Christian Miller investigates the medical services available to injured civilian employees operating oversees.
  • The United States government has increasingly relied on private contractor services in Afghanistan and Iraq. Civilians risk injury and death in war zones to perform support services such as laundry, mail delivery, translation, and transportation of goods.
  • Particularly in times of economic trouble, thousands of ordinary citizens are drawn to war zone contractor work because of the opportunity to make a higher salary while supporting their country.
  • Approximately 1,700 contracted civilians have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq while another 31,000 have been injured.
  • Insurance guidelines for private contractors operating in war zones are outlined in Congress’s Defense Base Act.
  • The DBA requires every private contractor operating for the U.S government to purchase a specialized type of workers’ compensation insurance for all employees. Premiums for this specialized insurance
  • When enacted in 1940, the DBA was not intended to cover the types of war zone injuries private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan now face. The typical slip and fall injuries experienced by private contractors of the 1940’s have been replaced by injuries such as posttraumatic stress disorder, amputation, and death.
  • Because the contractor buys the policy and taxpayers pay for the total price of the contract which reflects the insurance policy, taxpayers share the burden of the outdated DBA.
  • If a contractor is injured in a combat situation, the U.S government reimburses the insurance company, effectively causing taxpayers to foot both the pricy insurance premium and hospital bill.
  • According to a governmental audit, AIG, the primary provider of war zone civilian coverage, has collected over $1.5 billion in premiums and have earned approximately $600 million in profit.
  • Because private contractors do not have a system of care similar to the healthcare received by U.S military members, emergency response in war zones is dependent on who you are and the situation.
  • Back home, many claims made by private contractors operating in war zones are denied by private insurance while other injured contractors never file claims as a result of confusion over coverage.
  • For example, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a psychological illness increasingly reported by civilian contractors. While members of the military may eventually receive counseling and care under military benefits, private insurance companies are less likely to approve costly therapy treatments for civilians.
  • Nearly 44% of claims filed by injured contracted civilians are initially denied by insurance companies while nearly half of all psychological claims are denied, often spurring lengthy court battles.
  • Many contracted employees, particularly foreign employees operating in war zones, are not aware of their insurance rights. Although taxpayers pay for their insurance, many people do not file claims and insurance companies such as AIG never pay out.
  • Contracted civilians are in a strange position. Although often well paid, these individuals provide support service for military personnel and are at risk daily. Upon returning from Iraq or Afghanistan, civilian contractors do not have veteran status and often must fight with insurance companies to receive injury benefits.
  • While studies show contracting out services in the short term often saves money, the long-term benefit of outsourcing jobs through private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan is unknown.

Sources/Additional interest:

Injured War Zone Contractors Fight to Get Care From AIG and Other Insurers

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