Defense Base Act Compensation Blog

The Modern Day DBA Casualty

Posts Tagged ‘Exclusive Remedy’

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 »

“Depleted Uranium From Sea To Shining Sea:” Cancer Kills US Soldiers And Iraqi Civilians

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on February 1, 2010

We are hearing from more and more contractors every day with deadly aggressive cancers after spending time in Iraq. Some are being sent home with them.   No one is counting them…..

As early as 2007, four years after the war in Iraq, the medical journal Lancet Oncology and Epinews observed a trend: that several cancer registries were being locked out of Veteran’s Administration [VA] data beginning late 2004 (a year after the war in Iraq). For decades the VA had voluntarily shared its data, allowing access to cancer patients. A Centers for Disease Control spokesman said that as a result of the lock out, “Potentially, 40 000 to 70 000 cases were missed nationally each year.” With the national estimate of cases askew, the spike in cancer rates of soldiers being diagnosed with cancer post 2003 deployment — remains unreported.

I have tracked nearly 40 soldiers since 2006 who have been diagnosed with rare, aggressive forms of cancer post-tour. Half have already died. The DoD and VA are less then forthright about this pattern –even as they approach the seventh anniversary of the war this March.

The environmental culprit, depleted Uranium and most recently the carcinogenic smoke from burn pits (the military’s resolve of disposing their sanitation in landfills—is burning the refuse, no matter what the content, in acre size dirt pits).

The United Nations Environment Programme has been conducting measurements of DU sites in Kosovo since 2000, later including Serbia, Bosnia, Kuwait and Iraq (the latter to be found with 42 contaminated sites). Their “Depleted Uranium Awareness” pamphlet admits there is a DU concern –but down-plays the cancer risks. DU is unable to penetrate the skin, but once there is inhalation or ingestion of the radiological DU dust, its toxicity has the ability to radiate the lungs and gut (multiplying in the cells).

Their projected time frame after exposure is 10 – 20 years before symptoms appear. But that is far from the truth, as soldiers lay ravaged in VA hospitals across the U. S. — or their family’s, kneeling at the foot of a needless grave, know all too well. Privy to the VA data since 2003, the DoD is familiar with their diagnosis of an uncontrollable wildfire of rare cancer, appearing four to 36 months after exposure.

It is abhorrent that the DoD and mainstream media has stood shoulder to shoulder with locked arms blocking this information from the masses — military and civilian — in fear of soldiers deflecting. Especially when protective masks, gear and literature is readily available but intentionally withheld. But is death the only option? The young widow of Army Command Sergeant Major [CSM] James W. Hubbard Jr., with the 139th Medical Group Unit in Independence, Missouri, shares his story below.

Read this entire post by RB Stuart at Huff Post

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

Ill wind blows

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on February 1, 2010

Baghdad burn pit operated by KBR said to cause migraines, breathing problems and rashes

CAMP TAJI, Iraq — One night in mid-January, a shift in the wind sent a sudden flurry of white flakes into a detainee internment facility guarded by soldiers from Houston’s 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

The Texas Army National Guard troops weren’t witnessing a rare Baghdad snowfall. The flakes drifting from the pitch-dark sky were ash and bits of charred trash belched from an open-air burn pit about 100 yards from the outer walls of the internment facility.

Operated by Houston-based contractor KBR, the pit consumes 120 tons of garbage a day here at Camp Taji, a U.S. military base north of Baghdad. On calm days, noxious smoke billows upward and dissipates into a smog-like haze. When the wind blows, the acrid-smelling fumes pour into towers and yards where about 800 Texas troops from the 72nd keep watch.  Read the full story here

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

Danny Fitzsimons: The cost of violence

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on January 30, 2010

Is a British former soldier about to be tried in Iraq over the shootings of two colleagues a cold-blooded killer or the victim of post-traumatic stress disorder?

Jonathan Owen talks to Danny Fitzsimons

It is three in the morning and pitch black. Danny Fitzsimons is standing in the darkness of a filthy toilet – hiding from his guards – next to the jail cell he shares with 13 men. The 29-year-old former Paratrooper turned mercenary has spent the past five months in the Karabat Maryam police station in Baghdad, after allegedly shooting dead two of his colleagues and seriously wounding an Iraqi guard.

“When I sleep I have nightmares, so I sit up and stay awake because I’m scared,” he says, whispering into a mobile phone. He thinks it best not to say how he obtained it. In a hoarse, hushed voice he tells of terrible things he claims to have seen during his years in the Army and then as a mercenary.

He swears, appropriately enough, like a trooper: he is on edge, with good reason. His life is in the hands of the Iraqi authorities: the usual punishment for murder is the death penalty. Hanging is the preferred method.

“I hallucinate constantly,” he says. “It’s compounded by this place. There’s nowhere to escape to. Back home, I’d just get smashed: I’d just blot it out. But out here there’s nothing I can do.” What he must do is convince an Iraqi court that these hallucinations are reason enough not to execute him if he is found guilty of killing his two former colleagues. Earlier this month an Iraqi judge ruled that psychiatric reports be produced on Mr Fitzsimons prior to the start of the trial. These will be done over the next two weeks.

His trial will also highlight the issue of military veterans, many of whom – traumatised as they are by what they have seen in battle – find it hard to get work on “civvy street” and end up taking well-paid work as soldiers for hire.

According to Mr Fitzsimons, he is one of many: “There are thousands of mercenaries out here, private military guys like myself who are suffering from the same thing that I am… It’s rife.”

Veteran private security operatives claim the sheer number of security companies now operating in Iraq has driven down wages and the quality of personnel. Mix these factors into a cocktail of weapons and alcohol and the only surprise is that there are not more tragedies.

Read the full story here

Posted in AIG and CNA, Department of Labor, PTSD and TBI | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Danny Fitzsimons and the Blackwater Backlash?

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on January 5, 2010

Danny Fitzsimons, is in Iraqi custody facing charges for the murder of  his co workers Darren Hoare and Paul McGuigan in Baghdad on Sept 9,  2009.  His chances of a fair trial in Baghdad were already in question.

Did the noose tighten as the Iraqi’s learned of the Dismissal of the charges against the Blackwater Guards in the US Courts?

Danny must be held accountable for his actions.   He was there under Iraqi Jurisdiction.  Will he also be held accountable for every crime committed against the Iraqi people?

Iraqis outraged as Blackwater case thrown out

Many Iraqis also held up the judge’s decision as proof of what they’d long believed: U.S. security contractors were above the law.

And how about those who so negligently put Danny back in action with a gun?

Does the DBA’s Exclusive Remedy extend to Iraqi Jurisdiction?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Danny Fitzsimons hired by security firms despite ‘worrying’ psychiatric reports

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on December 4, 2009

Danny Fitzsimons was was first given a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder in January 2004

The trial of Danny Fitzsimons, a former paratrooper, is due to
begin in Baghdad tomorrow.

By The Times Tom Coghlan

Also Read

The Defense Base Act’s Exclusive Remedy, Why Danny Fitzsimons PTSD was a non issue

A British security contractor who faces a death sentence if convicted of murdering two fellow security guards in Baghdad was employed by several British security companies despite psychiatric assessments dating back to 2004 that diagnosed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in him, The Times has learnt.

The trial of Danny Fitzsimons, a former paratrooper, is due to begin in Baghdad tomorrow. He is charged with the deaths of fellow security guards, Paul McGuigan, a Briton, and Darren Hoare, an Australian, in a trial that has raised new concerns over the regulation of the huge private security industry in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The psychiatric assessments of Mr Fitzsimons, seen by The Times, show that he was first given a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in January 2004, while still serving in the British Army. Subsequent assessments by consultant psychiatrists in May 2008 and June 2009 reported that the symptoms had worsened.

The reports were commissioned by his legal defence teams when Mr Fitzsimons was facing previous charges of violent behaviour in the British courts.

The most recent report, which diagnoses full-blown PTSD, was made only two months before Mr Fitzsimons was sent back to Baghdad by the security company ArmorGroup. He is accused of shooting dead two fellow security guards during a drunken argument within 36 hours of arriving.

The reports detail a pattern of extreme behaviour, alcohol and drug abuse as Mr Fitzsimons struggled to deal with experiences he had as a soldier. In the report from January 23 2004, he told a consultant psychiatrist that he had not felt “completely well from a mental and physical point of view” since his service in Kosovo in 1999, when he was involved in the discovery of several mass graves.

The report details “unpleasant and highly vivid visual recollections of active military service . . . triggered by specific stimuli, including the smell of singed hair and the characteristic sound of dripping water”. The doctor assessed that one incident was particularly relevant: “He was ordered to explore a group of small, dimly lit buildings. Upon entry, he recalls seeing a heavy-duty deep freeze, the lid of which he lifted. Inside, he recalls seeing transparent blue plastic bags, through which the corpse of a male child, of approximately 11 years of age, was clearly visible. The limbs and head had clearly been dismembered and arranged.”

Four years later, on May 8, 2008, Mr Fitzsimons was again assessed by a clinical psychiatrist who diagnosed the symptoms of PTSD. “He does not sleep for more than two or three hours at a time,” the doctor wrote.

“His sleep is interrupted and broken by vivid dreams and nightmares about his past experiences. He has memories and visions of screaming colleagues, especially one who was burnt to death.”

Mr Fitzsimons reported that he suffered repeated flashbacks accompanied by fear and continuous anxiety. He also reported difficulties relating to people around him.

By June 30 2009, when the last assessment was carried out, Mr Fitzsimons’s symptoms had multiplied and he appeared to be struggling to cope with normal life. He told the assessing doctor that he had chronic problems with alcohol and drugs. The doctor concluded that he had PTSD and recommended therapy.

There was no response from Aegis or Olive Group to requests for information about Mr Fitzsimons, or any information on their vetting procedures for security guards.

A spokesman for ArmorGroup said that Mr Fitzsimons provided forged documents to the company about his physical and mental wellbeing.

Mr Fitzsimons’s stepmother, Liz Fitzsimons, said that they felt let down by both the Army and the security companies he had worked for: “ArmorGroup have told us that he told lies on his application form, but I say they should have done better checks. I am cross with the Army. He saw all these horrendous things, which turned him into what he is now, and then they didn’t want him.”

Posted in PTSD and TBI | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

The DBA’s Exclusive Remedy: Why Danny Fitzsimons’ PTSD was a Non Issue?

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on August 16, 2009

The Defense Base Act includes a clause called the “Exclusive Remedy” making the DBA the employers exclusive liability and the employees’s exclusive remedy.

When the contract company  purchases the cost reimbursable DBA insurance for it’s employees it has just been released of all liability for any reason.   It is relieved from  litigation by the employee or his/her family members.  Many employees have never heard of the DBA or know that it is their exclusive remedy.  There is no “policy” delivered to them for their perusal or signature.

There is no financial gain to the employer by screening for PTSD and no financial loss to them when an employee snaps.  Even worse, when an employee files a claim for PTSD they most often are denied diagnoses and treatment by the DBA insurance companies AIG and CNA.

When the employee is forced into years of litigation in the Department of Labors’ Administrative Law System they will be pitted against their employer.   AIG and CNA will subpeona the employers representatives and fellow employees to testify against them at their hearing.  They may lie and blame this mental illness on the wife, or stepchildren,  anything but the stress of working and living in a war zone.

Many of the deaths and injuries to civilian contractors in the war zones were due to negligence on the part of the employer.     Employers often failed to provide necessary safety equipment, security,  and/or to implement, or allow to be implemented,  the most basic Safety and Standard Operating Procedures that would normally be followed.   So far there has been no consequence to bear on the companies or individuals who were negligent.

Paul McGuigan and Darren Hoare are dead.   Young children have lost their fathers and their own financial futures as the DBA will little if anything, reimburse them for this loss.  It’s possible these families will never see a dime from the DBA insurance company.  Hopefully there were supplemental policies in place.

Danny Fitzsimons was lost to this world years ago when his mental instability was not properly addressed.

He now stands in the eyes of the Iraqi’s as representative of all those who have abused them over these years.  He is being fast tracked through their legal system to a possible hanging.

As the facts of this tragedy come to light we see clearly how many times the opportunity to prevent it were overlooked.

The only ones who will pay the price are the dead, injured, incarcerated, their families and the US taxpayer who paid for the insurance policies and may reimburse the insurance companies for the claims, to include their attorneys,  under the War Hazards Act.

The DBA and it’s Exclusive Remedy clause are a free pass to unmitigated negligence.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

DBA CNA Casualty Anniversary

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on July 7, 2009

Congratulations Merlin Clark

membership drive[1]Today has been six years since you were blown up in Iraq and your claim is still being denied by CNA with no end in sight.

dad in the hole[1]

Thanks to everyone who has played a part in dragging this claim out, stopping his payments,  denying his medical,  and Generally making his life much more difficult than necessary.

You’d think he’d given enough already.

!!!!!!!!!!!!! And as if six years weren’t long enough  CNA’s  “He who must not be named”  just asked for a continuance !!!!!!!!!!!!

and another one,  what the hell  !!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted in AIG and CNA, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Department of Labor, Exclusive Remedy, Interviews with Injured War Zone Contractors, PTSD and TBI, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments »

Mission Accomplished…..

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on May 2, 2009

For those of us in the US the end of combat in Iraq was declared on May 1, 2003.

For those contractors who agreed to go to “Post War” Iraq and were waiting close by for the bullets to stop flying the Mission Accomplished Speech was actually given on May 2, six years ago today.

These contractors weren’t getting paid any more than their regular wages to go into Post War Iraq.  They were not informed that the Defense Base Act would be their “Exclusive Remedy” if they were injured working in dangerous conditions not suitable for their work.  They did not expect that SOP’s were being left behind at the border.

As Post War Iraq rapidly proved to be an ongoing war zone these same contractors were expected to stay and work in Red Zones without security, either military or private.  When they suggested leaving until the War was actually over or at least moving to a safer part of Iraq they were told they had to stay and work.

It was more important to the US Government that it look like things were going better in Iraq than they were.   That they were  throwing  human lives out there on the line took no precedence over appearances.

Some contractors went into the War Zones for patriotic reasons.

Some went to make more money than they could at home.

Some did neither.  Some just went to do their job as they’d always done it.  Some were taken advantage of by their employers for profit and by the US Government to cover up their mistakes.

However they ended up being killed or injured working in a war zone they and their families have all ended up on the loosing end financially while their employers and the DBA insurance companies continued to profit.

The Government lost their effort to cover up their mistakes.  Unfortunately  it’s little condolence to the lives they ruined trying to save face.

And for last six years this Government of ours sat idly and watched while AIG and CNA denied even the  inadequate beneftis provided by the DBA to these injured contractors.  The benefits do not come anywhere close to making up for the lost futures of these families but to continue to deny them is criminal.

If the Mission six years ago was to lie to and use human lives  like so much cannon fodder then toss them aside once they’ve broken them, you might say it was accomplished.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

 
%d bloggers like this: