Defense Base Act Compensation Blog

The Modern Day DBA Casualty

Labor Dept., Congress Plan Improvements to System to Care for Injured War Contractors

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on October 14, 2009

contractor-truck-dept-labor-275by T. Christian Miller, ProPublica – October 13, 2009 10:15 am EDT

The Labor Department has launched a series of changes to improve the controversial federal system designed to provide medical care and disability benefits to civilian contractors injured in war zones, department officials say.

The agency has stepped up enforcement, set new goals to speed delivery of benefits and begun tracking the performance of the insurance carriers that sell the highly lucrative policies for war zone workers, a senior official said.

The department is “reaching out to the carriers who are on the front lines to get them to perform at a higher level,” said the official, who declined to be named because he was discussing internal issues. The department will “start collecting data so we can show who’s doing well and who’s doing not so well.”

A joint investigation [1] we did with ABC News and the Los Angeles Times showed that civilian contractors’ claims for medical care and disability payments were routinely denied by insurers. Another investigation [2] by us showed that foreign workers often received no payments at all, though taxpayers had paid premiums to cover their injuries.

The Labor Department oversees the system, which requires defense contractors to purchase workers’ compensation insurance for employees in war zones. The insurance giant AIG dominates the market for such policies, which earn as much as 40 percent profit in some cases. Taxpayers have paid more than $1.6 billion for the policies, which are required by a law known as the Defense Base Act.

Labor officials plan to hold informal meetings to settle disputes between insurers and injured contractors  within 14 days of a request; it takes about 45 days now.  But it remains unclear whether speeding the process will quickly resolve disputes. The meetings hold no legal weight, and the insurers and the contractors  are free to ignore recommendations made by Labor Department examiners.

The department will also begin collecting data on how quickly insurers pay out claims. Without that information, the department has been unable to measure their  performance.

Labor and Defense Department officials also met late last month to discuss broader reforms to the system, the Labor official said. The discussions follow a Pentagon report [3] in September that suggested [4] the government provide its own insurance to cover contractors, at a potential annual savings of $250 million. The system has ballooned in size and cost as civilian contractors have flooded into Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We believe there’s a need for reform,” the official said. “DOD has indicated they believe so as well. Now it’s a matter of getting together and figuring out how to build something.”

The Labor Department’s efforts come as legislators consider new legislation to address flaws in the system.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., held a hearing on the system this summer and had planned to introduce fixes in a bill this year. But he now plans a larger effort to include the Defense Department suggestions, a major legislative undertaking that will probably not take place until next year, according to a Hill staffer.

“I read the report from the Department of Defense with great interest, and I have directed my staff to alter the bill, taking into account this new information.” Cummings said. “The opportunity to keep our civilian contractors protected, while saving the government hundreds of millions of dollars, is one we cannot ignore.”

3 Responses to “Labor Dept., Congress Plan Improvements to System to Care for Injured War Contractors”

  1. daffodils said

    For the past six years a heroine named Jana Crowder, with no dog in this absurd fight (her husband returned home safe from Iraq), alerted the labor department that there was a crisis re. their mishandling of claims of civilian contractors from the war zone. They blew her off for six long years and ignored preventable deaths and much needless suffering. Why on earth should we believe them now?

    We want DOL (labor) and their corrupt admin judges out of the picture, with DOD (defence) handling claims along VA lines. These civilian judges don’t have a clue or don’t want to have a clue about what goes on in a war zone and are hopelessly biased and infiltrated by the insurance industry via DOL officials and so forth.

    We also reject any future role whatsoever for the deceptive insurance companies who reward their claims adjusters to deny and delay claims in order to maximize their profits. It’s impossible to reform this inherent contradiction by “tracking” their performance as suggested by DOL, why the hell did they not track them over the past six years?

    The DOD report is flawed in several of its basic assumptions. Congressman Cummings should keep in mind that the report only calculates costs to the gov and expressly excludes the quality of care to civilian contractors.

    Lets just keep in mind that civilian contractors outnumber troops in the war zones. Be careful what you wish for; keep on labeling and mistreating them as “mercenaries” and this may just turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  2. Marlo Hone said

    Hello everyone. As you have read many of my blogs you know I fight with everyone to get the correct treatment. I fight because I care, I fight because it should not be done alone. As for the holder of this website you know who you are and I will stand next to you everyday in this damn battlefield.
    I have held the Dog Tags I wore them for many years. So did my husband. And guess what to those who call him a mercenaries sham on you. My husband goes because he loves his country. Without these men and women who are contractors our soldiers would not get fed, supplies, civilians like scientist, doctors and government would not get place to place or have proper security. There is not enough Soldiers to do all the jobs that are needed to be done.
    So for these people who use words that do not know how to use them you join the military then and do all the other jobs.
    These contractors do everything from clean the toilets, laundry and feed our soldiers. To making sure they have all the extra bodies securing others the military does not have the man power for.
    So unless you want to start the draft all over again you all need to close your mouth and get a dictionary out and learn the definition of words.
    When my husband works he works for the United States with the Department of State. He works within the laws of his country, and the country he is serving in. So next time you want to open your mouth look in the mirror and see what uniform you are wearing. What have you done to serve your country and help out the soldiers daily lives overseas? Because I know one of my husbands job’s was to make sure that the men and women he protected made it home to their families.

    For others they make sure that Bombs are destroyed, land mines are removed, homes get built, people are fed, water is running, bases are safe, laundry is cleaned, the local police are getting trained, supplies get from one end to another by driving threw dangerous areas and many many other jobs. Yes they might get paid more the soldier but they also are not given health insurance for their families, housing, VA benefits just to name a few. They do this as a way to serve so respect them just like you would if my husband was still wearing his uniform. Many of these contractors have worn the uniform for the military. They have choice to go back as a contractor. So fault them for wanting to feed their families. They want to serve just not wearing green.
    These men and women work for the United States Government and deserve the proper care no matter what country they are working in. As long as they are working for the US Government and they are the contractor for these contractors they need to do their job like these men and women do theirs.

  3. Krash said

    I guess my questions to Mr. Cummings is why does it only take months or less for military veterans to receive treatment for occupational injuries and it takes civilian contractors over 3 years to even get acknowledgment that there was an occupational injury? Then you get to battle the insurance companies for treatment and/or surgery only to have your benefits cut off for no reason and the red tape battle starts over again and before you know it another 2 years have passed and your injuries still haven’t been dealt with.

    If the DBA claims moved at a faster pace many of the contractors could have been rehabilitated and back to work instead of facing 100% disability because it took too long to “fix” the injuries.

    I agree with Marlo and I will stand behind this blog site administrator, and Jana Crowder, whenever they need help for anything relating to contractor injuries.

    I served my time as a contractor (truck driver) on the front lines because I wanted to support the military and like anyone else I wanted to be able to support myself and help my family. I too am called a mercenary . . . but the true mercenaries are the ones that sit behind desks here on US soil and only think about the amount of money they can put in their own pockets by denying, delaying and stalling payments of benefits that have already been paid for.

    We may have worked for large companies like KBR or Dyncorp or Fluor just to name a few, but if you think about it, all of the above companies had contracts from our own government, specifically from the Department of Defense, so were we really mercenaries or did we work for the US Military? Because as contractors we were not given the many benefits that are provided to the regular military personnel and as contractors we were the disposable personnel. So what if we’re killed, just hire another one. So what if we’re injured, just fire them for some BS reason and replace them. So what if we get sick enough to have to come back to the states, again fire them for any BS reason and replace them with another one. Don’t worry about it, no one is counting the contractor deaths and injuries . . . we’re disposable labor. Our own Department of Defense doesn’t even know how many contractors are deployed so why would they care how many have died or been injured.

    Making changes to the way the DBA claims are being handled is only the tip of the iceberg.

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