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Archive for February, 2010

KBR awarded $2.3B LOGCAP IV task order in Iraq after poor performance evaluation

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on February 27, 2010

February 27, 2010 — Ms Sparky

The long awaited announcement of the first LOGCAP IV task order to be awarded in Iraq has been made.

KBR has been awarded Task Order 2 under KBR’s LOGCAP IV contract W52P1J-07-D-0009 for the Iraq CTP (Corp Logistics/Transportation/Postal) effort in the amount of $2.345B.

Work is to begin under this Task Order on March 1, 2010.

Interesting…just four days ago KBR received a ZERO award fee for unsatisfactory work and is now awarded a $2.3B contract. Is anyone else gong “What the hell?”

For a list of other LOGCAP IV Task Order awards click HERE

Here is the all hands email that KBR just sent out to their employees.

From: Timmy Doster
Sent: Saturday, February 27, 2010 11:04 AM

To: DL_KBR LOGCAP III All Hands ME

Subject: KBR Awarded LOGCAP IV CTP Task Order

TO: LOGCAP III Middle East Employees

FROM: Guy LaBoa, Principal Program Manager, LOGCAP III ME

SUBJECT: KBR Awarded LOGCAP IV CTP Task Order

With so much negative news about KBR and the fact that we have not won a LOGCAP IV task order, it is with great pride that I am able to announce that KBR is now in the LOGCAP IV business. Last night, the U.S. government announced it has awarded KBR the $2.3 billion, cost-plus, fixed-fee CTP contract. This contract support is for Corps Logistics Support Services (CLSS), Theater Transportation Mission (TTM), Postal Services, Ice Plant Operations, and some Air Terminal Operations to support the U.S. armed forces throughout Iraq.

Being awarded a LOGCAP IV task order has been a long time coming; however, we have unquestionably achieved this milestone, and as a result, we all look forward to KBR awards on future task orders, including the base life support mission in Iraq. We will publish more on the CTP transition as the plan is finalized.

I ask that all of you continue doing what you do best – supporting our men and women in uniform. I ask that you carry on this mission with your continued emphasis on “Excellence in Quality” and “your uncompromising commitment to Safety”.

WE DELIVER!

Guy

Guy LaBoa
Principal Program Manager
LOGCAP III ME/CA
FI – ID 43382
APO, AE 09344
Office: (281) 669-5600

Posted in KBR | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

The Other Victims of Battlefield Stress; Defense Contractors’ Mental Health Neglected

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on February 26, 2010

The Wars Quiet Scandal at the Daily Beast

by T. Christian Miller, ProPublica – February 26, 2010

On the one-year anniversary of her husband’s suicide, Barb Dill breaks down at her husband’s tombstone. Wade Dill, a Marine Corps veteran, took a contractor job in Iraq. Three weeks after he returned home for good, he committed suicide (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times / Redding, CA / July 16, 2007).

REDDING, Calif. — Wade Dill does not figure into the toll of war dead. An exterminator, Dill took a job in Iraq for a company contracted to do pest control on military bases. There, he found himself killing disease-carrying flies and rabid dogs, dodging mortars and huddling in bomb shelters.

Dill, a Marine Corps veteran, was a different man when he came back for visits here, his family said: moody, isolated, morose. He screamed at his wife and daughter. His weight dropped. Dark circles haunted his dark brown eyes.

Three weeks after he returned home for good, Dill booked a room in an anonymous three-story motel alongside Interstate 5. There, on July 16, 2006, he shot himself in the head with a 9 mm handgun. He left a suicide note for his wife and a picture for his daughter, then 16. The caption read: “I did exist and I loved you.”

More than three years later, Dill’s loved ones are still reeling, their pain compounded by a drawn-out battle with an insurance company over death benefits from the suicide. Barb Dill, 47, nearly lost the family’s home to foreclosure. “We’re circling the drain,” she said.

While suicide among soldiers has been a focus of Congress and the public, relatively little attention has been paid to the mental health of tens of thousands of civilian contractors returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. When they make the news at all, contractors are usually in the middle of scandal, depicted as cowboys, wastrels or worse.

No agency tracks how many civilian workers have killed themselves after returning from the war zones. A small study in 2007 found that 24 percent of contract employees from DynCorp, a defense contractor, showed signs of depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, after returning home. The figure is roughly equivalent to those found in studies of returning soldiers.

If the pattern holds true on a broad scale, thousands of such workers may be suffering from mental trauma, said Paul Brand, the CEO of Mission Critical Psychological Services, a firm that provides counseling to war zone civilians. More than 200,000 civilians work in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to the most recent figures.

“There are many people falling through the cracks, and there are few mechanisms in place to support these individuals,” said Brand, who conducted the study while working at DynCorp.”There’s a moral obligation that’s being overlooked. Can the government really send people to a war zone and neglect their responsibility to attend to their emotional needs after the fact?”

The survivors of civilians who have committed suicide have found themselves confused, frustrated and alone in their grief.

“If I was in the military, I’d at least have someone to talk to,” said Melissa Finkenbinder, 42, whose husband, Kert, a mechanic, killed himself after returning from Iraq. “Contractors don’t have anything. Their families don’t have anything.”

Some families of civilian contractors who have committed suicide have tried to battle for help through an outdated government system designed to provide health insurance and death benefits to civilian contractors injured or killed on the job.

Under the system, required by a law known as the Defense Base Act [2], defense firms must purchase workers’ compensation insurance for their employees in war zones. It is highly specialized and expensive insurance, dominated by the troubled giant AIG and a handful of other companies. The cost of it is paid by taxpayers as part of the contract price.

But the law, which is designed to provide coverage for accidental death and injury, blocks payment of death benefits in the case of almost all suicides. Cases linked to mental incapacity are the lone exception, judges have ruled.

A joint investigation last year by ProPublica, ABC News and the Los Angeles Times [3] revealed that contract workers must frequently battle carriers for basic medical coverage. While Congress has promised reforms, there has been no discussion of changing the law when it comes to suicides involving civilian defense workers.

The military, by contrast, allows survivors to receive benefits in cases in which a soldier’s suicide can be linked to depression caused by battlefield stress.

Hundreds of soldiers have committed suicide since the war in Afghanistan began in 2001, according to studies by the Army and the Department of Veterans Affairs. In response, the Defense Department has become more active in trying to prevent suicide than its hired contractors, military experts said.

The military is “aggressively trying to reach people and do intervention beforehand and set up suicide awareness programs,” said Ian de Planque, a benefits expert at the American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans group. “Awareness of it has increased. I don’t know that it’s transferred over to the civilian sector at this point.”

Birgitt Eysselinck has spent years trying to prove that her husband’s death in Iraq was related to stress from his job with a company specializing in the removal of land mines and explosive ordnance. So far, courts have sided with the insurance firm, Chicago-based CNA, in denying Eysselinck’s claim. (CNA declined to comment, citing privacy reasons.)

Eysselinck, 44, said that neither federal judges nor insurance adjusters understand that civilian contractors face many of the same risks in Iraq and Afghanistan that soldiers do. Her husband, Tim Eysselinck, endured mortar attacks and frequently traveled across Iraq’s dangerous highways, she said.

“There is a huge percentage of contractors who are silently suffering,” Eysselinck said. “That obviously puts them and their families at risk. Communities are bearing the brunt of this, especially the families.”

Also see how these families are treated by AIG and CNA in the legal system

Read the full story in Propublica here

Posted in AIG and CNA, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Department of Labor, T Christian Miller | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Army tries to halt retired general’s work as KBR expert

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on February 25, 2010

The U.S. Army is trying to stop retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who once led U.S. forces in Iraq, from continuing to be an expert for KBR in a lawsuit against it over civilian truck driver deaths and injuries.

Sanchez is being paid $650 an hour and has reviewed documents and written a report that support’s KBR’s contention it should not be held legally responsible for the deaths of six civilian truck drivers and the injuries of others in a 2004 ambush in Iraq.

The suing drivers and family members contend that KBR should have stopped the convoys when it was warned that attacks would increase on April 9, 2004, the first anniversary of the day allies in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq reached Baghdad.

KBR argues that the military approved sending the convoys out and several laws protect KBR from responsibility in a wartime situation. The Army contracts with KBR to provide transportation, food services and other logistical support.

Scott Allen, a plaintiff’s lawyer in the case, told U.S. District Judge Gray Miller this afternoon that lawyers for the Army have sent notice that Sanchez cannot be deposed and cannot give expert testimony.

Bruce Hurley, a lawyer for KBR, said the defense still plans to present Sanchez for deposition next week. “He stands ready,” Hurley said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Hu, who will represent the Army in further discussions about the deposition, declined to comment on the case.

Miller said the deposition should go on as planned and the parties can deal with the issue if Sanchez, who lives in San Antonio, doesn’t appear. “He’s retired from the Army,” the judge said. “I don’t know what control the Army has.”

Plaintiffs say they have a military expert who will support their position.

In his report for KBR on the 2004 ambush, Sanchez writes that KBR leadership was getting “emotional, hyperbolic, CNN-filtered, open source information, not intelligence” that was warning that the convoys could be ambushed.

Sanchez says no battlefield leader could have known the convoy would be attacked. KBR leadership did stop convoys the day after six civilians were killed and 14 injured in the truck convoy ambush.

Sanchez retired in 2006 after 33 years of service — under something of a cloud because the abuse of inmates at the Abu Ghraib prison that became an international scandal occurred on his watch. The Army cleared him of responsibility.

Milller previously tossed out the group of three lawsuits against KBR. But after an appellate court asked him to take a second look and new evidence came to light, Miller ruled on several issues differently, making it more likely the case actually will go to trial in a few months.

Original Story here

mary.flood@chron.com

Posted in Contractor Casualties and Missing, KBR | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Contractor linked to electrocution of Green Beret in Iraq loses $25M in military bonuses

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on February 24, 2010

LA TIMES  Kimberly Hefling AP

WASHINGTON (AP) — Military contractor KBR has lost about $25 million in bonuses from the government because of “failed” worked done in Iraq during the time a Green Beret was electrocuted in a barracks shower it was responsible for maintaining.

The U.S. Army Sustainment Command said in a statement released to The Associated Press Wednesday night that the Houston-based company failed to meet a level deserving of an award fee payment for work it did during the first four months of 2008. Award fees are written into contracts as an incentive for the contractors to do quality work.

The Army statement did not specifically mention the January 2008 death of 24-year-old Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth of Pittsburgh in the statement but said a task force that has extensively reviewed electrical work in Iraq was consulted in making the decision as was the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, which investigated Maseth’s death, but did not press charges against KBR.

Dan Carlson, a spokesman for the Army Sustainment Command, said in an e-mail that “multiple factors” led to the decision.

Investigators said in August there was “insufficient evidence to prove or disprove” that anyone was criminally culpable in Maseth’s death.

The uproar over Maseth’s death triggered a review of 17 other electrocution deaths in Iraq and widespread inspections of electrical work in Iraq, much of which was performed by KBR. Maseth’s family has a pending lawsuit in federal court against KBR.

Heather Browne, a company spokeswoman, declined to comment.

The company disclosed the lose of the award fees in a filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission. It said it also expects to lose an additional $112 million in award fees from the government for the period of May to December 2008. It said it expects to lose the money based on information from a contracting official who said he “based his decision on information from sources that were different from our past experiences with award fee determinations.”

Posted in KBR, Toxic Exposures | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

ProPublica’s T. Christian Miller Wins the Selden Ring Award

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on February 22, 2010

Today, the Selden Ring Awards announced T. Christian Miller as the winner of their investigative reporting prize. Additionally, ProPublica’s Charles Ornstein and Tracy Weber were finalists for the award.

Miller was honored for his series about the ordeal war contractors face in trying to get legally mandated benefits from insurance companies when they are injured in war zones. Speaking for the seven-judge panel, Melanie Sill, editor of the Sacramento Bee said, “Without this groundbreaking reporting, many of these problems would not have come to light. Its impact was clear and continuing.”

The Selden Ring Award, which is administered by the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, recognizes investigations that have impact. In addition to congressional hearings and Rep. Elijah Cumming’s promise to introduce legislative reforms, Miller’s work moved insurance executives from AIG and government officials from the Labor Department to acknowledge that the system had major flaws. The Labor Department vowed to increase penalties and resolve contentious cases more quickly. In August 2009, the Pentagon released a report recommending that the system be placed into public hands and urged further examination of the difficulty in delivering benefits to injured workers. And inspectors general from both Labor and Defense began investigations.

The work was planned and edited in a collaboration between ProPublica and the Los Angeles Times. Most of the stories were published in the Times; some were first published on ABC News, Salon, and in the Washington Post. All appeared on ProPublica’s Web site. Doug Smith, the database editor of the Times, contributed significant statistical research.

Ornstein and Weber were Selden Ring finalists for their series about the failures of the California Board of Registered Nursing to properly regulate and discipline nurses with criminal pasts. Their reporting has continued with recent stories about the federal government’s incomplete database of sanctioned caregivers and our own state-by-state guide to dangers nurses.

Congratulations T., Charlie and Tracy!

Read original story here

Posted in AIG and CNA, Department of Labor, T Christian Miller | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Dead and Injured Contractors not Included in Pentagons’ Casualty Lists

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on February 22, 2010

Contractors and other regulars here will have already read these stories and reports but this is a nice compilation that deserves another posting

Noel Brinkerhoff at ALLGov

For years following the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the media reported U.S. casualty figures released by the Department of Defense—which regularly excluded thousands of Americans from the publicized totals. Even though they were often engaged in dangerous operations, these individuals were not uniformed members of the U.S. Army or Marines Corps, but instead private contractors who have had their share of deaths and injuries.

A joint investigation by ProPublica, ABC News and the Los Angeles Times has determined that more than 1,700 civilian contractors have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, with another 40,000 injured. Many of these survivors have had to endure struggles getting medical treatment paid for under a taxpayer-financed federal system known as the Defense Base Act.
Even when recognized for their contributions, many contractors have received little attention, accepting their Defense of Freedom medal, the civilian equivalent of the military’s Purple Heart, in quiet, out-of-the-way ceremonies.

War Contractors Receive Defense of Freedom Medal for Injuries, But Attract Little Notice (by T. Christian Miller, ProPublica)

Contractor Casualties (Department of Defense) (pdf)
Defense Base Act Case Summary by Nation (U.S. Department of Labor)
The Other Afghanistan Surge: Contractors (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Posted in AIG and CNA, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Department of Labor, T Christian Miller | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Why did Sgt. Thomas die?

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on February 21, 2010

Contractors are also coming down with these aggressive cancers during and after deployment.

Contractors contact dbacasualty@yahoo.com

to report cancer cases during or after deployment

By Matthew Hansen
WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER

Sgt. Klayton Thomas looked every bit the poster boy Marine as he strode into a military hospital last September to get his back checked.

He taught karate and earned his abs in the gym. He had survived a 2007 deployment to Iraq, even thrived during his prolonged stay in the middle of the then-treacherous Sunni Triangle. He rarely drank. He didn’t smoke. Life seemed perfect on this mid-September Thursday, if only his back would stop aching. The 25-year-old Columbus, Neb., native thought he had wrenched it playing soccer. Three months and 10 days later, he died in hospice care.

This much is known: Thomas succumbed to an unstoppable lung cancer that crushed his vertebrae, blitzed his bones and invaded his brain, dumbfounding doctors who had spent their entire careers treating the disease.

His death leaves a medical mystery, one similar to those posed by hundreds of other American military personnel battling exotic cancers or struggling with rare respiratory problems.

This mystery begins in the unlikeliest of places: Iraqi “burn pits” — large, primitive landfills where contractors set trash aflame, causing ever-present black smoke to drift over dozens of U.S. military bases.

Health experts, a high-powered defense lawyer, Congress and even the president have taken notice, asking questions like Klayton Thomas’ parents and doctors asked in the weeks after he fell ill.

Why would an otherwise healthy young nonsmoker contract a cancer that generally haunts older smokers? Why did this cancer spread like wildfire when experts say its normal path can take years?

Simply put: Why did Sgt. Klayton Thomas die?

“We were scared to death when he went to Iraq, scared of a mortar attack, an IED,” said his mother, Connie Thomas of Columbus. “But nothing like this. Not in our wildest dreams.”

* * *

Just before Halloween, Thomas and his parents met Dr. Ray Lin at San Diego’s Scripps Medical Center. A month had passed since doctors first found white spots on Thomas’ lungs, and as the Marine and his parents took their seats in the radiologist’s office, they felt as if they now lived inside a never-ending nightmare.

First the cancer had spread into Thomas’ spine, his hips, his shoulder blades. Then he had endured his first chemo treatment and an excruciating back surgery to put cement into his crushed sixth vertebra.

The pain had gotten so severe he couldn’t sleep, even with the aid of morphine, and could barely move without a walker.

Thomas’ wife could comfort him only by cell phone — Mia, a Filipina whom Thomas had married while stationed in the Philippines, was struggling to secure her American visa.

But the blackest day had come on the last day in September, on Thomas’ first visit to the highly regarded Scripps hospital.

On that day, Dr. Robert Sarnoff, president of the facility’s medical group, had delivered the news:

Sgt. Thomas, he said, this is bad. You have a 5 percent chance to live.

Connie and Dave Thomas had flown from Columbus to San Diego to fight through layers of military bureaucracy and secure their son special treatment at the nonmilitary hospital.

Now Lin pulled out an X-ray of Thomas’ shoulder. A healthy shoulder X-ray should show up white. The X-ray Lin held was shrouded in black.

Lin told the family that Thomas could have a genetic predisposition to cancer — his father and several uncles had survived various cancers in middle age.

But there must have been an additional trigger for the cancer to spread this quickly, he said, according to the Thomas family. (Lin was out of the country, according to a hospital spokesman, and privacy laws prevent Scripps from discussing Thomas’ case.)

Have you been exposed to something toxic, Klayton?

Thomas sat silently for a moment and then told the doctor and his shocked parents about the burn pit near where he lived and worked at al-Taqaddum Air Base in Iraq.

He told them about the hazardous materials burned there. He told them the smoke sometimes darkened the sky and grew so thick it choked him.

That night, his mother, a nursing home administrator, sent out one of her mass e-mails updating family and friends on Thomas’ condition. Usually she wrote these e-mails resolutely, marking them with hope that a miracle could occur, that her son would recover.

Not that night.

“I can’t understand why God is allowing this to happen,” she wrote.

* * *

The burn pits kept on burning as the Iraq war stretched to its third year, then its fourth.

Military contractors burned nearly every bit of waste from military bases — trash that included plastics, batteries, old weapons, ruined machinery and a fuel known to cause cancer, according to government and independent reports.

They burned because military leaders originally saw the pits as temporary, a congressman thinks, the simplest way to dispose of trash before troops quickly exited Iraq.

But as the war continued, they burned because it saved money, according to subsequent lawsuits, allowing U.S. contractors to avoid having to install costly incinerators.

For most service members, the resulting clouds of smoke were a nuisance, simply a part of deployed life, like the Iraqi sandstorms and the scorching desert heat.

But troops and contractors stationed at al-Taqaddum Air Base, where Klayton Thomas eventually served, and all across Iraq started to complain about a grab-bag of symptoms often diagnosed as severe colds.

But for a select few, those clouds of smoke represented something far more ominous.

Cpl. Chris Bravo, suffering from constant headaches and no longer able to climb a flight of stairs without gasping for breath, suspected a different culprit after spending most of 2004 and 2005 at al-Taqaddum, commonly known as “TQ.”

His unit often escorted trash trucks into the burn pit, providing security while the contractors dumped waste into the football field-size landfill.

On several occasions, Bravo spent most of his day inside the pit. The smoke was so thick he sometimes couldn’t see the man in front of him.

“Awful smell, like burned plastic,” said Bravo, now 27 and a military policeman in South Carolina. “I would question myself, like, ‘Man, I don’t think I should be out here in this.’ ”

Service members stationed at more than 100 bases in Iraq and Afghanistan began to ask similar questions as more and more complained of the “Iraqi crud” — a constant cough with darkened phlegm — often blamed on the horrific sandstorms.

The burn pit smoke got so bad around the Air Force base at Balad that computer programmers included it in a simulation teaching pilots how to land there.

Elizabeth Hilpert, a maintenance contractor working near the TQ burn pit in 2006, said she and several co-workers experienced fatigue and shortness of breath, especially when they entered the burn pit to scrounge for salvage parts. Hilpert wrote a safety report to her supervisor, questioning whether the pit was sickening her and others.

“I was told they wouldn’t submit it,” said Hilpert, a North Carolina resident who has suffered chronic headaches, lung problems and memory loss since returning from Iraq.

In 2006, an Air Force bioenvironmental engineer, Lt. Col. Darrin Curtis, became the first military expert to give credence to the troops’ isolated concerns.

He wrote a memo warning his superiors that a potpourri of poisons — arsenic, cyanide, Freon, formaldehyde and benzene, an aircraft fuel known to cause cancer — had likely burned in the Balad pit, causing an “acute health hazard for individuals.”

“It is amazing that the burn pit has been able to operate without restrictions over the past few years,” wrote Curtis, an expert in environmental workplace hazards. Curtis’ memo, eventually obtained by the Military Times, was co-signed by the chief of aeromedical services for the Air Force’s 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing.

But for years, the military’s senior health protection officials dismissed the memo, saying there was no proof that burn pits caused long-term health risks.

The memo prompted a joint Air Force and Army assessment, a draft of which concluded that the burn pits greatly elevated the risks of cancer at the Balad base.

Military leaders quickly retracted that draft, saying a computing error had caused a faulty conclusion. A second study concluded that burn pits caused only two health problems: Eye irritation. And short-term coughing.

* * *

Sgt. Thomas insisted: no wheelchair.

It was Thanksgiving weekend, and his parents had planned a trip to SeaWorld, their first real break in months from the hospital-and-hotel routine.

At long last, Thomas’ wife, Mia, was in town; she had finally been issued a visa and had joyfully reunited with her husband in early November.

The Marine wanted to show Mia San Diego. He wanted his parents, aunt, cousins, nephews and nieces to enjoy themselves.

But he’d be damned if he was going to ride in a wheelchair across SeaWorld’s massive parking lot.

Instead, the former martial arts expert and serious weightlifter steeled himself for his biggest physical challenge in months.

He would make it to the whales on his own two feet.

“He didn’t want to be left out in any way,” Connie Thomas said. “He was too proud.”

The Marine’s struggle to walk, a mere two months after his initial diagnosis, perplexed his doctors and confuses outside experts.

Dr. Rudy Lackner, a University of Nebraska Medical Center surgeon who often operates on lung cancer patients, said it’s shocking enough that a 25-year-old got lung cancer at all.

Only 0.1 percent of lung cancer patients are younger than 30, Lackner said.

Most of them have smoked continuously since they hit puberty or grew up in a household where secondhand smoke was always present.

Neither is true in Thomas’ case. He told doctors he had smoked for less than a year, and even then only an occasional puff on a cigarette. And no one in his immediate family smoked.

The medical center surgeon speculated that Thomas’ cancer might have been caused by a genetic predisposition to the disease coupled with an exposure to something toxic.

That squares with what Thomas’ San Diego radiologist had told the family in October, when he first learned of the burn pit.

Said surgeon Lackner: “To see somebody that young with cancer present in September, and then be dead by December, that would certainly seem much more rapid than you’d ever expect.

“Burning rubber, plastics, asbestos — all of that or any of it could contribute to the development of a cancer.”

By the Saturday after Thanksgiving, when the Thomas family visited SeaWorld, the tumor in Klayton Thomas’ lung had grown so large it threatened to cut off his airway. Cancer cells had entered his brain, giving him pounding headaches and causing short- and long-term memory loss.

Still, he walked all the way to the whales. He trudged up the stadium stairs, trying to ignore the searing pain in his hips. He cheered along with his family as Shamu and the gang pirouetted in the water and leaped into the air.

It was only after he had fed the whales and posed for photos with Mia that his strength started to wane. His mother had secretly reserved a SeaWorld wheelchair in case this moment arrived.

“Klayton, I think you need this,” she said.

“I guess so,” he agreed.

They started to move around the park — everyone wanted to see the flamingos — but soon the Marine’s temples pounded so hard that he bent over and clamped his head between his hands.

That was the signal, the family agreed. They headed for the parking lot.

* * *

On Nov. 6, the burn pit movement got its day on Capitol Hill.

The chief allergist of a New York veterans hospital testified that Americans who deploy to Iraq were twice as likely as other veterans to develop respiratory illnesses, according to his four-year study.

Others who testified cited a large group of Kentucky soldiers found to suffer from bronchiolitis, which can irreparably damage the lungs, after exposure to a particularly toxic Iraqi fire in 2003.

They ridiculed the military’s previous burn pit studies. One tested for air quality during Iraq’s wet season, which, according to the VA hospital’s allergist, “is like testing for snow in Albany during the summer.”

In response, Rep. Tim Bishop, D-N.Y., introduced a bill that would create a complete list of burn pits, mandate a registry for all troops exposed to the pits and give those troops special physical exams. It is designed to build on a previous Bishop proposal, passed into law, that seemingly barred the use of most burn pits in Iraq, though dozens are still operating.

“There is just too much evidence that these burn pits are hazardous for (the military) to continue to ignore it,” Bishop told The World-Herald.

It’s also getting harder to ignore a class-action lawsuit originally filed in Texas in December 2008.

Since then, more than 300 service members and contractors in 42 states have joined the multimillion-dollar lawsuit, which alleges that burn pits run by the military contractor KBR (formerly Kellogg Brown and Root) caused their health problems.

Most who have joined the lawsuit are suffering from pulmonary illnesses, said Susan Burke, the group’s lawyer.

A smaller number of military personnel joined the suit after being diagnosed with cancer, which they say developed because of known carcinogens burned in the pits.

Ten of those with cancer have died. Burke said most of them were in prime physical condition but succumbed in months.

“These are young men and women who voluntarily went off to fight for all of us, and an American company poisoned them,” Burke said.

KBR lawyers say the company followed military protocol when it designed and operated the burn pits. There’s no definitive proof that a burn pit directly harmed anyone’s health or caused the myriad symptoms described in the lawsuit, they contend.

The sick service members and contractors sense that no matter the outcome of the lawsuit, they are turning a corner with the U.S. government.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki told military reporters last year that his administration would not repeat the errors of Agent Orange. For decades, the military denied that the herbicide — used to destroy dense jungles during the Vietnam War — caused sickness. Eventually officials admitted the link between Agent Orange and the illnesses of thousands of veterans.

President Barack Obama said last year that his administration had no interest in “sweeping things under the rug.”

And, on Dec. 16, R. Craig Postlewaite, the American military’s senior health protection official, publicly acknowledged that the burn pits had probably caused serious illness.

“We feel at this point in time that it’s quite plausible — in fact, likely — that there are a small number of people that have been affected with longer-term health problems,” he told the Salt Lake Tribune.

The Department of Defense is launching a more comprehensive study that could further validate outside research that indicates the burn pits have sickened troops. And the military has installed incinerators at Balad, closing Iraq’s most infamous burn pit.

“At times you feel like you are battling this all alone,” Elizabeth Hilpert said. “But the story is changing.”

* * *

Sgt. Klayton Thomas won’t see it end.

Two days after Christmas — two weeks after the military acknowledged a probable link between the burn pits and serious illness — Thomas walked from his bathroom to the living room recliner where he spent all his time.

He sat back down, looked toward his reading lamp, gasped twice and stopped breathing.

His family buried him on a frigid Saturday in January.

Bundled-up Marines carried the flag-draped casket. They fired a 21-gun salute into the air. They hugged his mother and his widow.

In the weeks since, Connie Thomas has continued to e-mail friends and family.

She sends photos of her son. Klayton in his dress uniform. Klayton showing off his muscles at the beach. Klayton gritting out a smile during the final month of his life.

She forwards inspirational poems — poems about Marines in heaven, standing guard.

She occasionally passes along a few details of burn pit information, but mostly she leaves that to the experts and the lawyers.

The medical mystery might never be completely solved, but Connie said she doesn’t need to see more public health studies or lung biopsy research projects.

She said she knows why her boy is buried beneath a temporary marker, covered by snow.

“I have no doubt,” she said. “That burn pit killed my son.”

Contact the writer:

444-1064, matthew.hansen@owh.com

Posted in AIG and CNA, Cancer, KBR, Toxic Exposures | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Supporting the troops: Making them sick

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on February 21, 2010

David Isenberg

The biggest portion of U.S. private military contractors has always been, by far, on the logistics, not the weapons bearing security side.

These contractors deliver fuel and supplies, construct bases, prepare meals at the DFAC (Dining Facility), clean laundry, provide interpreters, and a host of other unglamorous but vital jobs.

Most of the time they do it very well, under very difficult conditions. Many of their supporters herald this as an unprecedented achievement in American military history. Such a view has long been the sound bite for which Doug Brooks, head of the International Peace Operations Association, a leading industry trade group, is best known for, i.e., “We have the best supported, supplied military in any military operation in history.” Indeed, if you search online for Doug Brooks and that phrase you get 1,400,000 hits.

That is why this article in the Los Angeles Times earlier this week grabbed my attention. It described how numerous returning veterans have reported leukemia, lymphoma, congestive heart problems, neurological conditions, bronchitis, skin rashes and sleep disorders — all of which they attribute to burn pits on dozens of U.S. bases in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Items burned in the pits have included medical waste, plastics, computer parts, oil, lubricants, paint, tires and foam cups, according to soldiers and contractors.

The Pentagon operates at least 84 burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Rep.
Timothy H. Bishop (D-N.Y.), who cosponsored legislation last fall that prohibited burning hazardous and medical waste unless the military showed it had no alternative. The law also requires the Defense Department to justify burn pits, develop alternatives and improve medical monitoring.

What does this have to do with private military contractors? Well, simply put, military contractors burned nearly every bit of waste from military bases

Military leaders originally saw the pits as temporary, the simplest way to dispose of trash before troops quickly exited Iraq. But as the war continued, they burned because it saved money, according to subsequent lawsuits, allowing U.S. contractors to avoid having to install costly incinerators.

It is KBR (formerly Kellogg, Brown & Root) which ran the pits. Last October a class action suit combining 22 lawsuits from 43 states was filed in US District Court in Maryland against KBR, Halliburton, and other military contractors for damages to health from open air burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to plaintiffs’ lawyers KBR had been paid millions of dollars to safely dispose of waste on bases but negligently burned refuse in open pits, spewing toxins, including known carcinogens, into the air.

What was KBR’s defense? Earlier this month it sought to challenge its liability for any ensuing problems. According to KBR’s press fact sheet on the suit, the Army, not KBR, decides if a burn pit or an incinerator will be used, where it will be built in relation to living and working facilities, and what it can burn. KBR insists it was and is still just “performing under the direction and control of military commanders in the field.” In short, they were only following orders. Where have we heard that before?

Now, none of this new. The admirable Ms. Sparky blog has long chronicled KBR’s misdeeds in this and other areas.

Still, it is a blatant blemish on the otherwise often commendable performance of private contractors that it is still going on. I am sure that Doug Brooks and IPOA don’t think that increasing the risk that a returning veteran will contract lung cancer or cardiovascular disease is what they have in mind when they say the American military is the “best supported” in history.

I noted in a January post that an article published last fall in Military Law Review contests legal popular wisdom that the “political question doctrine” means that tort claim cases by military members and U.S. civilians injured in Iraq and Afghanistan must not proceed.

A more recent article “Revisiting and Revising the Political Question Doctrine: Lane v. Halliburton and the Need to Adopt a Case-Specific Political Question Analysis for Private Military Contractor Cases” in the Mississippi College Law Review examines Lane v. Halliburton, a decision handed down in the Fifth Circuit reversing three decisions by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas [KBR’s corporate offices are in Houston] which dismissed as nonjusticiable [meaning not appropriate or proper for judicial consideration or resolution ] political questions three suits, brought by former employees of KBR and their survivors for injuries sustained as a result of the alleged negligence and fraud of KBR.

The article concludes:

The judiciary has returned to an earlier era and begun strongly favoring judicial review once again. After all, a majority of the Supreme Court has only found two cases that constitute a political question since Baker. The Court has not ruled on a PMC case, but the Fifth Circuit’s decision in Lane 2 falls in line with the re-emerging trend of favoring judicial review. The need for predictability in this area is great. In fact, one of the rationales for political question treatment in PMC cases – i.e. that adjudication would require judging the Executive branch’s policy of using military contractors, and thus would lead to the demise of PMCs – is actually undercut by a body of case law that is so unpredictable. It is generally understood that businesses prefer the known to the unknown, whether the known is good or bad, because it allows for proper planning.

KBR performance, or lack thereof, on the burn pits should be considered with respect to the argument that private military contractors make, namely that they are more efficient than the public sector counterparts. Efficiency in the free enterprise marketplace is, at least in part, based on competition. KBR has been and still is part of the Army’s Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP). But as Martha Minow wrote in the edited work Government by Contract: Outsourcing and American Democracy, published last year, there is no real competition for the initial award, and there is also a serious constraint on the effectiveness of subsequent monitoring because the government cannot afford to terminate the contract. Second, the private contractor’s employees cannot be fully monitored or controlled because they lie outside the hierarchical structure that is so central to military discipline, and are thus exempt from many of the rules that constrain military personnel. Third, legal and moral norms can never be fully imposed on private contractors because private firms lack the democratic accountability of public agencies.

Original at Huff Post

Posted in Exclusive Remedy, KBR, Toxic Exposures | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Appeals court upholds comp benefits for worker in Iraq

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on February 19, 2010

Service Employees International v. United States Department of Labor

Roberto Ceniceros at Business Insurance

NEW YORK—Substantial evidence exists to find that a truck driver who worked in Iraq is entitled to the maximum allowable workers compensation benefits under the Defense Base Act, a federal appeals court has ruled.

To reach its decision Thursday that the truck driver’s dry eye condition is compensable, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York first had to determine if it had jurisdiction over Defense Base Act appeals.

The law is a workers comp program administered by the U.S. Department of Labor for injuries sustained by private-sector employees working on military bases outside the United States.

Because of divergences in U.S. laws, federal appeals courts have split over whether they have jurisdiction in DBA appeals cases or whether U.S. district courts have jurisdiction, court records show.

In Service Employees International Inc. and Insurance Co. of the State of Pennsylvania vs. Director, Office of Workers Compensation Program, the 2nd Circuit essentially ruled that legislation adopted in 1972 intended to expedite claims processing by skipping district court proceedings and going directly to an appeals court.

After reaching that conclusion, the court upheld decisions by an administrative law judge and a U.S. Labor Department benefits review board. They ordered the employer to compensate Jesse Barrios for a temporary total disability lasting from Dec. 20, 2005, through May 21, 2006, and a partial disability commencing on May 22, 2006.

The employer was also ordered to pay his medical bills.

Service Employees International appealed, arguing among other issues that Mr. Barrios suffered from an eye syndrome before he worked in Iraq and his condition was not caused by his employment there.

But the appeals court found that even a medical expert for the employer said there was “some possibility” that chronic dryness in Iraq could have worsened the eye problem.

The appeals court also said that the administrative judge rationally inferred that working 13-hour days, seven days a week in Iraq is equivalent to an environmental exposure accumulating over several years of “normal work”

Posted in AIG and CNA, Department of Labor, KBR | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

War Contractors Receive Defense of Freedom Medal for Injuries, But Attract Little Notice

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on February 18, 2010

More than a hundred contractors who have worked in Iraq and Afghanistan have been given the Defense of Freedom medal, a Pentagon citation equivalent to the military’s Purple Heart. But unlike servicemen, the contractors receive little attention.

by T. Christian Miller, ProPublica – February 18, 2010 1:08 pm EST

Falls Church, Va. — A former sheriff’s deputy from South Dakota named Tate Mallory got a medal for service to his country on Wednesday, but it didn’t get much attention.

There was no top military brass at the ceremony, no long line of politicians waiting to shake his hand. Instead, Mallory stood on a dais in an anonymous hotel room in suburban Washington, D.C., looking pleased and slightly embarrassed as he was handed a Defense of Freedom medal.

“I thought that if someone was going to get hurt, it was going to happen to somebody else,” he told the audience, which included friends, family, co-workers, State Department officials and representatives from a congressional office or two.

Mallory was a civilian contractor who worked for DynCorp, a large defense firm that helps train police in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in western Iraq in 2006, punching a hole in his gut. He almost bled to death until U.S. Marines saved him.

He is one of thousands of civilians whose deaths and injuries are not included in the Pentagon’s official list of casualties from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A joint investigation by ProPublica, ABC News and the Los Angeles Times found that injured civilian contractors routinely face drawn-out battles to get medical treatment paid for under a taxpayer-financed federal system known as the Defense Base Act.

The Labor Department, which tracks injuries to contract workers abroad, recently updated the tally Since 2001, more than 1,700 civilian contractors have died in Iraq and Afghanistan and nearly 40,000 have been reported injured.

More than a hundred contract workers have been given the Defense of Freedom medal, a Pentagon citation that is the civilian equivalent of the military’s Purple Heart. Still, it’s difficult to track who receives the medal, which was created by the Defense Department after 9/11. Typically, corporations such as DynCorp or Houston-based KBR nominate their workers, with the Pentagon approving the final award. But there is no centralized record of recipients, nor are the award ceremonies usually publicized.

Several of those at Wednesday’s ceremony, which was sponsored by DynCorp, lamented the lack of attention. They noted that contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan usually get in the news for bad behavior — such as wasting taxpayer money or the killing of innocent civilians.

Ken Leonard, a former DynCorp employee who was also recognized for valor on Wednesday, said Americans are not always aware of the contribution made by civilian contractors at work in the war zones. Leonard had both legs amputated after being injured by a roadside bomb in 2005. After 18 months of surgeries and rehabilitation, he returned to work as a police officer in High Point, N.C.

“I’d say there was a public misunderstanding. I was there to work with the military,” Leonard said. “There’s a perception that we’re all gun-crazy, trigger-happy cowboys. That’s not the case.”

Write to T. Christian Miller at T.Christian.Miller@propublica.org

Posted in T Christian Miller | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 30 Comments »

Danny Fitzsimons Trial in Iraq Postponed

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on February 18, 2010

Trial of British Contractor in Iraq postponed

The trial of a British security contractor accused of fatally shooting two colleagues has been postponed for a third time.

Danny Fitzsimons appeared briefly in an Iraqi court Thursday, only to be told to return on April 7.

It’s the third time the court hearings have been pushed back since Fitzsimons first appeared before a judge last November.

His lawyer, Tariq Harb, told The Associated Press that the latest delay was requested by the victims’ attorneys. It was not immediately clear why.

Fitzsimons is accused of shooting two colleagues, a Briton and an Australian, during a fight in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone last summer.

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

See also Danny Fitzsimons

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

US Cracks down on “Contractors” as a Tax Dodge

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on February 17, 2010

KBR, Blackwater, CSA, MPRI, Ronco Consulting and possibly the company you work, worked for have misrepresented their employees as Independent Contractors in order to keep from paying Social Security and Medicare Taxes.  As an American citizen you are responsible for paying these whether the company you work for is offshore or not.  That is not to say all these companies were offshore that did this.

Now these same companies while happily not accepting the responsibilities of employing you for tax purposes were happy to lie and claim you were an employee when they got the DBA insurance they were supposed to get in order to be eligible to take that government contract.

What might happen that is while your injured, not working  and financially getting screwed over by the DBA insurance company AIG or CNA the IRS might come asking you about those taxes you didn’t pay while you were working overseas tax free but still must pay medicare and SS, which would have cost you 15,000 but with the part the company didn’t pay and the fines and late fees they force you to come up  with $60,000.  Try not to bleed on it.

For more on how to determine if  you were an employee or not go here  MisClassifying Employees as Independent Contractors

But trust that if the company paid your air fare, told you where and when to go to work and how to do it using their vehicles and equipment, you were an employee according to the IRS.

From the New York Times

Federal and state officials, many facing record budget deficits, are starting to aggressively pursue companies that try to pass off regular employees as independent contractors.

President Obama’s 2010 budget assumes that the federal crackdown will yield at least $7 billion over 10 years. More than two dozen states also have stepped up enforcement, often by enacting stricter penalties for misclassifying workers.

Many workplace experts say a growing number of companies have maneuvered to cut costs by wrongly classifying regular employees as independent contractors, though they often are given desks, phone lines and assignments just like regular employees. Moreover, the experts say, workers have become more reluctant to challenge such practices, given the tough job market.

Companies that pass off employees as independent contractors avoid paying Social Security, Medicare and unemployment insurance taxes for those workers. Companies do not withhold income taxes from contractors’ paychecks, and several studies have indicated that, on average, misclassified independent workers do not report 30 percent of their income.

One federal study concluded that employers illegally passed off 3.4 million regular workers as contractors, while the Labor Department estimates that up to 30 percent of companies misclassify employees. Ohio’s attorney general estimates that his state has 92,500 misclassified workers, which has cost the state up to $35 million a year in unemployment insurance taxes, up to $103 million in workers’ compensation premiums and up to $223 million in income tax revenue.

“It’s a very significant problem,” said the attorney general, Richard Cordray. “Misclassification is bad for business, government and labor. Law-abiding businesses are in many ways the biggest fans of increased enforcement. Misclassifying can mean a 20 or 30 percent cost difference per worker.”

Employers deny misclassifying workers deliberately. The businesses say the lines are unclear between employee and independent contractor.

Workers are generally considered employees when someone else controls how and when they perform their work. In contrast, independent contractors are generally in business for themselves, obtain customers on their own and control how they perform services.

Many businesses are dismayed about the tougher federal and state scrutiny.

“The goal of raising money is not a proper rationale for reclassifying who falls on what side of the line,” said Randel K. Johnson, senior vice president with the United States Chamber of Commerce. “The laws are unclear in this area, and legitimate clarification is one thing. But if it’s just a way to justify enforcing very unclear laws against employers who can have a legitimate disagreement with the Labor Department or I.R.S., then we’re concerned.”

Among the most often misclassified workers are truck drivers, construction workers, home health aides and high-tech engineers.

Portraying regular workers as contractors allows companies to circumvent minimum wage, overtime and antidiscrimination laws. Workers classified as contractors do not receive unemployment insurance if laid off or workers’ compensation if injured, and they rarely receive the health insurance or other fringe benefits regular employees do.

“This denies many workers their basic rights and protections and means less revenues to the Treasury and a competitive advantage for employers who misclassify,” said Jared Bernstein, who as executive director of Vice President Joseph A. Biden’s Middle Class Task Force has helped orchestrate the administration’s campaign against misclassification. “The last thing you want is to give a competitive advantage to employers who are breaking the rules.”

Organized labor, a strong supporter of Mr. Obama, has long complained about the practice. No administration has undertaken as big a crackdown as Mr. Obama’s, although administration and state officials deny they are doing it as a favor to labor.

California’s attorney general, Jerry Brown, is seeking $4.3 million from a construction firm he accused of misclassifying employees. Last April, he won a $13 million judgment when a court ruled that two companies had misclassified 300 janitors, cheated the state out of payroll taxes and not paid minimum wage and overtime.

Last November, the Illinois Department of Labor imposed $328,500 in penalties on a home improvement company for misclassifying 18 workers, saying it had pressed them to incorporate as separate business entities.

The Obama administration plans to expand investigations by hiring 100 more enforcement personnel. The I.R.S. has begun auditing 6,000 companies to see whether they are in compliance with the law.

Posted in AIG and CNA, Blackwater, Taxes | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Iraq to seize security contractors’ heavy weapons

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on February 17, 2010

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq will seize heavy weapons from foreign security firms and expel within days ex-Blackwater contractors still in the country, Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani said on Wednesday.

See Also  Iraq confiscates arms in private security crackdown

The decision follows Iraqi government outrage at the dismissal by a U.S. court of charges against Blackwater Worldwide guards accused of killing 14 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in 2007.

It also comes ahead of a parliamentary election on March 7 in which Bolani is running at the head of his own coalition against a slate headed by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Bolani said he had “ordered that the heavy weapons used by some of the foreign security firms be collected.” Speaking to Reuters at a campaign event, he gave no further details and did not clarify whether that included licensed weapons.

He reiterated that he had ordered all former employees of Blackwater, now known as Xe Services, to be kicked out of Iraq.

“We gave them a deadline to leave Iraq. It will expire in the next few days,” he said. He declined to say what would happen to former Blackwater workers if they did not leave or how the Interior Ministry knew if someone had worked for Blackwater in the past.

He said most former employees had left when the company lost its license to operate last year. Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh had previously said there was no official order expelling former Blackwater workers.

The Blackwater incident in 2007 came to symbolise for many Iraqis the impunity from prosecution in Iraq enjoyed by foreign security contractors after the 2003 U.S. invasion.

Their immunity from prosecution was lifted last year under a U.S.-Iraqi security pact that gave Iraq back its sovereignty.

Since then, Iraqi security forces and foreign contractors have come close to blows at checkpoints as Iraqi troops make clear to heavily armed foreigners that Iraqis are now in charge.

The decision by a U.S. federal court in December to dismiss charges against the Blackwater security guards accused of killing the civilians produced an immediate crackdown by Iraqi police on the operations of security contractors in Iraq.

Maliki’s government has hired U.S. lawyers to prepare a law suit against Blackwater.

The guards said they shot in self-defense in the incident, which occurred during some of the worst sectarian violence in Iraq. The U.S. government is appealing the dismissal. Original Story here

Posted in Blackwater | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

North Carolina to get new State Lab. Hope it isn’t a public health hazard.

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on February 17, 2010

Cross Posted from Effect Measure

Congratulations, North Carolina. You are getting brand new $52 million facility for your State Public Health Laboratory and Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, each in separate wings of a 220,000 square foot facility in Raleigh. Sounds great. But if you work there you might want to shower at home and bring bottled water. And better check your benefits. Because the company that got the contract is non other than Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), until recently a Halliburton subsidiary and notorious Iraq contractor under investigation for shoddy electrical work resulting in the electrocution deaths of 18 US soldiers while showering (the company’s defense? it wasn’t required to follow US electrical codes in Iraq); and exposing workers in a water injection plant to carcinogenic agents. Oh, and the benefits?

Kellogg Brown & Root, the nation’s top Iraq war contractor and until last year a subsidiary of Halliburton Corp., has avoided paying hundreds of millions of dollars in federal Medicare and Social Security taxes by hiring workers through shell companies based in this tropical tax haven.More than 21,000 people working for KBR in Iraq – including about 10,500 Americans – are listed as employees of two companies that exist in a computer file on the fourth floor of a building on a palm-studded boulevard here in the Caribbean. Neither company has an office or phone number in the Cayman Islands.

The Defense Department has known since at least 2004 that KBR was avoiding taxes by declaring its American workers as employees of Cayman Islands shell companies, and officials said the move allowed KBR to perform the work more cheaply, saving Defense dollars. (Farah Stockman, Boston Globe)

It’s not just unemployment benefits:

Danny Langford, a Texas pipe-fitter who was sent to work in a water treatment plant in southern Iraq in July 2003, said he, too, initially believed that he was an employee of KBR.But when he allegedly got ill from chemicals at the plant and was terminated that fall, he said, his application for unemployment compensation was rejected because he worked for a foreign company. (Boston Globe)

This is the company owned by the company formerly headed by then VP Dick Cheney that got a secret 2002 contract to reconstruct Iraq’s oil production after a US invasion that hadn’t yet happened. None of KBR’s competitors uses off-shore shell companies to get a bidding advantage by avoiding taxes, but since the contract was no-bid and secret that may not be relevant. But when the Boston Globe went looking for the address of the KBR subsidiary in the Caymans allegedly employing all those US citizens working in Iraq, what they found was some business offices housing Trident Trust, a registered agent that collects $1000 a year to forward mail as act as KBR’s representative. The Globe estimates the arrangement has cost US taxpayers $500 million in Social Security and Medicare revenues.

So as a foreign company, KBR didn’t have to pay the taxes. Sleezy but apparently within the law, which protects foreign companies. But then there’s this:

But there is one circumstance in which KBR does claim the workers as its own: when it comes to receiving the legal immunity extended to employers working in Iraq.In one previously unreported case, a group of Service Employees International workers accused KBR of knowingly exposing them to cancer-causing chemicals at an Iraqi water treatment plant. Under the Defense Base Act of 1941, a federal workers compensation law, employers working with the military have immunity in most cases from such employee lawsuits.

So congratulations, North Carolina taxpayers. You got yourself one helluva contractor there. Yes, indeed. One hell of a contractor. You might want to check the fine print, though.

The onging saga of the contractor from hell

Posted in Exclusive Remedy, KBR, Toxic Exposures | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Another Melt Down: Schofield soldier accused of Iraq shooting likely had psychotic episode

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on February 16, 2010

Another Melt Down covered up by the military.

Lucas “Trent” Vinson’s life was no less valuable than any of those lost at Ft Hood but it was easier to keep his murder under wraps.

By William Cole
Original Story here

WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD — The attorney for a Schofield Barracks soldier accused of shooting to death a civilian contractor in Iraq said today that an Army mental fitness board found that the soldier likely experienced a short psychotic episode.

Spc. Beyshee O. Velez, 31, a three-time Iraq war veteran, was days away from leaving the country when he allegedly shot to death civilian contractor Lucas “Trent” Vinson on Sept. 13, 2009, at Contingency Operating Base Speicher in Northern Iraq.

Vinson, 27, worked for Houston-based KBR at COB Speicher with his father, Myron “Bugsy” Vinson and an uncle. KBR provides troops with essential services, including housing, meals, mail delivery and laundry.

Velez is charged with two counts of murder, three counts of assault and one count of fleeing apprehension.

An Article 32 hearing — similar to a civilian grand jury hearing — began today at Wheeler.

Velez’ civilian attorney, Philip D. Cave, said he plans to challenge the Army mental health board’s findings.

The board found Velez fit to stand trial, the Army said.

Cave said he plans to request government funding to hire an expert consultant.

He said the shooting occurred in a SUV. Witnesses testified today that Velez then seized a 15-passenger van and drove erratically at high speed before hitting a dirt-filled barrier.

A stand-off with Velez lasted about 12 hours, the Army said.

Air Force Senior Airman Jesus Antancio, who was part of a security force, said Velez was sitting in the van pointing a weapon at his own head.

A friend of Velez, Spc. Leonel Garciapagan, who talked to Velez and was able to remove the soldier’s rifle, said Velez was confused and was not aware of the shooting.

“He wasn’t aware of nothing,” Garciapagan said today.

“When he talked to me, I figured out his mind wasn’t right,” Garciapagan said.

Velez’ main concern was about a dream he had, Garciapagan said.

“He confused what really happened with his dream,” Garciapagan said. “He was talking about his dream.”

Garciapagan said Velez started acting strangely several days before the shooting, thinking there were wanted posters with his face and name around the base.

Garciapagan said he spent some time with Velez, but then was busy the next few days before the shooting.

“I tried to explain to him, ‘Don’t worry about it,'” Garciapagan said.

He said everyone was “stressed” at the time with last-minute preparations to leave Iraq.

“Everyone was in the mood of going back home,” Garciapagan said.

He described Velez as a “nice person. Real friendly. Disciplined,” but not aggressive by nature.

An investigating officer will make a recommendation as to what charges — if any — Velez will face at court-martial.

A murder conviction carries a maximum sentence of life behind bars and a dishonorable discharge.

Vinson’s family previously told the Associated Press that Vinson was shot three times after offering a ride to an American soldier who flagged down Vinson’s vehicle on the base.

Posted in Melt Down, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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