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L-3, MPRI Contractor Paul Almryde Killed in Suicide Blast in Afghanistan

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on April 22, 2011

Special honor escort scheduled for Friday evening

The Desert Dispatch

BARSTOW • A Barstow man killed last week while working as a military contractor in Afghanistan will be honored on Friday evening with a law enforcement escort as he is brought back to Barstow.

Paul Almryde, 46, was working for military contractor MPRI in Afghanistan as part of the Afghan National Army Corps support battalion on April 16 when he was killed by a suicide bomber, said his wife, Pamela Almryde. According to reports, a Taliban bomber dressed like an Afghan soldier in order to infiltrate a joint Afghan-U.S. base in the eastern province of Laghman. Four Afghan soldiers and five NATO service members — including Paul — were killed in the attack.

Rick Kiernan, a spokesman for MPRI, said the company wanted to express its condolences to the Almryde family and said that Paul was a “dedicated and professional member” of its team.

“At tragic times like these, we are reminded that we can never take for granted the sacrifices of L-3 MPRI employees worldwide,” said Kiernan. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Almryde family during this difficult time.”

Pamela said her husband was working as a mechanic at the base and was teaching Afghan troops how to repair their vehicles. Paul had served in the military for 21 years — with 12 years of active service in the Army and 9 years in the National Guard — before retiring in 2010 as a Master Sergeant. Paul joined MPRI last May. He was scheduled to come back to Barstow in June and was planning to sign another year-long contract with MPRI, said Pamela.

One of Paul’s neighbors, Jim Osbourn, is helping to organize the memorial on Friday because he wants to honor Paul’s memory as a service member. Osbourn said those wishing to honor his memory should get to Dana Park around 8:00 p.m., although the procession could be delayed because of traffic.

Please read more about Paul here

Posted in Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties and Missing | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Foreign Interpreters Hurt in Battle Find U.S. Insurance Benefits Wanting

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on December 21, 2009

Foreign Interpreters Hurt in Battle Find U.S. Insurance Benefits Wanting

by T. Christian Miller, ProPublica – December 18, 2009 4:42 am EST

This story was co-published with the Los Angeles Times [1].

Malek Hadi was working with the U.S. military police when a homemade bomb detonated beneath his Humvee in September 2006. It cost him his right leg and several fingers. Documents show AIG insurance withheld his disability benefits in an effort to force him to accept a lump-sum settlement. Left: Hadi in Baghdad. Right: Hadi in his Arlington, Texas, apartment (Allison V. Smith/For The Los Angeles Times.)

After the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the U.S. military discovered that rebuilding the country and confronting an insurgency required a weapon not in its arsenal: Thousands of translators.

To fill the gap, the Pentagon turned to Titan Corp., a San Diego defense contractor, which eventually hired more than 8,000 interpreters, most of them Iraqis.

For $12,000 a year, these civilians served as the voice of America’s military, braving sniper fire and roadside bombs. Insurgents branded them collaborators and targeted them for torture and assassination. Many received military honors for their heroism.

[2] At least 360 interpreters employed by Titan or its successor company were killed between March 2003 and March 2008, and more than 1,200 were injured. The death toll was greater than that suffered by the armed forces of any country in the American-led coalition, other than the U.S. Scores of translators assisting U.S. forces in Afghanistan have also been killed or wounded.

An insurance program funded by American taxpayers was supposed to provide a safety net for interpreters and their families in the event of injury or death. Yet for many, the benefits have fallen painfully short of what was promised, an investigation by the Los Angeles Times and ProPublica found.

Interviews, corporate documents and data on insurance claims show that:

  • Insurers have delayed or denied claims for disability payments and death benefits, citing a lack of police reports or other documentary evidence that interpreters’ injuries or deaths were related to their work for the military. Critics, including some U.S. Army officers, say it is absurd to expect Iraqis or Afghans to be able to document the cause of injuries suffered in a war zone.
  • Iraqi interpreters sent to neighboring Jordan for medical treatment say they were pressured to accept lump-sum settlements from insurers, rather than a stream of lifetime benefits potentially worth more, and were told that if they didn’t sign, they would be sent back to Iraq — a likely death sentence.
  • Interpreters who have immigrated to America as refugees have ended up penniless, on food stamps or in menial jobs because their benefits under the U.S. insurance program are based on wages and living costs in their home countries, not in the United States. Payments intended to provide a decent standard of living in Iraq or Afghanistan leave the recipients below the poverty level in this country.

Malek Hadi was working with U.S. military police outside Baghdad when a homemade explosive detonated beneath his Humvee in September 2006. The blast tore off his right leg, mangled his left and sheared off several fingers.

Today, Hadi, 25, lives alone in a crime-ridden neighborhood in Arlington, Texas. He struggles to climb the stairs to his second-floor apartment on crutches. He has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder but is not receiving treatment because his insurer has refused to pay for it.

Malek Hadi (Allison V. Smith/For The Los Angeles Times.)
Malek Hadi (Allison V. Smith/For The Los Angeles Times.)

He lives on $612 a month in disability payments –- the maximum available under the war-zone insurance system.

“When we were in Iraq, we were exactly like the soldiers,” Hadi said. “Why are we treated differently now?”

Retired Army Col. Joel Armstrong, who served in Iraq and was a leading proponent of the 2007 U.S. troop buildup, or “surge,” that helped reduce violence in the country, said Iraqi interpreters were crucial to the strategy’s success.

“Without them, you really can’t operate effectively as a force. It’s just impossible,” Armstrong said. It is deplorable, he added, that interpreters injured while assisting American troops have had to fight for benefits.

“Every American should feel terrible about it,” he said. “It’s a shame.”

American International Group Inc. (AIG), the principal provider of insurance coverage for interpreters in Iraq, declined to answer detailed questions on its policies or comment on specific cases.

Marie Ali, a spokeswoman for the AIG unit that sold the coverage, said the company “is committed to handling every claim professionally, ethically and fairly. In all cases, it is our policy to respect the privacy of our customers and claimants and not discuss the specifics of individual claims.”

Under a World War II-era law known as the Defense Base Act [4], companies working under contract for the U.S. military must provide workers’ compensation insurance for their employees, both Americans and foreign nationals. The cost of the coverage is built into Pentagon contracts and so is ultimately paid by taxpayers.

The insurance system, administered by the U.S. Department of Labor, once handled a few hundred claims a year. It expanded dramatically after the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq because of the Pentagon’s heavy reliance on civilian contract workers to drive fuel trucks, cook meals and provide other support services.

Today, there are more civilian workers than uniformed soldiers in the two battle zones, and more than 1,400 contract workers have died.

Interpreters in Iraq were covered by insurance purchased by their employer, first Titan Corp. and later L-3 Communications, a New York defense contractor that acquired Titan in 2005. L-3 paid AIG more than $20 million a year in premiums, according to corporate records.

Once a worker files an injury claim, the employer’s insurer must begin paying benefits within two weeks or file a “notice of dispute.”

Interpreters who suffered the worst injuries, such as loss of a limb or severe brain damage, typically received compensation relatively quickly. That is because they were treated at U.S. military facilities in Iraq, where staff members documented their injuries.

In other cases, AIG often had difficulty establishing to its satisfaction that interpreters’ injuries or deaths were work-related. The company routinely filed notices of dispute while it investigated the claims.

“Even determining the facts of an accident – the location and the circumstances – can be a challenge,” Charles Schader, AIG’s president of worldwide claims, told a Congressional panel in June [5]. “Without sufficient information, examiners cannot make timely final determinations within 14 days.”

To pay death benefits, AIG required police reports or other supporting documents, according to former L-3 officials. Internal L-3 records from 2005 show that AIG examiners sent to Iraq were able to find documentation deemed necessary for benefits in only half the cases examined.

Colleen Driscoll, former chief claims manager for L-3, said that 10 percent to 20 percent of the company's Iraqi workers who should have received benefits were denied.
Colleen Driscoll, former chief claims manager for L-3, said that 10 percent to 20 percent of the company’s Iraqi workers who should have received benefits were denied.

“If you’re missing one piece of documentation, you got denied,” said Colleen Driscoll, former chief claims manager for L-3. “These guys get murdered coming and going to work, and AIG turns them down because they don’t have a letter from the insurgents.”

Driscoll, a former U.N. refugee official, left L-3 in 2007. She said the cause was a dispute with company executives over treatment of injured interpreters.

She and another former L-3 official, Jennifer Armstrong, said their experience suggested that 10 percent to 20 percent of the company’s Iraqi workers who should have received benefits were denied.

Armstrong said that in one instance, a slain interpreter’s widow and children had to live for months in the company’s compound in the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad while they waited for death benefits to be approved. It was too dangerous for them to remain in their home, and they could not afford to relocate, she said.

“The Iraqis were looked at as second-class citizens,” said Armstrong, who now works for another defense contractor. “It just became a business. When it became a business, you lost sight of the goal.”

L-3 did not respond to requests for comment.

AIG arranged for many of the most severely wounded Iraqis to be transferred to neighboring Jordan, where medical facilities were better and interpreters did not face the risk of assassination.

Emad Hatabah, a Syrian-trained physician who had been medical director of AIG’s Jordanian subsidiary, exercised broad authority over their care. A medical evacuation company that Hatabah owned transported interpreters from the war zone. He selected their doctors and arranged stays at hotels and rehabilitation clinics.

Once their treatment was concluded, Hatabah presented interpreters with settlement agreements providing for lump-sum payments, in return for which AIG would be released from further liability.

Several Iraqis said Hatabah pressed them to sign and told them that if they refused, they would be sent back to Iraq. In spring 2007, more than a dozen interpreters sent L-3 officials a petition complaining of “bad treatment” by Hatabah and asserting that he had threatened to have them deported.

Ali Kanaan, who worked as in interpreter, suffered vision damage and burns to a third of his body as a result of a 2006 suicide bombing. Kanaan said that he was pressured to take a lump-sum payment for his injuries, in return for which AIG would be released from further liability. Now 23, he works at a cigarette store in Denver. (Photo by Matthew Staver/For The Los Angeles Times)
Ali Kanaan, who worked as in interpreter, suffered vision damage and burns to a third of his body as a result of a 2006 suicide bombing. Kanaan said that he was pressured to take a lump-sum payment for his injuries, in return for which AIG would be released from further liability. Now 23, he works at a cigarette store in Denver. (Photo by Matthew Staver/For The Los Angeles Times)

One of the interpreters, Ali Kanaan, suffered vision damage and burns to more than a third of his body as a result of a 2006 suicide bombing.

Kanaan said Hatabah offered him a $61,000 settlement on AIG’s behalf. He said that when he resisted, Hatabah told him that if he didn’t accept the lump sum, he would have to return to Iraq to pursue a claim for disability benefits.

Kanaan decided to take the offer.

“If you obey Dr. Emad’s rules, you’ll be fine,” he said. “If you don’t, you got kicked out.”

Kanaan later immigrated to the U.S. as a refugee. Now 23, he works 12 hours a day in a cigarette store in Denver. At night, he cleans the stove hoods in restaurant kitchens. The caustic chemicals irritate his skin grafts, he said.

Hatabah, interviewed in Amman, the Jordanian capital, said the interpreters received exemplary care. He denied pressuring any of them to sign settlements or threatening to send them back to Iraq.

Emad Hatabah
Emad Hatabah

Hatabah said AIG’s office in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, sent him settlement agreements and his only role was to witness the signing of the documents. He said that because he is employed by AIG, he took care never to act as the treating physician for any interpreters, in order to eliminate even the appearance of a conflict of interest.

“I believe we did more than a good job,” Hatabah said. “It was a perfect job.”

Interpreters and other injured workers can appeal insurers’ denials through a dispute-resolution system in the Department of Labor. Ultimately, an administrative law judge decides the matter. The department must approve all settlements, and officials are supposed to review offers with the affected workers to make sure compensation is “adequate.”

“The whole purpose is to recognize that a guy who’s never had a $100,000 check in his life before is a sucker for a bad deal,” said Joshua Gillelan, a former lawyer for the department who now represents civilian workers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But few Iraqis know they have rights in the system, and interpreters interviewed for this report said the Labor Department never contacted them about settlement offers.

“Nobody called me or told me or did anything for me,” said Nazar Taei, 40, whose legs were riddled with shrapnel during a mortar attack in 2006.

After he arrived in the U.S. as a refugee, AIG offered Taei an $18,500 settlement, he said. He was dissatisfied with the amount, but accepted it.

“I told AIG, ‘Is this enough for somebody to start his life, who lost his job, a part of his life?’” recalled Taei, a Denver resident who recently enlisted in the U.S. Army and hopes to become a translator. “They said, ‘Those are the rules. We can’t do anything for you.’”

In at least one case, an AIG representative discouraged Iraqis from reaching out to the Labor Department. In an e-mail exchange last year, the father of an L-3 interpreter killed in a car bomb wrote to AIG, seeking to speed payment of death benefits.

The father, who revealed details of the case on condition of anonymity, asked an AIG examiner in Dubai about contacting Labor officials.

“I wouldn’t advice you to do so,” the examiner replied by e-mail. “You would be taking the full responsibility of the outcomes.”

Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis
Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis

Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis declined requests for an interview. In a statement, the Labor Department said the increase in civilian contract workers in Iraq and Afghanistan has posed formidable challenges for the war-zone insurance system. The department has no employees posted in Iraq, Afghanistan or surrounding countries, nor any speakers of Arabic or Afghan dialects.

The statement said Labor depends on insurers and defense contractors to inform workers of their rights and to report injuries.

“There is no way to accurately monitor compliance as the many levels of subcontracting to workers from around the globe makes such oversight impossible,” the statement said. “We understand and are concerned about the fact that we are unable to place staff at the front lines to ensure that all workers understand their rights.”

In this April 17, 2007, photo, Sgt. 1st Class Jerry Byrd of the 82nd Airborne Division talks to a Baghdad schoolmaster with the help of an Iraqi interpreter (center). (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
In this April 17, 2007, photo, Sgt. 1st Class Jerry Byrd of the 82nd Airborne Division talks to a Baghdad schoolmaster with the help of an Iraqi interpreter (center). (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

After the homemade explosive blew off his leg in 2006, Malek Hadi was sent to Jordan for treatment. There, AIG offered him a $60,000 lump-sum settlement, he said.

Hadi rejected the offer and said he was deported to Iraq within a month.

He later returned to Jordan as a refugee. He had applied for disability benefits but was not receiving any, and he could not get an explanation from AIG, he said. He lived on handouts from family and friends while waiting for permission to immigrate to the U.S.

Internal AIG documents indicate that a claims examiner withheld Hadi’s benefits in an effort to force him to accept the lump sum. Hadi was “clearly entitled” to benefits, a different AIG examiner wrote in a memo dated August 2008. The company had not paid because the previous examiner “was trying to get the claimant to decide whether to settle his claim,” the memo said.

After arriving in the U.S., Hadi again contacted AIG, this time seeking medical treatment as well as disability payments. A psychologist working with a refugee agency in Texas had diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder. In addition, Hadi’s prosthetic right leg was causing sharp pains and his damaged left leg ached constantly.

AIG formally contested the claim, saying that he needed further medical evaluation. This past summer, more than three years after Hadi’s leg was blown off, AIG began paying him disability benefits of $612 a month. The insurer still has not approved his request for medical treatment.

Hadi spends most of his days in his apartment in Arlington, Texas, watching Arabic television and texting friends back home. “I lost my leg. My life is broken,” he said. “For what?”

A favorite possession is a gold coin given to him by a member of the 89th Military Police Brigade after he was injured.

“Proven in Battle,” it says.

Write to T. Christian Miller at

Posted in ACE, AIG and CNA, Contractor Casualties and Missing, PTSD and TBI, T Christian Miller | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

How AIG and their lawyers treat a Casualty of War

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on June 17, 2009

A translator is blinded and abandoned

“I wish you knew Mazin Al-Nashi,” said Kevin Kelly, a counselor for the Center of the Blind and Visually Impaired. “Mazin is one of my clients; despite extreme adversity, this couple has tenacious faith that justice will prevail.” As you read their story, you will learn how you can make a difference in their lives, and turn wrong into right.


Some Background

Mazin and his wife Layla are American citizens of Iraqi descent. As Aramaic Jews, they separately migrated to the United States, they met each other and their lives became interwoven through marriage. They looked forward to the new opportunities that this country would give them. Multilingual and ambitious, they began to chart new ground with goals and dreams. They never imagined the horrific nightmare that would encapsulate their lives and spiral them into a sequence of events triggered by deception and irresponsible neglect.

When George Bush asked Americans to go to Iraq, Mazin Al-Nashi signed up in a civilian role as a translator for Titan Corporation. He worked with the Department of Defense. In August 2003, his life changed forever. He was riding in a Humvee when the American soldier sitting next to him discharged his M-16 rifle. A bullet fragment hit Mazin’s helmet. Next Mazin was knocked unconscious by a blow from the soldier’s rifle butt. Because of his civilian status, he received minimal treatment. On the day of this accident, he was discharged from the hospital, was drugged with morphine and left alone by Titan’s representative for three days in a tent where the temperatures exceeded 120 degrees. This friendly fire event transformed his life with complete vision loss and partial hearing loss as well as motor skill and other neurological damage. When Titan Corporation deemed it necessary, they sent him to Fallujah and propped him up in a doorway to translate. When he collapsed, they were done with him. Now that he was totally blind, how could he be of any use to them? Titan sent him to Germany. There for two weeks, Mazin was given no rehabilitation assistance or therapy to help him adjust to his altered life.

In November 2003, Mazin was shipped back to America and given a final payment of nine dollars. Layla met him at San Diego’s Lindbergh Field. Since the day of this horrific tragedy, Layla has worked tirelessly to rebuild their lives. She has had to deal with a bureaucratic Goliath where medical personnel were encouraged to falsify records, insurance coverage was mishandled, worker comp benefits started and stopped over and over, and attorneys stalled in taking action. Everyday this couple face the challenge of being economically marginalized as they struggle to keep their heads above water.

This couple has insurmountable strength. From the very beginning, Layla has been both caregiver and advocate for Mazin. Mazin has been taking classes at the San Diego Center of the Blind and Visually Impaired since August 2004. At this rehabilitation and teaching facility, he has been participating in a curriculum where he can achieve his highest level of independence and adjust to his vision loss.

“His transformation is impressive when you think of all the obstacles he has had to endure,” remarks his counselor Kevin Kelly. Meanwhile, Layla has been working equally hard to move forward. She is well-organized and a skillful documenter.

“Her positivity, her belief in humankind, and her tenacious desire to make things right is equally impressive,” Kevin exclaims.

Where They Are Now

L-3 Communications-Titan Corporation and AIG WorldSource Insurance (work comp)attorneys have begun depositions while Mazin had no attorney to represent him. Mazin went to a hearing on October 23 and 24, 2006, without an attorney to represent him. The hearing turned into a deposition of Mazin. The questioning by Titan attorneys Roger Levy and Katherine Farrar continued even though Mazin vomited twice on the stand. He became so ill that within a week he was in intensive care. He stayed there for three days and had a heart procedure.

Layla has found an attorney with the necessary Longshore and Harbor Worker Compensation specialization who wants to take the case immediately, but he requires  $25,000.     Who the hell was this?

Mazin and Layla need a defense now against the effort of Titan Corporation (now known as L-3 Titan Group) and AIG Insurance Corporation to leave Mazin without health care and both of them penniless.

For more background on this story, see the San Diego Union-Tribune July 24, 2005, article by Bruce Bigelow and David Washburn,
“Titan worker claims he was abandoned in Iraq.”

Joseph Peña of the East County Californian newspaper in San Diego also wrote about Mazin on November 23, 2006.
“L-3 Titan Rebukes Local Patriot’s Claims.”

If you are touched by this story, and can help in anyway, please contact us at – Thank you in anticipation.

“I know that God will provide for us,” says Layla.

What does attorney Roger Levy of LAUGHLIN, FALBO, LEVY, & MORESI LLP (San Francisco, California) do when his client (TITAN CORPORTATION) doesn’t want to provide medical treatment for seriously wounded contractors?


He tries to prove that being hit in the helmet with a bullet from friendly-fire, and being knocked unconscious immediately after with the butt of a friendly rifle, then being pulled unconsious out of a burning Humvee, and left in a tent without medical treatment, HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH SUBSEQUENT BLINDNESS AND HEARING LOSS. He claims that neither L-3 Titan Corporation nor AIG has any obligation to continue disability benefits or medical benefits for the wounded man.

This is exactly what is happening in the case of Mazin Al-Nashi of San Diego, who was injured in August 2003 while working as a translator in Iraq.

Mr. Tony Walker, AIG WorldSource’s attorney (San Francisco, CA) is also helping these enormous corporations avoid the obligations to employees.

Where, then, do all the billions of dollars that taxpayers gave to TITAN (now known as L-3 Communications Titan Group), and, indirectly, to AIG, end up? Apparently, Levy and Walker think they should end up in the pockets of stockholders and CEOs who have risked nothing for America.

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