Army vet battling private insurer for coverage she feels is due
Posted by defensebaseactcomp on June 13, 2011
Injured as contractor in Afghanistan but denied specialized therapy at home
Kevin Graman The Spokesman Review June 13, 2011
A highly trained helicopter mechanic sits in her Chattaroy home and wonders what will come next: another debilitating brain seizure or the therapy she hopes will help her recover from injury as a result of a mortar explosion 20 months ago in Afghanistan.
Jennifer Barcklay says she is being denied the specialized inpatient medical treatment her doctors believe is her only hope for a normal life.
“These are war crimes, using taxpayer dollars to profit from injuries incurred by people fighting for our freedom,” Barcklay says.
Although she is a U.S. Army veteran, Barcklay, 40, was injured as a civilian working for Blackwater, the private security contractor now known as Xe Services. She and thousands of other civilian employees injured in the defense of their nation have had to navigate an often unresponsive private insurance system.
Xe’s insurance carrier has so far denied Barcklay expensive inpatient treatment known as cognitive rehabilitation therapy, which was recommend by eight Spokane area physicians and mental health care providers.
She suffers from traumatic brain injury, the signature wound of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, for which thousands of U.S. soldiers are receiving care in military or Department of Veterans Affairs facilities. Like many of them, she continues to endure seizures, memory loss, headaches, tremors and problems with her balance that prevent her from returning to work.
Under the Defense Base Act of 1941, defense contractors must provide medical and disability insurance for their workers in war zones. The premiums are included in the companies’ contract with the Department of Defense.
There have been nearly 56,000 such claims for injuries or deaths from the start of the Iraq war to 2009. That year, a congressional investigation found that insurance companies had collected $1.5 billion in premiums, while they paid out about $900 million in compensation and expenses.
Another World War II-era law, the War Hazards Compensation Act, reimburses the employer or insurer for injuries or death to a worker caused by an act of war. The insurer is reimbursed by the taxpayers for 100 percent of the claim, plus 15 percent for administrative costs. From 2003 to 2010, the federal government paid more to insurers for expenses, $19.7 million, than it paid in compensation, $12.1 million, to claimants under the act.
More than three-quarters of the Defense Base Act claims were handled by American International Group, which was rescued in 2008 by the U.S. government in the largest corporate bailout in history.
An AIG subsidiary, Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania-Chartis WorldSource, took months to authorize a neurological evaluation for Barcklay. Now Chartis is refusing to pay for her inpatient treatment.
“Frankly, I am appalled at how many obstacles have been placed in the way of her receiving the treatment she needs,” Spokane neuropsychologist Winifred Daisley wrote in a December letter to Chartis case manager Debra Ragan.
Marie Ali, a Chartis spokeswoman, said she could not comment on individual claims but that the company “is committed to handling every claim professionally, ethically and fairly.”
“We provide the highest level of service to our insureds, which includes the prompt adjudication and payment of claims.”
A spokesman for Xe Services said, “The company has worked diligently with the insurance provider to help ensure Ms. Barcklay receives the level of care and treatment she needs.”
More Than 70 Members of Congress Demand Cognitive Treatment for Troops With Traumatic Brain Injuries
by T Christian Miller from his series at ProPublica Brain Wars