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Archive for December, 2010

One Year ago Today: The Khost Suicide Bombing – December 30, 2009

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on December 30, 2010

A year ago today one of the most defining incidents of the upcoming year at war in Afghanistan occurred.  

Civilian Contractors and the  CIA working side by side were killed when a double agent set off a suicide vest  in Khost, Afghanistan.

Thank you for your service

Our Thoughts are with your families today

Jeremy Wise

Former Navy Seal  working for Blackwater

Dane Clark Paresi

Former Special Forces working for  Blackwater.

Harold Brown Jr.

Former Army Officer who specialed in Intelligence and had served as a contractor for military intelligence

and

Scott Michael Roberson

Former Detective with the Atlanta Police Department had served as a private security contractor

had recently become CIA Officers.

More on the Khost Suicide Bombing here

Posted in Afghanistan, Blackwater, CIA, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties and Missing, State Department | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

PTSD Tragedy in Sante Fe: Veteran Diego Gonzales wanted help

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on December 30, 2010

27-year-old veteran suffering PTSD may have fired fatal bullet himself

Diego Gonzales wanted help.

It didn’t come in time for the 27-year-old Pecos High School graduate, who was suffering post-traumatic stress disorder after two tours of duty in Iraq and another in Afghanistan as a U.S. Marine Corps sniper. He died late Tuesday in a shootout with police on Interstate 25 south of Santa Fe.

It’s still unclear whether the fatal shot came from state police or from Gonzales’ own gun. That won’t be determined until an autopsy is completed by the state Office of the Medical Investigator in Albuquerque.

“He was owning up to the fact that he had problems he knew he had to fix to be the best dad he could be,” said Lawrence Lujan, a childhood friend who spoke on behalf of the Gonzales family. “He did his thing in Iraq, served this country, and did so honorably. God only knows what he saw. But he was affected deeply, and he was seeking treatment for PTSD.”

According to New Mexico State Police and Gonzales family accounts, after an argument about 10:45 p.m. Tuesday, Gonzales took his 26-year-old wife, Ashley Varela-Gonzales, who is nine months’ pregnant with the couple’s second child, and their 2-year-old son, Diego Jr., from a home in Pecos.

State Police Officer Bryan Waller, who has been with the department for two and a half years, responded to what was called in as a kidnapping. Waller tried pulling over Gonzales’ large, black Ford F-350 pickup as it headed down Interstate 25 toward Albuquerque, where Gonzales worked for the Transportation Security Administration at the Albuquerque International Sunport.

Gonzales pulled over at the southbound Cerrillos Road exit.

“That is when he stopped his truck and began firing at one of our officers with a pistol,” Lt. Eric Garcia said. “Our officer returned fire with his duty weapon (an AR-15 rifle). Both vehicles were hit, and it is unclear whether (Gonzales) was hit in the exchange before he turned his gun on himself.”

Garcia said after the gunfire stopped, Varela-Gonzales ran from the truck and said her husband had shot himself.

Please read the entire story here at the Sante Fe New Mexican

 

Posted in Afghanistan, Iraq, Melt Down, PTSD and TBI, Veterans Affairs | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Sgt Bill McKenna dies from Burn Pit Exposure

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on December 29, 2010

Earlier this year, after a News Channel 8-Tribune investigation, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs ruled McKenna’s cancer was directly related to the burn pits and awarded him 100 percent service-connected disability.

Soldier dies from exposure to burn pit fires

Sgt Bill McKenna Obituary and Guestbook

Army sergeant’s widow wants military to pay burial expenses

by Howard Altman at The Tampa Tribune

If Army Sgt. Bill McKenna had died in Iraq during his two tours of duty, his widow would have had no trouble fulfilling the Spring Hill resident’s wish to be buried in New York, where the couple were born and met.

The U.S. military offers a $100,000 tax-free death gratuity to meet the immediate needs of survivors and up to an additional $8,800 in burial benefits.

But McKenna was not killed by the enemy. And he did not die in Iraq.

The 41-year-old died at 10:50 p.m. Tuesday at the HPH Hospice in Spring Hill as the result of cancer he contracted from constant exposure to the thick, acrid smoke that wafted almost every hour of every day across Balad Air Base in Iraq, where McKenna was stationed for about 18 months.

In bases across Afghanistan and Iraq, amputated body parts, Humvee parts, human waste, plastic meal trays and other garbage are incinerated, using jet fuel, in large trenches called burn pits.

Earlier this year, after a News Channel 8-Tribune investigation, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs ruled McKenna’s cancer was directly related to the burn pits and awarded him 100 percent service-connected disability.

But because he died after he was discharged from the Army as the result of traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder he suffered after a mortar blast blew his helmet off, Dina McKenna will not get the military’s active-duty death benefits. Instead, she is entitled only to $2,000 allocated for the burial of veterans.

Please read the entire story here

Posted in Burn Pits, Iraq, PTSD and TBI, Toxic Exposures, Veterans Affairs | Tagged: , , , , , | 25 Comments »

Danny Fitzsimons, ArmorGroup, Murder Trial Updates

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on December 29, 2010

Danny Fitzsimons was hired by ArmorGroup to carry a gun despite having been diagnosed with PTSD, being in trouble with the law, and posting on Facebook about “The War Inside His Head”. ArmorGroup should be on trial here too.

SINAN SALAHEDDIN  AP at SFGate

The trial of a British security contractor charged with killing two of his colleagues last year opened Wednesday in Baghdad with testimony from a guard who said the contractor shot him.

Danny Fitzsimons, who attended the hearing, is the first Western contractor on trial in an Iraqi court since a 2009 U.S.-Iraqi security agreement lifted immunity for foreign contractors.

Iraq pressed hard for foreign contractors to be accountable for their actions after armed contractors employed by the North Carolina-based Blackwater Worldwide, now known as Xe, opened fire at a Baghdad intersection in September 2007, killing 17 civilians.

Fitzsimons is charged with two counts of premeditated murder in the deaths of two contractors, a British and an Australian, during an argument last year inside Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone. He is also charged with an attempted murder of an Iraqi guard working for a British security firm.

Fitzsimons could receive the death penalty if convicted.

The trial opened with a testimony of the Iraqi guard who claims Fitzsimons shot him in the leg.

Arkan Mahdi Saleh, an Iraqi guard at the security firm ArmorGroup that also employed the defendant and the two slain men, told a three-judge panel that he saw Fitzsimons with a pistol before he was shot.

“I was standing at a guard post when I heard some movements behind me,” said the 33-year old Saleh. “When I turned back to check, I saw Fitzsimons with a pistol in his hand and aiming at me,” Saleh, identifying the defendant as the man who shot him.

Two other witnesses took the stand on Wednesday, confirming much of Saleh’s account of the shooting. One said he saw Saleh lying wounded on the ground.

Fitzsimons appeared in court clean shaven, wearing a beige shirt, jeans and sneakers. He stood behind a wooden fence with two security guards closely watching him.

After hearing the eyewitness testify, the defendant asked a judge for permission to speak. The request was refused.

“I got a lot to say,” Fitzsimons told his lawyer, Tariq Harb, after the court adjourned and the guards were handcuffing him for the trip to prison.

One of the judges, presiding over the 45-minute hearing, read written testimonies of three foreign security contractors who have left Iraq since the fatal incident.

None of the three testified to witnessing Fitzsimons shoot his two colleagues and the Iraqi guard. They wrote in their statement they saw the group of three foreign contractors drinking and quarreling inside one of the caravans where they lived.  Please see the original here

From the Huffington PostMurder Trial for British Contractor Opens in Iraq

BAGHDAD — The trial of a British security contractor charged with killing two of his colleagues in Iraq last year has opened in Baghdad.

Danny Fitzsimons is the first Westerner to go on trial in an Iraqi court since a 2009 U.S.-Iraqi security agreement lifted immunity for foreign contractors. Fitzsimons attended Wednesday’s hearing.

He has been charged with shooting and killing two contractors – a British and an Australian national – during a June 2009 argument inside Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone and then wounding an Iraqi while fleeing.

All three men were working for the British security firm ArmorGroup Iraq.

The trail was adjourned until Jan. 23.

See Also at the Burnley Express

The trial of a security contractor from Manchester charged with killing two of his colleagues in Iraq last year has opened in Baghdad.

Danny Fitzsimons, from Middleton, Manchester, is the first Westerner to go on trial in an Iraqi court since a 2009 US-Iraqi security agreement lifted immunity for foreign contractors.

He was at Wednesday’s hearing which adjourned the trial until January 23.

He has been charged with shooting and killing two contractors — a British and an Australian — during an argument inside Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone in June last year and then wounding an Iraqi while fleeing.

All three men were working for the British security firm ArmorGroup Iraq.

Posted in Armorgroup, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Exclusive Remedy, G4S, Iraq, Melt Down, PTSD and TBI | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Winlom Woods, Injured Contractor with Traumatic Brain Injury gets help

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on December 28, 2010

Acres of Hope is Lisa Alberte’s effort to restore life after brain injuries

Lisa Alberte and Winlom Woods take a walk at Acres of Hope and Aspirations, a home and farm in Muskego that helps people with brain injuries and children with special needs, which is owned and operated by Alberte. Woods suffered a brain injury when he was shot in the head in Iraq; the bullet remains lodged in his brain.

by Mike Johnson of the Journal Sentinal

Muskego - A nearly 5-acre compound nestled in a rural area of Muskego is a beacon of hope for people living with brain injuries.

Nurse Lisa K. Alberte started Acres of Hope and Aspirations in May after years of working with those who suffered brain injuries and seeing the toll the injuries took on them.

Some have lost their ability to work. Some have seen their marriages end in divorce. Some can no longer drive.

“I listened to my patients cry. I listened to my patients lose everything,” Alberte said.

She thought: “There needs to be more out there. Be the change you want to see in the world.”

So she plowed her heart into Acres of Hope, a home and mini-farm where she and others provide care, vocational rehabilitation, cognitive skills training and safety training to those living with brain injuries. The organization also helps children with special needs.

Alberte and Acres of Hope also are helping Winlom Woods, 36, of Milwaukee, who was shot in the head July 15, 2006, by a sniper in Iraq while working for a defense contractor.

Woods, who served in the Army National Guard, starts telling what he was doing before he got shot, but he momentarily can’t recall the specifics. He snaps his fingers several times and remembers.

“I was riding in the bobtail (truck). I was the person who rescued people if something happened to them.

“I can’t remember what happened, but I know I got shot. I got shot in the right ear and it got lodged in the middle of my brain,” Woods said.

The bullet is still there.

Alberte, who won a nurse of the year award in 2008, has been working with Woods for some time now.

“I’ve stood by him when most people have given up. I helped put his life back together. Helped him get a relationship back with his children because he didn’t have that for almost two years after being shot. Helped set him up with 24-hour supervision – supportive living,” she said.

“We try to go out and have fun in the summer. We’ve taken him on a boat ride and some convertible rides. He deserves to have the best quality of life possible. We’ve gone to the zoo, the library, movies. We do a lot of different community integration so he can feel like a whole person again.”

The above are excerpts from this excellent story.  Please read the entire story here

Posted in Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Injured Contractors, Iraq, PTSD and TBI | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Kevin Davis, DynCorp, Killed in Christmas Day Attack at Kandahar

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on December 27, 2010

From MsSparky

DynCorp International LOGCAP Team Member Killed in Rocket Attack

December 27, 2010 – We are deeply saddened to report that LOGCAP team member died from injuries sustained during a rocket attack in , , on December 25.

Kevin, 40, of Missouri City, Texas, joined DI on September 30, 2010, to support the U.S. Army Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) contract.

DI CEO Steve Gaffney acknowledged Kevin’s dedication to the mission and expressed condolences on the tragic loss saying, “Kevin lived and worked in a warzone to help support our troops – that kind of selfless courage is remarkable but too often goes unrecognized until the unthinkable happens. Kevin’s service to our military was heroic and our thoughts and prayers are with his friends and family during this difficult time.”

The DI family extends deepest condolences to all of Kevin’s loved ones and to the entire LOGCAP team.

See the original at MsSparky

Posted in Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Dyncorp | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

German National, Aid Worker, Killed in Attack in Afghanistan

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on December 27, 2010


A German national has died of his wounds in a hospital in Afghanistan’s northern Balkh Province as Taliban step up their attacks against foreign troops in the country.

Local police officials say the aid worker was on his way from Khulm district to the city of Mazar-i-Sharif when gunmen attacked his vehicle.

He was taken to a military hospital in the German army base.

“Yesterday at around 4:30 p.m. (1200 GMT), two unknown armed motorcyclists shot a German national as he was on his way from Khulm district (Balkh Province) to the city of Mazar-i-Sharif,” AFP quoted Balkh deputy police chief Abdul Rauof Taj as saying.

“He was taken to a German-run hospital in Mazar city by police. We have been informed that he died in the hospital today,” the police official added.

The attackers also injured his local translator who was travelling with him.

Foreign and local aid workers have been increasingly targeted by the Taliban this year. Taliban militants have claimed responsibility for the killing.   Please see the entire story here

Posted in Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties and Missing | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Rufford “Hobby Hobson”, EOD Contractor, remains likely found

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on December 22, 2010

Hobby’s Obituary

Update:  The remains have been positively identified and a funeral set for January 29 in Pikesville Kentucky.  The investigation continues.  Will update with further details.

Hobby Hobson went missing under suspicious circumstances not long after his employment was terminated by Ronco Consulting.  More details soon.

Men find bones in Hickory Creek

Debbie Bass was cleaning out a closet Monday morning when she came across an old answering machine. She plugged it in and heard the voice of her father, Rufford Hobson, leaving a cheerful message for her in 2006.

It brought back the love she felt for him and the sadness she felt because he has been missing since April 2007.

“Since my mom died in 2008, I’ve been begging and praying that she would send me a sign of him,” Bass said Monday from her home in Florida. “Not two minutes after I heard his voice on that telephone message, I got the phone call: They think they found his bones.”

Hobson was last seen walking away from a woman’s house in Hickory Creek where he had been living. The woman waited three weeks to report him missing, and police did not consider him a missing person even then. Bass said detectives told her that he had the right to leave without telling anyone and there was no sign that anything had happened to him.

She contacted the Denton County Sheriff’s Office, and her 75-year-old father was listed as a missing person and an investigation begun. Hickory Creek police eventually began investigating but soon closed the case.

Hickory Creek police Sgt. Bobby Starnes confirmed Monday that two men found some bones at about 5 p.m. Sunday in a heavily wooded area off Point Vista Road in Hickory Creek Park. Starnes said that out of respect for the family, he would not discuss whether the bones might be Hobson’s or whether any other evidence was found with the bones. He would not discuss the distance between the house where the 45-year-old woman last saw Hobson and the place where the bones were found.

“We don’t want to make any assumptions, but we’re looking into it,” Starnes said.

Troy Taylor, chief investigator for the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Denton office, said Monday that his office is investigating the death as a homicide until it determines that it is not. He said the bones were in tattered clothing that matches the description of clothing Hobson wore the last time he was seen.

Taylor said one of the leg bones contains a metal pin, which matches information about Hobson. The skull was missing, he said, but a denture plate was found nearby.

“We already have DNA from his daughter, so we hope to be able to get a match and positive identification in five to seven business days,” Taylor said.

Chris Meegan, 26, and a friend were hiking in the park Sunday when they saw the bones. His mother lives nearby, Meegan said, and he has hiked in the park often.

“My friend picked up a bone and said he found a cow leg,” Meegan said. “I said, ‘Dude, that is not a cow leg.’ And he said, ‘yes it is.’ I said, ‘Cows don’t have pins in their legs.’ He was wearing dark pants and boots, there was a backpack and a camo coat or jacket over him. He had a single-shot shotgun with him.”

Meegan said they called 911 and waited for police to arrive. Meanwhile, they called a friend who began to research missing persons websites and found Hobson on a national missing persons list.

They read newspaper stories about Bass’ frustration with Hickory Creek officers’ refusal to investigate the case because they saw no indication that anything was wrong.

“We looked it up on the Internet, and it isn’t even 200 yards from that house,” Meegan said. “It’s got to be him. I hope this gives her some kind of closure.”

Hobson was a career military man who specialized in bomb disposal, his daughter said.

He traveled extensively, and they communicated mostly by e-mail. He had not been getting much work because of his age, Bass said, and he and the woman he was living with were having some difficulties. He had only one kidney and told her the other one was giving him trouble. She thought he was depressed.

He called her April 20, asking for her address, she said. She asked him what he was doing, and he said he was working on a project. The woman he was living with called Bass about an hour later.

“She said she saw him walking away from the house with a backpack an hour earlier and she wanted to know had I heard from him,” Bass said. “I hadn’t, and no one else has since then.”

The woman waited about three weeks, thinking Hobson would come back, before reporting him missing to Hickory Creek police. Officers told her that he did not qualify to be put into the national law enforcement database of missing persons.

A few days after he disappeared, a package arrived in the mail, Bass said. It contained all her father’s military medals and some family pictures. His military pension and a disability check continued to be automatically deposited to his account. The woman he was living with had a debit card and was withdrawing money, Bass said.

Bass could not get the checks stopped because her father was not legally dead, and she could not get him declared legally dead because police would not declare him missing. It was a frustrating time, she said.

Bass said she is confident that the bones are her father’s and she is grateful to everyone who helped.

“This will close it,” she said. “I’ve prayed and prayed.  I’m sad, but I’m happy at the same time.”

Please see the original article here

Posted in Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Follow the Money, Misjudgements | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Pentagon Health Plan Won’t Cover Brain-Damage Therapy for Troops

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on December 20, 2010

By T Christian Miller Propublica and Daniel Zwedling NPR

Versions of this story were co-published with NPR [1] and Stars and Stripes [2]. For more coverage, listen to NPR’s All Things Considered [3] starting today at 4 p.m.

Sarah Wade, 36, and her husband, Ted Wade, 33, are seen in front of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 18, 2010. Ted suffered a traumatic brain injury, along with multiple other injuries, while riding in a Humvee in Iraq in 2004. Although Ted gets health insurance through the Defense Department, Sarah says "it doesn't cover what it needs to" and that he needs "more options, and less bureaucracy." The Wades live in Chapel Hill, N.C., but regularly travel to Washington for medical appointments and meetings. (Coburn Dukehart/NPR)

During the past few decades, scientists have become increasingly persuaded that people who suffer brain injuries benefit from what is called cognitive rehabilitation therapy — a lengthy, painstaking process in which patients relearn basic life tasks such as counting, cooking or remembering directions to get home.

Many neurologists, several major insurance companies and even some medical facilities run by the Pentagon agree that the therapy can help people whose functioning has been diminished by blows to the head.

But despite pressure from Congress and the recommendations of military and civilian experts, the Pentagon’s health plan for troops and many veterans refuses to cover the treatment — a decision that could affect the tens of thousands of service members who have suffered brain damage while fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Tricare, an insurance-style program covering nearly 4 million active-duty military and retirees, says the scientific evidence does not justify providing comprehensive cognitive rehabilitation. Tricare officials say an assessment of the available research [4] that they commissioned last year shows that the therapy is not well proven.

But an investigation by NPR and ProPublica found that internal and external reviewers of the Tricare-funded assessment criticized it as fundamentally misguided. Confidential documents obtained by NPR and ProPublica show that reviewers called the Tricare study “deeply flawed,” “unacceptable” and “dismaying.” One top scientist called the assessment a “misuse” of science designed to deny treatment for service members.

Tricare’s stance is also at odds with some medical groups, years of research and even other branches of the Pentagon. Last year, a panel of 50 civilian and military brain specialists convened by the Pentagon unanimously concluded that cognitive therapy was an effective treatment that would help many brain-damaged troops. More than a decade ago, a similar panel convened by the National Institutes of Health reached a similar consensus. Several peer-reviewed studies in the past few years have also endorsed cognitive therapy as a treatment for brain injury.

Tricare officials said their decisions are based on regulations requiring scientific proof of the efficacy and quality of treatment. But our investigation found that Tricare officials have worried in private meetings about the high cost of cognitive rehabilitation, which can cost $15,000 to $50,000 per soldier.

With so many troops and veterans suffering long-term symptoms from head injuries, treatment costs could quickly soar into the hundreds of millions, or even billions of dollars — a crippling burden to the military’s already overtaxed medical system.

The battle over science and money has made it difficult for wounded troops to get a treatment recommended by many doctors for one of the wars’ signature injuries, according to the NPR and ProPublica investigation. The six-month investigation was based on scores of interviews with military and civilian doctors and researchers, troops and their families, visits to treatment centers across the country, confidential scientific reviews and documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

“I’m horrified,” said James Malec, research director at the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana and one of the reviewers of the Tricare study. “I think it’s appalling that we’re not knocking ourselves out to do the very best” for troops and veterans.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has complained over the past year about the growing cost of the Pentagon’s health care budget, declined a request for an interview. George Peach Taylor, the newly appointed acting assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, the top ranking Pentagon health official, also declined repeated interview requests. Tricare officials defended the agency’s decision not to cover cognitive rehabilitative therapy and said it was not linked to budget concerns.

Capt. Robert DeMartino, a U.S. Public Health Service official who directs Tricare’s behavioral health department, said Tricare is mandated to ensure the quality, consistency and safety of medical care delivered to service members.

He said those standards can be difficult to meet with cognitive rehabilitation. Therapists design highly individualized treatment plans, often relying on a variety of different techniques. The holistic approach and lack of standardization makes it hard to measure the effects of the therapy, he added.

DeMartino noted that the agency covers some types of treatment considered part of cognitive rehabilitative therapy. For instance, Tricare will pay for speech and occupational therapy, which can play a role in cognitive rehabilitation.

DeMartino said cost played no role in the agency’s decision, calling such a suggestion “completely wrong.” He defended the agency’s studies of cognitive rehabilitation, calling them objective scientific reviews designed to ensure troops and retirees receive the best treatment possible.

Cognitive rehabilitation therapy “is a new field for us,” DeMartino said. “We don’t know what it is. That’s really an important thing. You don’t want to send people out when you don’t know what treatment they’re going to get and what the services are going to be.”

Officials at the Pentagon are themselves divided on the value of the treatment. A handful of military and veteran facilities provide cognitive rehabilitation therapy, though most do not have the capacity or offer programs of limited scope.

Tricare was designed to fill in such gaps in the military health system by allowing troops and veterans access to civilian medical providers. But since Tricare has a policy against covering cognitive rehabilitation, service members and retirees who seek treatment at one of the nation’s hundred of civilian rehabilitation centers could have their claims denied, or only partly paid.

The contradictory policies have resulted in unequal care. Some troops and their families have relied upon high level contacts or fought lengthy bureaucratic battles to gain access to civilian cognitive rehabilitation programs which provide up to 30 hours of therapy a week. Soldiers without strong advocates have been turned away from such programs, or never sought care, due to Tricare’s policy of refusing to cover cognitive rehabilitation therapy.

As a result, many soldiers, Marines and sailors with brain injuries wind up in understaffed and underfunded military programs providing only a few hours of therapy a week focused on restoring cognitive deficits.

Sarah Wade’s husband, Ted, was a sergeant with the 82nd Airborne Division when a roadside bomb tore through his Humvee in February 2004. The blast severed his right arm above the elbow, shattered his body and left him with severe brain damage.

After the military medically retired her husband later that year, Wade struggled to find appropriate care for him. The closest VA hospital set up to handle such complex injuries was in Richmond, Va., a 320-mile drive from their home in North Carolina.

Tricare, however, would not pay for cognitive rehabilitation at a nearby civilian program. Wade, who once worked as an intern on Capitol Hill, turned herself into a one-woman lobbyist on her husband’s behalf. She called her representatives and met with senior VA and DOD officials. She testified before Congress [5], met President George W. Bush and Gates, and was recently invited to the White House by President Barack Obama for a bill signing ceremony [6].

Wade managed to set up a special contract between the VA and a local rehabilitation doctor to help her husband. But now she wants to move back to Washington, D.C., to be closer to family.

She must begin her fight all over again — more phone calls to Tricare, more visits to government offices, more battles to get Ted Wade the care he needs.

“We go to Capitol Hill like some people go to the grocery store,” Wade joked one afternoon during a recent visit to Washington. “If we can’t figure it out, then probably nobody can.”

Brain Campaign

The campaign to persuade Tricare to cover cognitive rehabilitation therapy began in earnest after the scandal at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington in 2007. News reports [7] featured brain-damaged soldiers living in squalid conditions and receiving substandard care.

The Brain Injury Association of America, a grassroots advocacy group for head trauma victims, started lobbying Congress and the Defense Department to order Tricare to cover rehabilitation for service members.

The campaign was a natural extension of the association’s mission. Each year, more than 1.4 million American civilians suffer brain injuries in car accidents, strokes and other medical emergencies. They and their families often have to battle private insurance companies for cognitive rehabilitation.

The insurance industry is divided: Five of 12 major carriers will pay for cognitive rehabilitation therapy for head trauma, according to Tricare’s study. Aetna, United Healthcare and Humana cite national evidence-based studies and industry-recognized clinical recommendations that point to the therapy’s benefits.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services does not have a single national policy on cognitive rehabilitation. Instead, it leaves decisions to local contractors, often insurance carriers who process claims for the agency. The contractors are able to provide the therapy case by case, so long as they determine the treatment is “reasonable and necessary,” a Medicare spokesman said.

“The totality of the evidence appears to support the value of cognitive rehabilitation for people with traumatic brain injury in improving their function,” said Robert McDonough, the head of clinical policy at Aetna. “We feel on balance the evidence leads us to conclude that cognitive rehabilitation is effective.”

Carriers and doctors providing the service can point to a long list of medical associations and scientific studies backing the effectiveness of cognitive therapy: The National Institutes of Health; the National Academy of Neuropsychology and the British Society of Rehabilitation Medicine, among others, have weighed in supporting the treatment.

Armed with such evidence, brain injury association lobbyists did not have much trouble finding support in Congress. By 2008, more than 70 House [8] and Senate members [9] had signed letters to Gates asking him to support funding for cognitive rehabilitation therapy. Then-Sen. Obama led a group of 10 senators urging Tricare to pay for therapy.

They noted that the Pentagon and the VA have improved their efforts to treat brain injury, including increases in the number of doctors and therapists available at facilities.

But the military needed to do more, they said. They wrote that Tricare should cover cognitive rehabilitation so all troops “can benefit from the best brain injury care this country has to offer.”

“Given the prevalence of TBI among returning service personnel, it is difficult to comprehend why the military’s managed healthcare plan does not cover the very therapies that give our soldiers the best opportunities to recover and live full and productive lives,” the letter said [10].

A response letter [11] from the Pentagon told the representatives that Tricare officials had not been convinced by available evidence. “The rigor of the research … has not yet met the required standard,” wrote Gordon England, then the deputy defense secretary.

Everyone Agrees

On an unusually hot spring day in April 2009, 50 of America’s leading brain specialists gathered for two days in a sterile hotel ballroom in suburban Washington, D.C.

The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, the Pentagon’s lead program for the treatment of brain injury, convened the conference to help settle the debate about cognitive rehabilitation therapy.

The participants were top researchers and doctors from the military and civilian world: neurologists, neuropsychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, family doctors and rehabilitation experts.

After two days of discussion, the group hammered out a consensus report [12], representing the combined wisdom of the field. Their unanimous conclusion: Cognitive therapy improved the thinking skills and quality of life for people suffering from severe and moderate head injuries. Troops with lingering problems from a mild traumatic brain injury, or concussion, also could benefit from the therapy, the experts said.

The consensus was not binding. But those in attendance believed that their opinion — based on the decades of combined clinical experience and academic study present in the room — would lead to troops’ receiving better treatment.

“When you get the right people in the right room at the right time, you’d expect it would influence the decision makers,” said Maria Mouratidis, chairwoman of psychology and sociology at the College of Notre Dame in Baltimore and a conference participant.

Shortly after the conference ended, however, a handful of top officials from the military’s medical system met to discuss the findings at Tricare’s headquarters, an anonymous sprawl of office buildings in Falls Church, Va., known as Skyline 5.

One person familiar with the discussion, who did not want to be identified for fear of reprisal, said money was part of the debate.

Official Pentagon figures show that 188,000 service members have suffered brain injuries since 2000. Of those, 44,000 suffered moderate or severe head injuries. Another 144,000 had mild traumatic brain injuries. However, previous ProPublica and NPR reports [13] showed that number likely understates the true toll by tens of thousands of troops. Some estimates put the number of brain injuries at 400,000 service members.

Mild traumatic brain injuries are the most common head trauma in Iraq and Afghanistan. Commonly caused by blast waves from roadside bombs, such injuries are defined as a blow to the head resulting in an alteration or loss of consciousness of less than 30 minutes. Studies suggest that while most troops with concussions heal quickly, some 5 percent to 15 percent go on to suffer lasting difficulties in memory, concentration and multitasking.

For the military’s health system, the costs of treating brain damaged soldiers with cognitive rehabilitative therapy added up quickly. If tens of thousands of service members and veterans were authorized to receive such treatment, the bill might be in the billions, using high-end estimates for the cost of treatment from the Brain Injury Association [14].

The costs could swell the Pentagon’s annual $50 billion health budget — at a time when Gates has said the military is being “eaten alive” by skyrocketing medical bills.

Tricare “is basically an insurance company. They’ll take no action to provide more service,” said the person familiar with the conversation, who would only discuss it in general terms. “If they do it, it’s an enormous cost.”

At the meeting following the consensus conference, the person said, Tricare staked out its own position: “They had already decided not to do it,” the person said.

NPR and ProPublica contacted two others who attended the meeting. Jack Smith, Tricare’s acting chief medical officer, said through a spokesman that he could not recall the meeting, but “can’t say for sure there wasn’t one.” Rear Adm. David J. Smith, the joint staff surgeon, declined comment through a spokesman.

The Contract

Soon after the meeting, Tricare sprang into action. In May 2009, records show, it issued a $21,000 contract to the ECRI Institute, a respected nonprofit research center best known for evaluating the safety of medical devices.

The contract called for ECRI to review the available scientific literature to weigh the evidence for whether cognitive rehabilitation therapy helped improve patients with traumatic brain injuries.

Tricare routinely hires contractors to carry out assessments to help determine which medical treatments to fund. But in selecting ECRI, Tricare had a pretty good idea of the response it would receive. ECRI had conducted a similar review for Tricare in 2007 [15] that cast doubts on the evidence supporting cognitive rehabilitation therapy.

To carry out the new review, ECRI followed its standard protocol. It chose to include only randomized, controlled studies. Such studies randomly divide patients into groups that receive different treatments in order to compare their effects.

ECRI gave more credence to blind studies, meaning that patients did not know whether they were receiving genuine therapy or a placebo — a fake treatment. Blinding reduces bias and is considered one of the most rigorous standards that can be used in scientific testing.

ECRI also excluded studies deemed irrelevant; those studies with fewer than 10 patients; and studies where 15 percent or more of the patients were injured from a nontraumatic blow, such as stroke.

The criteria resulted in the elimination of much of the published scientific literature on cognitive rehabilitative therapy. Before applying the protocol, ECRI identified 318 articles as potential sources of information about cognitive rehabilitative therapy. The firm’s final report examined 18.

Based on this limited pool, ECRI graded the evidence for the benefits of cognitive therapy as being “inconclusive” or offering only “low” or “moderate” support of improvement in patients’ cognitive functions.

The final report [4], delivered to Tricare in October 2009, noted some areas of benefit. For instance, “tentative” evidence showed cognitive therapy significantly improved quality of life for brain-damaged patients.

ECRI’s review wasn’t limited only to science. The review noted one study that found that comprehensive cognitive rehabilitative therapy could cost as much as $51,480 per patient. By contrast, sending patients home from the hospital to get a weekly phone call from a therapist amounted to only $504 per patient.

Overall, the report concluded, the evidence for most benefits from cognitive rehabilitation therapy remained inconclusive, especially when compared to cheaper programs.

“The evidence is insufficient to determine if comprehensive, holistic (cognitive rehabilitation therapy) is more effective than less intensive care” in helping patients, the 2009 report concluded [16].

Tricare Criticized

By the summer 2009, ECRI researchers had finished a draft of the study. ECRI, later joined by Tricare, asked outside scientific experts to review it.

The reviews, according to interviews and copies obtained by NPR and ProPublica, were uniformly critical.

(NPR and ProPublica obtained a copy of the ECRI reports through the Freedom of Information Act [17]. However, Tricare denied access to reviews of the reports. ProPublica and NPR have appealed the request, but obtained copies of the reports and information on the reports from sources.)

The reviewers acknowledged that more research was needed on cognitive rehabilitation therapy. However, they noted that the Tricare report ran counter to several other so-called meta-analyses, which combine multiple, individual scientific studies to achieve greater statistical reliability.

For instance, a 2005 article in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, a peer-reviewed journal that is one of the mostly widely respected in the field, examined 258 studies. It concluded that “substantial evidence” supported cognitive rehabilitation. The review included 46 randomized control studies — more than double the number in the Tricare study.

Reviewer Keith Cicerone [18], a leading civilian researcher who runs the JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute’s Center for Head Injuries in New Jersey, disputed Tricare’s contention that the treatment was new and untested.

“We have a significant body of evidence describing cognitive rehabilitation and showing what works in cognitive rehabilitation,” Cicerone said. “The idea that cognitive rehabilitation is new and untested is simply not true. It’s got a better evidence base than most things that we do in rehabilitation.”

Asked to explain in plain terms, Cicerone grew animated: “The arguments that are being made against” cognitive rehabilitation “in terms of the level of research that has been conducted are hooey,” he said. “It is baloney.”

The outside experts also attacked Tricare and ECRI for relying upon a methodology that ruled out important research. ECRI’s protocols, they acknowledged, are well-suited for drug studies, where it is easy to prevent patients from knowing which pill they are receiving.

But ECRI’s protocols do a poor job in assessing rehabilitation therapy where patients and doctors constantly interact in face-to-face treatment sessions. Other well-accepted methodologies, they said, have been designed to examine the benefits of therapeutic interventions.

They also questioned the reasons for excluding studies with a small number of patients, or with differing causes for brain injury, since a stroke can produce the same types of symptoms as a blow to the head.

Malec, the research director at the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana, said Tricare’s study sounded like it came from a private insurance company seeking to cut costs. His review [19] said that Tricare’s study “fails to represent the evidence relevant to evaluating the effectiveness of cognitive rehabilitation after traumatic brain injury.”

In an interview, he said Tricare’s demand for conclusive evidence was understandable, but ill-advised. While research continues, existing evidence indicates that the therapy helps, with no studies showing that it harms troops.

“They missed the forest for the trees. They missed the big picture,” he said.

Some of the researchers accused Tricare of using ECRI’s strict assessment protocols as a cover to justify denying troops’ coverage.

Wayne Gordon, director of rehabilitation psychology and neuropsychology services at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York, called the review “dismaying” and “unacceptable.” He compared it to tobacco companies that dismissed studies that showed a link between smoking and cancer.

“The ECRI Institute seems to be stating that, while sufficient evidence exists for there to be consensus among diverse groups that cognitive rehabilitation is a useful service, this evidence is ‘not good enough’ for Tricare,” wrote Gordon, who declined to explain his comments further in an interview. He wrote that the ECRI study was “designed to reach a negative conclusion.”

ECRI also asked two additional researchers to examine the report, John Corrigan, director of the Ohio Valley Center for Brain Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation in Columbus, and John Whyte, the director of Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute in Pennsylvania, both leading researchers in the field.

Both men declined to comment, citing their contractual obligations with ECRI, and Tricare declined to release their reviews. People familiar with their contents said Corrigan and Whyte closely mirrored the views of their fellow critics. They recommended that ECRI use a different method to judge studies of cognitive therapy, but the institute refused.

ECRI “said thank you very much, but we’re not changing anything,” said one person familiar with the review process.

More Studies, More Waiting

In an interview, ECRI Institute officials defended their firm’s methodology. The system is designed to provide a rigorous review free from researchers’ bias, they said.

Karen Schoelles, ECRI’s medical director for the health technology assessment group, acknowledged that some of the institute’s criteria — such as accepting only studies with 10 or more patients — were “arbitrary.” But she said they were widely accepted in the assessment industry.

She also noted that Tricare officials were aware of the criteria and made no attempt to change or adjust them. Tricare used ECRI Institute for almost 10 years to carry out health reviews, though the agency recently terminated the contract and selected a new firm to carry out assessments.

Cognitive rehabilitation “may be on to something,” Schoelles said. “But it needs more research.”

Schoelles acknowledged that ECRI’s own reviewers had criticized the report. ECRI offered to provide copies of the reviews, but later said that Tricare ordered them not to release them.

Stacey Uhl, the lead researcher on the review, said the criticism did not change her view that randomized controlled trials were the best way to assess the quality of evidence.

She noted the review found evidence that cognitive therapy did help in some way and said she would not rule out seeking such care for a loved one.

“I as a parent would want my child to receive all available therapies,” she said.

DeMartino, the Tricare official who commissioned the report, acknowledged the outside reviewers had “very, very strong opinions” that were “of concern.”

He said Tricare was conducting a review to determine whether ECRI’s techniques were best suited to measure cognitive therapy’s benefits. He denied submitting cognitive therapy to overly-strict review standards.

“You get what you ask for,” DeMartino said. “They tell us what they’re going to give us, and it’s our job to sort of say, ‘Okay, we understand that within the limitations of their methodology, this is the information that we get.'”

He added: “The better the information you have, the better that you can move forward and do the best thing.” The Tricare reports, coupled with high cost projections, ended the legislative push to get cognitive rehabilitation for service members and veterans.

Last year, Congress ordered the Pentagon to conduct further studies to review the effectiveness of the therapy, but those studies have not yet begun and results are not expected for several years.

Tricare said it would conduct regular reviews to monitor developments in the field. DeMartino first said Tricare would carry out a new review beginning in September. A spokesman later clarified that the National Academy of Sciences Institutes of Medicine would perform the review. It is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2011.

Susan Connors, president of the brain injury association, said she was stunned by the need for legislation at all. As the Pentagon conducts yet more studies, thousands of troops and veterans may be going without the best known treatment available. Thousands more would have to rely on military hospitals or veterans clinics far from their homes, or with substandard programs. The Tricare refusal shut down access to the hundreds of civilian rehabilitation clinics nationwide.

“I’m very disappointed by the resistance,” she said. “The military should want to do this.”

Struggling for Care

Tricare’s stance has not made it impossible to get cognitive rehabilitative. But it has discouraged civilian clinics from treating soldiers.

In interviews, several clinic owners and medical directors described their frustrations.

On some occasions, they were paid after developing relationships with individual Tricare claims processors or case managers, only to have the arrangements fall apart if the person left.

“We have tried to get Tricare and just beat our head against the wall,” said Brent Masel, the president of the Transitional Learning Center in Galveston, Texas. “It took forever to get paid. It was always a fight.”

Mark Ashley, the president of the Centre for Neuro Skills, a chain of rehabilitation clinics, said Tricare and other insurance providers were unwilling to pay because those with brain injuries can often perform basic functions that let them get through their daily lives.

They are “able to walk around, able to maneuver, but can’t function cognitively in a manner that’s safe, appropriate or competent,” said Ashley, a past president of the brain injury association. “We can fix much of that, but it takes an exhaustive amount of time and effort. That’s where the payers are out of touch.”

One of the nation’s top brain injury centers set up a charity program to help cover gaps left by Tricare. Susan Johnson, who runs Project Share at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, said Tricare pays only about 40 cents of each dollar of care provided for the type of comprehensive program that the clinic has found successful. The rest comes from Bernie Marcus, a billionaire philanthropist, and income from inpatient services.

“These guys go and they put their lives on the line and we put them in this situation that’s difficult for some and less difficult for others to get care,” Johnson said. “I find it frustrating.”

Other clinic owners said they were able to game the system by providing cognitive therapy, but billing for other Tricare-covered services — putting them at risk of being accused of false billing.

One clinic manager acknowledged being “creative” when submitting bills to Tricare. He said that he submitted bills to Tricare for occupational therapy when the treatment focused more on improving memory.

“They won’t pay for this, but they will pay for that,” said the manager, who did not want to be identified for fear of damaging his ability to receive payments. “You just have to figure out how to work the system.”

Soldiers and families agreed that Tricare’s stance has made getting care a battle.

Sarah Wade said she patched together adequate care for Ted, arranging for him to go to a VA hospital for some services and to travel to Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital for others.

Tricare would have paid for some things, such as a physical therapist to help him learn to walk again. But she has had no luck trying to persuade Tricare to pay to treat his brain injury.

In frustration, Wade personally visited a high-ranking official at the Veterans Affairs Department. He, in turn, ordered a VA hospital to fund a special contract with a local civilian rehabilitation doctor near the Wades’ North Carolina home.

“Yes, we have been able to get [cognitive rehabilitation] paid for, but it’s been with a lot fighting, red tape, and bureaucracy,” Sarah Wade said. “It’s his greatest injury and the one that impacts his life the most, that impacts his ability to be a human.” She added, “It shouldn’t be this hard.”

The Wades credit the rehabilitation that Ted has received with markedly improving his cognitive problems. After his 2004 injury, Ted spent months regaining consciousness. Doctors were unsure about his mental state, not certain he would ever talk or even think rationally.

Today, Ted speaks in slow, sure sentences, even cracking jokes. He can make decisions — choices that seem simple enough to someone with normal cognitive skills, but which often stymie those with brain injury.

He knows, for example, to buy cherry tomatoes at the store rather than big tomatoes, which are hard for him to chop and slice with only one arm. He can read through a menu, and pick food that’s nutritious. He can wash and fold his own laundry.

One recent day after dining at a Mexican restaurant in Washington, Ted smiled when Sarah reminded him that he was once unable to figure out whether he liked hot sauce on his tacos.

“It’s been a long, slow process,” he said.

Inform our investigations: Do you have information or expertise relevant to this story? Help us and journalists around the country by sharing your stories and experiences [20].

Posted in Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Injured Contractors, PTSD and TBI, T Christian Miller | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation (DLHWC)

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on December 17, 2010

Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation (DLHWC)

About Longshore (The Defense Base Act is an extension of the LHWCA)

The mission of DLHWC is to minimize the impact of employment injuries and deaths on employees and their families by ensuring that workers’ compensation benefits provided under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act and it extensions (including the Defense Base Act) are paid promptly and properly, and providing information, technical and compliance assistance, support, and informal dispute resolution services to workers, employers, and insurers.

Posted in Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Defense Base Act Law and Procedure, Department of Labor, Dropping the DBA Ball, Follow the Money, Injured Contractors, Political Watch | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Congratulations and Special Thanks to MsSparky

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on December 15, 2010

All of us at Defense Base Act Comp would like to Thank MsSparky for her tireless efforts and her support of injured contractors.  We look forward to the next thousand posts!!

Ms Sparky’s one thousandth (1000th) blog post

Oh my! 1000 published blog posts! Who would have figured after 30 months of investigative blogging I would still be at it. 1000 published posts is a huge accomplishment for any blogger. I’m very proud of this milestone!

One would think I would have run out of things to write about regarding Defense contracting fraud and Pentagon incompetence, but it just keeps spewing forth. It’s like the Defense Departments very own “Old Faithful” geyser of crap! It just keeps blowing! I have to thank companies like Fluor, Dyncorp, CSA, SBH, Blackwater, ArmorGroup, Agility and mostly….(tearing up) KBR for making stupid management decisions that always give me something to write about. I will be forever grateful (sniff sniff).

I couldn’t have met this milestone without the support of my friends and family, my regular readers, guest writers, other collaborating bloggers, published authors, investigative reporters, super sleuths, whistle blowers, attorneys, concerned citizens, former and current defense contractor employees, widows, spouses, parents and most importantly………

I have to say, this has been a most amazing journey with the most interesting twists and turns along the way. Blogging at is not like any 9-5 job I’ve ever had. I can’t really plan my day. I may THINK I know what I’m going to be doing after I get that first cup of coffee, but then reality sets in when I open my email and there’s some little (or big) gem of information. I just get all excited like a kid on Christmas morning! 2010 has been an interesting year because the majority of my work has been unpublished and behind the scenes. It doesn’t pay much in dollars, but I think this is the most rewarding and satisfying job I have every had!

One of the hardest, but most rewarding parts of this job is watching victims prevail as they doggedly pursue justice not only for themselves but for others. I’ve watched victims overcome tragedy and turn their pain and grief into something positive for those still suffering. I’m in constant awe of the strength and determination of the human spirit.

Without a doubt, the very best part of this job are the friends I’ve made along way.  Some, I’ve never met in person. Some, I never will, but friends just the same. I am truly blessed!

Thank you for the FIRST 1000 posts!  Please see the original with comments here

Posted in Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Iraq, KBR, Political Watch | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Contractor, DynCorp, found not liable for war-zone employee deaths

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on December 14, 2010

From the Federal Times

See also The Defense Base Act’s Exclusive Remedy A License to Kill

In a decision that could have broad implications for government contractors, the Delaware Supreme Court on Dec. 8 upheld a lower court ruling that an employee-signed agreement waiving liability precludes lawsuits for wrongful death and negligence.

Is DynCorp having employees sign separate agreements stating this or are they relying on the normally undisclosed Exclusive Remedy clause in the DBA?  There is no DBA policy to read and agree to.

On Aug. 29, 2004, John Deuley and Gerald Gibson, two civilian police officers working for a subsidiary of DynCorp International, were killed in an attack on the State Department’s civilian police headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Joseph Dickinson, another civilian police officer, was severely injured in the attack.

Deuley’s and Gibson’s wives filed wrongful death and survival lawsuits, while Dickinson filed a personal injury lawsuit against DynCorp, headquartered in Delaware.

The Delaware Supreme Court, in upholding the lower court’s dismissal of the case, rejected the argument that the employee agreement was vague by releasing the company of responsibility on “any claim” in return for agreed-upon benefits, and the court rejected the argument that the agreement did not extend to employer negligence, according to court documents.

The significant part of the agreement, according to the court, states that “the employee understands and accepts the fact that he or she may be exposed to dangers due to the nature of the mission. The employee agrees that neither the Employer nor its affiliates will be liable in the event of death, injury, or disability, to Employee, except as stated.”

DynCorp’s agreement with the employees involved the purchase of life insurance, medical coverage and disability benefits as required under the Defense Base Act, under which many government contractors operate, but releases DynCorps from legal damages from negligence or other issues such as wrongful death.

Please see the complete article at the above link

 

Posted in Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Defense Base Act Law and Procedure, Dyncorp, Exclusive Remedy | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Federal agents raid military contractor, EOD Techology, in Lenoir City

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on December 8, 2010

Knoxville Biz

LENOIR CITY – Federal agents raided EOD Technology‘s headquarters this morning and executed a search warrant on the government contractor that is working for the U.S. military in Afghanistan.

EOD also has done work for the military in Iraq.

Agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the federal Department of Homeland Security, assisted by Lenoir City police, were seen escorting company employees to their cars this morning.

A Homeland Security Department agent said the agencies were executing a federal search warrant on the company, and a Lenoir City Police Department dispatcher said the department was providing support.

Temple Black, a spokesman with the Department of Homeland Security, confirmed today the agency’s role in the EOD investigation. Black referred questions about the raid to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Knoxville.

“I can confirm that Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is involved in a law enforcement investigation in Lenoir City, Tenn.,” Black said.

“However, in order to preserve the integrity of the ongoing investigation, we are precluded from making any further comments at this time.”

EOD Technology released a statement on the raid this afternoon.

“This event came as a complete surprise to us,” the company said in a statement released by its Nashville public relations firm, McNeely Pigott & Fox.

“We are a very responsibly run company with a strong ethical standard, and do not know of anything that could have triggered this event.

“We are cooperating with the federal investigators to help clear up whatever concerns there are. We obviously would not have been selected for some of the sensitive and important projects we handle for our country around the world had we not been thoroughly investigated before and found to be trustworthy.

“We plan to continue serving our customers and keep our focus on our work. We hope this matter will be resolved swiftly.”

Please see the original here

Posted in Civilian Contractors, State Department | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

US Registrar Yanks WikiLeaks Domain

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on December 5, 2010

We have found reports in previous WikiLeaks that uphold injured contractors claims that were denied due to them not having access to them.

US Registrar Yanks WikiLeaks Domain

It is interesting that a country that espouses Freedom of Speech will resort to such tactics.

Now, some will say, “Well, he is releasing secret information that might cost lives”.

There is, however, doubtful support of that contention.

If there is a problem in that area, it is not Americans having access to that information who will pose threats to those who might be at risk. Obviously, it is foreigners who have access that pose that risk.

So, the rest of the world can read WikiLeaks, since it is only the US Registrar blocking the domain. Consequently, it is only Americans who are denied the information.

Is it, perhaps, more likely that the government doesn’t want US to know what they are up to?

What other websites will be disabled the same way, because the government doesn’t want criticism or exposure?

You can access WikiLeaks by using either of the following links:

http://213.251.145.96/

http://46.59.1.2/

Posted in Injured Contractors, Misjudgements, Political Watch | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Dozens Of Major Military Contractors Granted Legal Immunity

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on December 3, 2010

By Marcus Baram at Huffington Post

NEW YORK — Taxpayers may be on the hook if U.S. military contractors in Iraq incur liability while carrying out their work.

More than 120 military contracts include indemnification clauses — essentially, promises that the Pentagon will pick up the tab if contractors are sued. The information was disclosed on Thursday in response to an inquiry by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), who was concerned that contractor Kellogg Brown Root was granted indemnity amid a lawsuit claiming that the Halliburton subsidiary knowingly exposed soldiers to cancer-causing chemicals in Iraq, as previously reported by The Huffington Post.

Though Blumenauer said the Pentagon appears to show a “diligent, responsible process for work carried out in the United States that protects taxpayers from liability in cases of contractor negligence,” he expressed concern about what he called “far looser standards” for work in Iraq.

The list of contractors include major airlines American, Continental and United, as well as military contractors Raytheon Missile Systems, General Dynamics, L3, Lockheed Martin, BAE, and Boeing. Other indemnified companies include Mason and Hanger, a company which stores and transports containers of the nerve agent VX, and several firms that maintain facilities to destroy chemical agents.

Few details appear in the documents released by the Department of Defense, although the Army does describe a $646,351.50 payment to anthrax-vaccine maker Emergent to cover the costs of two lawsuits brought by U.S. soldiers who claimed they were sickened by the vaccine. In one class-action suit, Ammend et al v. BioPort, the plaintiffs claimed that the Emergent subsidiary BioPort caused them to “suffer extreme pain and suffering” through its carelessness and negligence. In several other similar cases, the Pentagon refused to pay the contractor’s litigation costs.

With Rep. Kurt Schrader and Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, all fellow Oregon Democrats, Blumenauer introduced legislation in September that would require regular reporting to Congress of contracts that contain such clauses. Please see the original post here

Posted in Civilian Contractors, Iraq | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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