Defense Base Act Compensation Blog

The Modern Day DBA Casualty

Local defense contractor, Tim Newman, to take health care saga before Congress

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on June 12, 2009

Local defense contractor to take health care saga before Congress

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Tim Newman traversed the five miles of bomb-blasted highway connecting the Baghdad Airport to the Green Zone every day for more than a year as he worked for a Virginia-based defense contractor training Iraqi police officers.

But a trip down the highway — thought by many to be the world’s most dangerous road — in September 2005 forever altered the life of the 44-year-old former Marine and Beaufort County Sheriff’s deputy.

Newman’s winding — and sometimespainful — four-year journey continues next week with an appearance before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Newman, originally from Charleston, took a job with DynCorp International in 2004 after nearly 20 years with the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office.

“I went overseas on a(civilian police) contract, training new and existing Iraqi police officers,” he said. “There were about 700 American cops over there doing the same things. We were on one-year contracts, but I decided to stay longer.”

Newman was four months into another one-year contract with DynCorp on Sept. 5, 2005.

“I was part of a small movement detail, moving police officers and other people like us,” he said. “We were leaving our compound when an (improvised explosive device) detonated along our route.”

The blast killed Newman’s passenger, Vince Kimbrell, a Spartanburg police officer, and left Newman badly injured.

“I lost my right leg, my left leg was shattered, my left arm was shattered and I had a deep chest wound that extended from my right lung to my left kidney,” he said. “I managed to drag myself down the road, where I was picked up by the rest of my team.”

Doctors put Newman into a drug-induced coma. He awoke 22 days later in a German hospital. He chose to return home and continue his care at Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah.

After undergoing months of physical therapy and getting fitted for a $100,000 prosthetic leg, Newman became an advocate for other injured contractors injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.Newman battled with DynCorps’ insurance company for nearly three years over his advanced prosthetic — the insurance company initially agreed only to pay for a $50,000 model — and said injured contractors deserve uniform treatment when receiving medical care.

Because of his advocacy work, Newman was asked by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, a committee chaired by Rep. Ed Towns, D-N.Y., to testify about possible reforms to a 60-year-old law that regulates how government contractors insure their workers.

Congress created the Defense Base Act in 1941 to provide workers’ compensation protection to government contractors working at U.S. defense bases abroad.

Under the act, companies working in Iraq, such as DynCorp, were required to obtain insurance for all employees. However, the cost of insurance premiums are passed on to the government,which reimburses insurance carriers for benefits paid to workers who are injured or killed by a “war-risk hazard,” according to a 2005 Government Accountability Office report. The report was written after more than 100 congressmen asked the GAO to examine a number of Iraq-related issues, including those associated with insuring contractors and the cost of those policies to the federal government.

Newman said the government is being overcharged and insurance companies make too much profit under the Defense Base Act arrangement.

“It’s crazy,” he said. “The insurance companies are trying to treat us like everyone else and that’s a big part of the problem. We have a law that covers how we are insured and how we should get medical care.”

Contractors and their employees have played a prominent role in U.S. foreign policy in Iraq, a role not foreseen by legislators when crafting the Defense Base Act in 1941, the GAO report said.

According to the report, contractors in Iraq were involved in rebuilding hospitals and schools, restoring valuable oil infrastructure and strengthening local governments.

“It’s the cost of war,” Newman said. “This is the right thing to do. Too many people have been injured in this war and then spent a year or more trying to get medical care.”

Newman was working Friday at his Lady’s Island home on a five-minute statement he will make to open his testimony.

“I’m a little nervous,” he said. “But at the end of the day, they work for me.”

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