Defense Base Act Compensation Blog

The Modern Day DBA Casualty

Posts Tagged ‘War Zones’

Civilians often don’t get PTSD help

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on December 1, 2011

Experts say if you’re having difficulty sleeping, experiencing nightmares, or having unexplained bursts of anger, you may be showing signs of PTSD and should probably seek professional help quickly – before you harm yourself or someone else.

Please see the video here

FAYETTEVILLE (WTVD) — Troops returning from war zones go through a rigorous reentry screening to check for signs of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.

But, there are thousands of civilian contractors returning from Iraq and Afghanistan without any check for mental health problems

Alice Redding is a computer systems engineer. She has spent more than a year in Iraq and Afghanistan as a civilian contractor setting up servers and computer systems for soldiers.

Redding has flown with the troops into combat zones wearing a flack jack and helmet and has come under fire. Now that’s she’s back home in Fayetteville, it’s emotionally tough.

“I would wake up and realize I’m not there anymore. But it would take me a moment to realize that. And speaking to some of my friends that are retirees from the military, that do have PTSD, they recognize – they say hey you’ve got a touch of PTSD,” she explained.

Redding recalls coming under attack in Afghanistan.

“The last encounter was recently – about three months ago. While I was there, a rocket came. It was in the middle of the day. I was walking to one location and you know it’s close when you hear the whistle sound,” she said.

But while there is help available for soldiers returning from combat zones, civilians mostly don’t get that kind of support.

“We don’t have any statistics of who’s exactly got Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. We just don’t know. We don’t know if they’re committing violent crimes. We don’t know if they’re having problems with relationships,” said Redding.

Experts say if you’re having difficulty sleeping, experiencing nightmares, or having unexplained bursts of anger, you may be showing signs of PTSD and should probably seek professional help quickly – before you harm yourself or someone else.

While some military contractors provide mental health assessments, the majority of civilians who volunteer to head to combat zones are expected to seek their own civilian mental health care.

Posted in Civilian Contractors, Defense Base Act Insurance, Dropping the DBA Ball, Interviews with Injured War Zone Contractors, PTSD and TBI | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Wade, honey, can you drop what your doing? It’s KBR on the phone for you

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on April 18, 2010

Wade Dill Casualty not Counted

From Barbara Dill just a few days ago:

“I just got a call from, get this, KBR.  Yep, They asked for Wade Dill.  The number they called from was 713-753-4177.  This is the third or fourth time they have called trying to recruit him back to work

Isn’t it funny that they can’t find any medical records on anyone that needs them, but they can still hang on to a dead mans job application from over 4 years ago!!

Medical Records from KBR were a vital part of evidence proving that Wade Dill was suffering symptoms of PTSD while he was in Iraq.

But like so many other injured KBR contract employee’s,  Wade’s  Medical Records have gone AWOL.

KBR continues to support it’s corporate bedfellow AIG over the contractors and their families.   Wade must have been of some value to them or they wouldn’t keep trying to bring  him back from the grave.  Maybe if Wade had known how quickly they would throw his wife and daughter under the bus he’d have thought better the first time they called.

Failure to produce these records does not jeopardize KBR in any way.

But if the contractor failed to produce any record asked for or refused to to go to AIG’s hired scumbag doctors for Defense Medical Examinations they could  automatically lose their claim.  See SEII/AIG vs.Gerald Talbott also the DBA X Files.

Posted in AIG and CNA, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Department of Labor, KBR, Melt Down, Misjudgements, PTSD and TBI | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

U.S. Sues Kellogg, Brown & Root for Alleged False Claims Act Violations Over Improper Costs for Private Security In Iraq

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on April 1, 2010

WASHINGTON, April 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The United States has filed a lawsuit against Kellogg Brown & Root Services (KBR) alleging that the defense contractor violated the False Claims Act, the Justice Department announced today. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, alleges that KBR knowingly included impermissible costs for private armed security in billings to the Army under the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) III contract. The LOGCAP III contract provides for civilian contractor logistical support, such as food services, transportation, laundry and mail, for military operations in Iraq.

The government’s lawsuit alleges that some 33 KBR subcontractors, as well as the company itself, used private armed security at various times during the 2003-2006 time period. KBR allegedly violated the LOGCAP III contract by failing to obtain Army authorization for arming subcontractors and by allowing the use of private security contractors who were not registered with the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior. The subcontractors using private security are alleged to have also violated subcontract terms requiring travel only in military convoys. The government’s lawsuit further alleges that at the time, KBR managers considered the use of private security unacceptable and were concerned that the Army would disallow any costs for such services. KBR nonetheless charged the United States for the costs of the unauthorized services.

“Defense contractors cannot ignore their contractual obligations to the military and pass along improper charges to the United States,” said Tony West, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division of the Department of Justice. “We are committed to ensuring that the Department of Defense’s rules are enforced and that funds so vital to the war effort are not misused.”

This case is being brought as part of a National Procurement Fraud Initiative. In October 2006, the Deputy Attorney General announced the formation of a National Procurement Fraud Task Force designed to promote the early detection, identification, prevention and prosecution of procurement fraud associated with the increase in government contracting activity for national security and other government programs. The Procurement Fraud Task Force is chaired by the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division and includes the Civil Division, U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, the FBI, the U.S. Inspectors General community, and a number of other federal law enforcement agencies.

Along with the Justice Department’s Civil Division, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, Army Criminal Investigation Division and, FBI participated in the investigation of this matter. This case, as well as others brought by members of the task force, demonstrates the Department of Justice’s commitment to helping ensure the integrity of the government procurement process.

SOURCE U.S. Department of Justice

Posted in False Claims Act, KBR, Political Watch | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Panel says firms need U.S. guidance to reduce contractors in Iraq

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on March 29, 2010

Washington Post

The U.S. government is likely paying contractors millions of dollars for unnecessary work in Iraq because the military is not giving companies clear enough guidance about reducing their employees, officials on the Commission on Wartime Contracting said Monday.

There are roughly 102,000 contractors in Iraq, and each contracted worker can cost the government thousands of dollars a month, according to federal auditors. Commissioners said they were concerned that the U.S. military was not providing contractors with key information to help them synchronize their efforts with the drawdown of combat forces.

There are about 98,000 troops in Iraq, but that figure is expected to drop to 50,000 by August. At that time, the Pentagon estimates that the number of contract employees in the country will still exceed 70,000 — about half the count in January last year.

“Conducting the drawdown of forces . . . is not a simple task like turning down a thermostat,” said Michael Thibault, co-chairman of the commission. “Thousands of contractor employees must be reassigned or released. Hundreds of military bases have to be closed or handed over to the Iraqis. Millions of items of equipment, whether military or acquired by contractors and now government-owned, must be moved, donated or scrapped.”

The commission, which was appointed in 2008 to look at the use of government contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, questioned officials from Houston-based KBR at a hearing Monday about whether they were reducing their work force in a cost effective and timely way. Under a $38 billion contract, KBR provides a variety of logistics services, from running dining halls to doing laundry and transporting supplies for U.S. troops.

Auditors for the Defense Department said late last year that KBR could save $193 million from January to August this year by reducing its workforce. But, in a new report, auditors said that KBR’s plans for a drawdown during the same time period would save only $27 million.

KBR officials said they need “written contractual direction” from the U.S. military about its plans to reduce troops so that it can staff accordingly.

Douglas Horn, a KBR vice president of operations, told commissioners that while troop levels will come down, the company still has to “support those service members who remain.” KBR has said that it expects to have 30,000 employees in Iraq by late summer of this year, compared with more than 60,000 in March last year.

Lt. Gen. James Pillsbury, deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army Material Command, which helps to oversee the military’s contracting work in Iraq, asserted that the drawdown of contractors in Iraq is on track. But he said that moving personnel and equipment out of Iraq is a massive, complex job, with “situations on the ground that are somewhat fluid.”

The “magnitude and scope of the Iraq drawdown is unprecedented,” Pillsbury said, noting that there are more than 341 facilities; 263,000 soldiers, Defense Department civilians and contractor employees; 83,000 containers; 42,000 vehicles; 3 million equipment items; and roughly $54 billion in assets that will ultimately be removed from Iraq.

Pillsbury said that the effort is “equivalent, in personnel terms alone, of relocating the entire population of Buffalo, N.Y.”

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

End KBR’s Monopoly in Iraq

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on March 29, 2010

Project on Government Oversight

March 29, 2010

We may have spoken too soon when we praised the Army for taking past contractor performance into consideration for the LOGCAP program. POGO was recently informed that the Army is considering awarding KBR additional work in Iraq under the LOGCAP III contract. That action would continue KBR’s monopoly on LOGCAP work in Iraq, rather using the competitive procurement procedures created under LOGCAP IV.

In a letter sent today to Army Secretary John McHugh, POGO urged the Army to end KBR’s monopoly in Iraq and reconsider the continued use of the LOGCAP III program. To better evaluate goods and services, and to get the best value for taxpayers, the government must encourage genuine competition.

The spotlight on KBR’s work in Iraq was also reviewed today as company representatives testified before the Commission on Wartime Contracting at a hearing on the “Rightsizing and managing contractors during the Iraq drawdown.” The military is going to have to handle many issues, including troop withdrawals and determining adequate levels of contractor support needed for ongoing activities. Additionally, the government must resolve logistical problems with the goods that have brought into the country to support military and reconstruction effort – sometimes with a lack of planning and management.

Posted in KBR | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

AIG-War Updates

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on January 24, 2010

Mine is only one case among over 31000.  Misrepresentation, falsifying federal documents—both felonies—were  used to terminate my medical care & benefits.

Is this an isolated incident among the 31000 cases covered by AIG & CNA?

OALJ Case No. 2009-LDA-00335

December 22, 2009

December 29, 2009


Insurance company abuses of war-injured Americans.

Who knew and who did nothing.
Walker & Galichon: Your firm sent me Federal Form LS-208, terminating my benefits, after it was shown to be false; based on misrepresentation. As officers of the court, would this interest the California State Bar?

AIG was paid by taxpayers to provide workmen comp coverage to military contractors.

DOL Judge Romero signed off on a settlement pushing off AIG’s liability onto Medicare and my personal health insurance. Accountability?

Federal law provides penalties for the abuses I, and others, have experienced.

Follow Terry’s Twitter Posts here

Posted in AIG and CNA, Department of Labor, Misjudgements | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments »

Charter airline’s suit over war zone hazard pay gets class-action status

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on January 13, 2010

Class-action status has been granted in a lawsuit claiming crew members of a North Las Vegas charter airline didn’t receive extra hazard pay for flying dangerous missions into Iraq and Afghanistan.

U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt last week approved the notice of the class-action to be published and to be sent to Vision Airlines Inc. employees who were crew members on flights to or from Iraq or Afghanistan from May 1, 2005, to the present.

The notice summarizes the allegations in the case, notes Vision has denied the allegations and says affected current and former employees need to do nothing, unless they want to opt out of the lawsuit.

By Steve Green (contact)

Class-action certification represents a victory for former Vision pilot Gerald Hester and other plaintiffs, who allege Vision as a U.S. government contractor collected $21 million in hazard pay on behalf of at least 300 employees who operated the “Air Bridge Program” into war zones — but didn’t turn over all of the funds to the employees and kept some of the extra money for itself.

The suit asserted the hazard pay due to charter crews flying to and from Iraq is $2,500 for each captain, first officer and international relief officer for each take-off and landing. Other crew members such as flight attendants and mechanics are to receive $1,500 each for each take-off and landing, the lawsuit says.

The Air Bridge is a system in which military and civilian government personnel and contractors are flown in and out of the war zones.  Full Story here

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

Reality Based Justice ?

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on December 30, 2009

Judges consider new factor at sentencing

The judge said: “It would be a grave injustice to turn a blind eye to the potential effects of multiple deployments to war zones on Brownfield’s subsequent behavior.”


A small but growing number of judges say U.S. military veterans should be treated differently from nonveterans when they are sentenced for crimes.

As more soldiers return home from combat overseas and end up in the criminal-justice system, a number of state and federal judges are deciding to show former soldiers leniency in light of their service. Some veterans are receiving probation coupled with psychological treatment, generally for nonviolent crimes that normally would land them in prison.

That is raising concern among some legal experts, who say singling out veterans for special treatment indulges criminal behavior and risks establishing a two-tier system of justice.

[Veteran] John BrownfieldIraq war veteran John Brownfield, shown in Mosul in 2006 when he was employed by a contractor, received probation for a bribery conviction.

Many veterans returning from war zones develop behavioral and psychological problems, which in some cases leads to alcohol and drug abuse — and crimes.

“We dump all kinds of money to get soldiers over there and train them to kill, but we don’t do anything to reintegrate them into our society,” says John L. Kane, a federal judge in Denver. Earlier this month, Mr. Kane sentenced an Iraq war veteran convicted of bribery to probation instead of prison.

Most U.S. courts don’t have rules on giving veterans special consideration, says Doug Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University. But in North Carolina, if a defendant was honorably discharged from the military, judges must use that fact as a mitigating factor at sentencing. And in several states, including Tennessee and Louisiana, courts have ruled that judges are allowed to use prior military service to lessen a sentence.

There are no special courts for veterans in the federal court system. Current sentencing laws allow federal judges to take into account a defendant’s “history and characteristics,” though some judges choose not to.

But momentum for special treatment is growing. Since last year, about 16 counties and cities — from California’s Orange County, to three cities in western New York, have started veterans courts, according to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. Three counties in and around New York City launched similar programs in July, and state legislatures have approved the formation of such courts in places such as Harris County in Texas and the state of Nevada.

The goal of the courts, which serve veterans of any era, is to keep defendants out of prison. Veterans are put into treatment programs for war-related illnesses, among other problems, that aren’t available in the prison system. Their probation includes rigorous drug testing.

After veterans complete treatment, some prosecutors’ offices drop the criminal charges as long as the veterans didn’t have a prior felony conviction.

Many veterans who get probation in special courts would almost certainly have faced prison time under normal circumstances, says Mark Kammerer, a psychotherapist for the Cook County State’s Attorney office in Illinois and the coordinator for the veterans court in the Chicago area.

Some legal experts worry the movement could result in special consideration for all veterans, regardless of whether their criminal conduct was influenced by their military service.

“What we think goes over the line is the creation of two separate systems based solely on somebody’s status,” says Allen Lichtenstein, the general counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union in Nevada. “Police are under particular stress — should there be a court for them?”

Some prosecutors argue that defendants shouldn’t be able to use military service as an excuse for committing crimes.

John Cherry, a federal prosecutor in Mobile, Ala., who served in the military in Iraq, objected to a sentence of probation handed down earlier this year to a defendant who also served in Iraq. The defendant, Patrick Lett, had pleaded guilty to distributing illegal drugs in the U.S., during a brief period in 2004.

“I, too, lost soldiers,” Mr. Cherry said at a 2006 hearing. “I didn’t come back and sell drugs.”

The federal judge in the case, William Steele, who also is a military veteran, said at the hearing that Mr. Lett “is to be credited for his contributions to the United States Army, to his unit and, in turn, to this country.”

Taking military service into account at sentencing isn’t a new tradition. In the Civil War era, members of the military were routinely shown leniency by judges, notes Carissa Hessick, a law professor at Arizona State University. During the World War II and Vietnam eras, certain judges allowed criminal charges to be dropped if defendants enlisted in the armed forces. That practice is no longer allowed.

Sympathy for new veterans aided John Brownfield of Cañon City, Colo. The former U.S. Air Force firefighter pleaded guilty to accepting a bribe as a public official for illegally selling tobacco to federal prison inmates while working as a correctional officer in 2007, two years after he returned from tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The federal prosecutor and Mr. Brownfield’s lawyer agreed to recommend to the judge that he serve a year in prison. But the judge, Mr. Kane of Denver, instead ordered a psychiatric evaluation and earlier this month sentenced Mr. Brownfield to five years of probation.

The judge said: “It would be a grave injustice to turn a blind eye to the potential effects of multiple deployments to war zones on Brownfield’s subsequent behavior.”

Write to Amir Efrati at

Posted in PTSD and TBI | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Lost in Limbo: Injured Afghan Translators Struggle to Survive

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on December 22, 2009

by Pratap Chatterjee, Special to ProPublica – December 17, 2009 10:11 pm EST
Farshad Yewazi (standing, far left in light camo), 23, was wounded during an ambush while serving as a translator for the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. His insurance company failed to provide him medical benefits.
Farshad Yewazi (standing, far left in light camo), 23, was wounded during an ambush while serving as a translator for the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. His insurance company failed to provide him medical benefits.

PAGHMAN, Afghanistan — Earlier this year, U.S. Army soldiers traveled to a remote valley in northeastern Afghanistan in hopes of improving relations with local villagers by repairing a collapsed bridge.

To implement this bit of counterinsurgency, the soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment relied upon Farshad Yewazi, a 23-year-old Afghan who served as their translator. He took pride in his role, believing that he was helping his fellow Afghans in helping the Americans’ humanitarian efforts.

Translators offer the villagers humanitarian aid “and help kick enemies out of the area,” said Yewazi, whose family comes from the surrounding province of Kunar, one of the most war-torn regions of Afghanistan and a rumored hiding place of Osama Bin Laden.

But soon after the soldiers of Charlie Company dismounted their vehicles in the small village of Senzo on May 9, Yewazi sensed something was amiss. It was too late — an unmistakable “pop-pop” rang out, followed by a volley of rocket-propelled grenades. They had walked into an ambush.

As the soldiers returned the fire, Yewazi hit the ground but was wounded. A rocket-propelled grenade tore most of the flesh off his right arm. “I cannot even tell you how much pain I was in,” said the soft-spoken translator, wincing as he recalled the incident more than five months later. “I still cannot believe I could even tolerate it.”

Yewazi had just become one of the hidden casualties of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. military uses defense contractors to hire local residents to serve as translators for the troops. These local translators often live, sleep and eat with soldiers. And yet when they are wounded, they are often ignored by the U.S. system designed to provide them medical care and disability benefits, according to an investigation by the Los Angeles Times and ProPublica.

In Afghanistan, the system’s flaws are becoming increasingly apparent as President Obama has flooded tens of thousands of additional forces into the country, requiring hundreds of new translators. Afghanistan’s difficult terrain, poor communications and rudimentary infrastructure have made the delivery of promised benefits uneven, with some injured translators going months without payments.

Even when the system works, however, troubles remain. Injured Afghans have often been forced to flee after becoming targets for Taliban insurgents. Those who seek refuge in the U.S. have found themselves having to scramble to make any kind of living in the recession-wracked American economy.

Bashir Ahmedzai was a surgeon from Kabul who landed a job working as an interpreter at a U.S. military hospital in 2004. After his foot was injured in a vehicle explosion in 2007, he fled to the U.S., where he eventually found work as ”housekeeper” at a military hospital in Texas.

“I speak six languages and I am a qualified general surgeon. But I couldn’t make enough money to support myself. I had to ask my family to send me money from Afghanistan to survive,” Ahmedzai said.

The system, which is regulated by the Labor Department under a law known as the Defense Base Act [1], requires defense contractors in war zones to purchase workers’ compensation insurance for their employees. Paid for by taxpayers as part of the contract price, the policies are designed to pay for medical care and wages lost to injuries.

In Yewazi’s case, however, his insurance company failed to provide him medical benefits to cover the cost of his health care. Instead, he was treated by U.S. military doctors at the scene and later at Bagram, the main U.S. base in Afghanistan.

Nor did the company, Zurich Financial Services of Switzerland, make disability payments to Yewazi. More than six months after the attack, Yewazi’s right hand remains crippled; he cannot eat, write or pick up anything with it. While doctors say he may eventually regain use of the hand, for now, he is trying to adjust to doing these tasks with his left.

Yewazi’s employer, Ohio-based Mission Essential Personnel, or MEP, is the primary provider of translators in Afghanistan under a five-year, $414-million contract to supply nearly 1,700 translators to the military. The company pays local translators about $900 a month to accompany troops.

In response to questions on the case, MEP acknowledged that Zurich had failed to provide Yewazi with benefits. MEP said it was working to overhaul its claims processing system to make sure that Yewazi and other injured interpreters were paid their full benefits.

“MEP regards all its linguists, whether a foreign national or U.S. hire, as colleagues and heroes,” Sean Rushton, an MEP spokesman, said in an e-mail response to ProPublica.

Zurich declined to comment on any individual case. The Swiss company has historically had a tiny share of the market for the specialized war zone insurance, which is dominated by troubled industry giant AIG. In recent years, however, Zurich has increased its market share, according to one recent industry study.

Such policies are extraordinarily lucrative. Some firms have reported profits as high as 50 percent — compared to ordinary worker’s compensation policies, which often provide only 1 percent to 2 percent profit. All told, taxpayers have paid more than $1.5 billion for war zone policies since 2002, according to Congressional investigators.

“Zurich works to ensure each customer claim is given the utmost attention, which includes gathering and understanding the necessary information,” Steven McKay, a Zurich spokesman, said in a statement.

The Labor Department, charged with ensuring the delivery of benefits, said in a statement that it was unable to police the system. The agency has no personnel deployed to Afghanistan to make sure claims are paid. It also does not publish notices in any Afghan dialect informing workers of their rights.

“We realize that some overseas claims may not receive the same level of medical care and personal claim interactions as domestic U.S. workers receive, however, we believe that in general most workers are receiving appropriate care,” the statement said.

However, interviews with a dozen former MEP interpreters and their families show that Yewazi’s tale is not unusual. Injured translators and the families of those killed have waited months for payments, lost in a bureaucratic maze.

For example, Basir “Steve” Ahmed was returning from a bomb-clearing mission in Khogyani district in northeastern Afghanistan in October 2008 when a suicide bomber blew up an explosive-filled vehicle nearby. His right hand was torn apart by shrapnel.

Although the military doctors at Bagram were able to graft skin onto his burns, he is still unable to lift his hand to feed himself. Ahmed returned to work, but three months after the bombing, he was fired for coming late to work.

Ahmed continued to get a partial salary for about six months after his injury. Nine months after his injury he was given a $10,000 compensation payment. After his firing was reported in CorpWatch, a nonprofit focused on corporate accountability, MEP offered him his job back.

Other translators have reported faster compensation. Abdul Hameed, a translator from Jalalabad who has worked for MEP since May 2009, was injured by a home-made bomb on August 18, 2009, in Logar province, shattering his heel. The following day, MEP officials visited him in the hospital and by the end of the month he was receiving disability pay of $110.01 a week — barely enough to pay for his medical expenses.

MEP executives said they had decided to conduct an internal audit of their insurance contract with Zurich. The company human resources chief traveled to Kabul recently to review claims from injured contractors and found scores of backlogged cases.

“When she arrived, there were over 170 outstanding claims; today there are about 80,” Rushton said. “We’re committed to getting the backlog to zero and keeping it down with process reforms.”

Yewazi’s case is an example of how easy it is for an injured local translator to slip through the cracks.

In late October, at his parent’s simple home in the hills of Paghman, Yewazi showed this reporter his medical reports as well as an array of photographs, certificates and letters of recommendations from his three years with the U.S. military.

There are dozens of pictures of him in the snow-covered high mountains of eastern Afghanistan surrounded by gun-toting Special Forces. Other pictures show him sitting down with the troops to help them communicate with village elders.

His most prized possession is a letter from Charlie Company, dated May 9th, 2009, the day he was injured. Written by Captain James Stultz, it reads: “Farshad. We are hope you are doing well. We have been thinking about you and hope that the doctors are treating you well. If you need anything, let us know. You have risked your life to help us and almost paid the ultimate sacrifice. You are a brave man and we hope you heal quickly.” Under Stultz’s signature, another 20-odd soldiers and translators have co-signed and added get-well comments.

Yewazi said he had repeatedly attempted to contact MEP and Zurich representatives for help after his injury without success. After this reporter sent MEP a request for information on Yewazi’s case, an MEP official called Yewazi within 24 hours and promised to expedite his claim with Zurich.

MEP’s Rushton says that they hope that the new system of “reaching out to Zurich claims adjusters and investigators daily” will ensure that cases like Yewazi’s will not occur again. “We have requested a formal claims review from Zurich on all open claims to ensure all records match and claims are resolved,” Rushton said.

Second Hurdle: Death Threats

When word gets around about their injuries, many former translators face a much tougher battle — death threats from insurgent groups.

Ahmed Rashad Mushfiq lost both of his legs to a roadside bomb explosion. (Photo courtesy of Pratap Chatterjee.)
Ahmed Rashad Mushfiq lost both of his legs to a roadside bomb explosion. (Photo courtesy of Pratap Chatterjee.)

Ahmed Rashad Mushfiq, a 28-year-old former MEP translator from Kabul, sustained serious injuries in Kapisa province on April 29, 2008, when the Humvee he was in hit a roadside bomb.

The subsequent explosion killed the driver, Airman Jonathan Yelner, 24, of California. Mushfiq, who was sitting right behind Yelner, lost both his legs — one of which had to be amputated just above the knee and the other right below.

Mushfiq was provided with prosthetic legs, although he still needs crutches to get around. His proudest moment in his long road to recovery was at a memorial run for Yelner in October 2008, when he was asked to lead more than 500 runners and walkers in a symbolic crossing of the finish line of the three-mile course at Bagram.

Mushfiq asked his former military unit to get him safe haven at Bagram. His request to come to the U.S. has been delayed by bureaucracy. (Photo courtesy of Pratap Chatterjee.)
Mushfiq asked his former military unit to get him safe haven at Bagram. His request to come to the U.S. has been delayed by bureaucracy. (Photo courtesy of Pratap Chatterjee.)

Initially MEP assigned another translator to help Mushfiq when he returned home to Kabul. But when the second translator was approached by four young men who offered to pay him to reveal the location of Mushfiq, the amputee asked his former military unit to get him safe haven at Bagram.

When Mushfiq’s original unit rotated out of theater last year, however, U.S. officials told him he would have to leave Bagram. Mushfiq moved to MEP’s headquarters at Camp Phoenix in Kabul, where he worked for a few weeks doing desk work and attending physical therapy classes.

Then, he fell and broke his arm. The military asked MEP to send Mushfiq home, fearing that the translator’s mounting physical disabilities would impede his ability to seek shelter in case of attack. In July 2008, Zurich paid Mushfiq $125,000 in compensation. Immediately afterwards, MEP told him to leave the base.

Today Mushfiq lives in hiding. He is hoping to get a visa to come to the U.S., but immigration officials here have told him it will take at least another year until he is eligible.

Increasingly desperate, Mushfiq is now attempting to use Facebook as a tool to get out of Afghanistan. He has signed up as a fan of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Prayers for Our Troops!, President Barack Obama and even the American Conservative Republican Alliance.

On November 7, he posted an e-mail message to Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, head of U.S. forces in Afghanistan: “Sir, I am living in Afghanistan with a lot of problems i applied for immigrant visa to USA but my case is still pending i beg for your help sir God bless sir.”

Third Hurdle: Emigrating to the U.S.

In late November, Mushfiq sent an e-mail to Staff Sgt. Ronald Payne, a military nurse who runs an intensive care unit at the headquarters of the U.S. Army’s Medical Command at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio.

In his spare time, Payne heads up a volunteer project called the Allied Freedom Project [2] to help Afghan and Iraqi translators come to the U.S. Over the last couple of years Payne estimates he has helped some 500 former translators in the process of “immigration, reception and integration into American life” — including picking them up at the airport, arranging accommodation and signing them up for food stamps and other benefits when they land in the country.

Payne said that Mushfiq and other injured translators are stuck in bureaucratic limbo land because the U.S. has failed to fully implement the Afghan Allies Protection Act. The act, signed into law in March 2009, authorizes an additional 1,500 special visas annually for the next five years to employees and contractors of the U.S. government in Afghanistan “who have experienced or are experiencing an ongoing serious threat as a consequence of that employment.”

The new quota will add significantly to the 600 or so that have been authorized since the U.S. toppled the Taliban in 2001. (By contrast over 26,000 Iraqis have been authorized to settle in the U.S., a process that is well under way)

But even if Mushfiq is able to complete the immigration process, it will not be the last hurdle. Disability benefits are based on salary -– and since local Afghans made less than $12,000 a year, their disability benefits are in most cases beneath U.S. poverty levels.

Public benefits are also limited. Depending on the state, refugees can expect about six months of help in the form of food stamps and rent subsidies. After that, they have to fend for themselves.

“Welcome to America, you are on your own,” said Payne, who emphasized that he was not speaking on behalf of the U.S. military. Without a job, he said, “They are screwed.”

From Surgeon to Used Car Salesman

Ahmedzai, the surgeon who injured his foot, traveled to San Antonio under the sponsorship of the Allied Freedom Project in July 2008. After six months, Ahmedzai was able to get a job at the Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston in housekeeping, making $11.23 an hour.

Three months later, Ahmedzai quit and set up a business buying used cars to ship to Afghanistan. In the last six weeks, he has been able to clear about $2,000, allowing him to finally send $200 to his wife and six children.

“They ask me even today; you sacrificed your life for the U.S. army. Why didn’t they do anything for you? It is a shame for you!” says Ahmedzai, who says he is now looking for another part-time job so that he can save the money to bring the rest of his family to live with him in Texas.

This past Thanksgiving, he joined friends for the traditional evening meal in San Antonio. When it came to his time to give thanks, he was silent for a moment and then he finally said. “I am just thankful that I didn’t lose my leg.”

Pratap Chatterjee is a freelance investigative journalist and editor at CorpWatch. He has written two books on military contractors – Iraq, Inc. (Seven Stories Press, 2004) and Halliburton’s Army (Nation Books, 2009). He can be contacted at [3]

T. Christian Miller contributed to this report.

Original Story here

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Army Suicides Hit Record and Will Likely Continue to Rise

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on November 20, 2009

Thursday 19 November 2009

by: Yana Kunichoff, t r u t h o u t | Report

Suicides among veterans and soldiers have reached a record high this year and are set to continue rising, Pentagon officials said.

The announcement, coming on the day that the suicide rate for 2009 reached the record number of 2008, leaves advocates worrying about the possible troop escalation President Obama is considering for Afghanistan and the measures the Army has in place to deal with the combat scars which leave no physical trace.

Gen. Peter Chiarelli, vice chief of staff of the Army, called the news “horrible,” and said during a news conference Tuesday “we are almost certainly going to end the year higher than last year.”

As of November 16, 2009, 140 soldiers on active duty have taken their own lives, with 71 soldiers not on active duty whose death has also been identified as a suicide. The suicide rate for 2008 was the worst in three decades, and in January 2009, 24 soldiers killed themselves – more than died in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

Full report here

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US Army Suicides Continue at Record Pace

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on November 17, 2009

No one is keeping track of how many civilian contractors died by suicide.

AIG, CNA, and the DoL are not revealing the numbers that they know of or might possibly have caused by denying diagnoses and treatment of PTSD and TBI.

By Al Pessin
17 November 2009

The U.S. Army reported Tuesday that the number of suicides among soldiers this year has already equaled the number for all of last year, and so will rise for the fifth consecutive year, in spite of a major effort to combat the trend. The Army’s number two officer says he is significantly short of the type of professionals who could help reverse the trend.

The vice chief of the Army, General Peter Chiarelli was frank about the latest statistics.

“This is horrible, and I do not want to downplay the significance of these numbers in any way,” he said.

The general reported there have been 140 suicides among active duty soldiers this year, and another 71 among reservists and members of the National Guard, some of whom had been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.

“We talk about these incidents of suicide using figures and percentages,” he said. “However the grim reality is each case represents an individual, a person, with family and friends and a future ahead of him or her. Every single loss is devastating.”

But while the overall numbers are up, General Chiarelli says the rate has eased in recent months. Nearly 30 percent of Army suicides this year happened in January and February, with a steady decline since then except for a couple of months. But the general says in spite of extensive efforts, officials and doctors can not say why the rate is up in some months or down in others, or why it has risen steadily for the last five years.

“Everywhere I try to cut this and look at and try to find the causal effect I get thwarted, and that’s why we think we’ve got to look, in its totality, at a whole bunch of different issues. And it’s going to take time,” he said.

The general says even seemingly obvious causes are not confirmed by the data. For example, about a third of the suicides are among soldiers who have never deployed to the war zones. But he says the Army has begun to identify some factors that could contribute to the high suicide rates, including post-traumatic stress, mild brain injuries that may not be diagnosed, substance abuse and the deployment of small numbers of soldiers far from bases that offer mental health services.

Indeed, the general says he could use at least 750 more mental health workers in the Army, in addition to the 900 who have been added to the force in the last two years. He says he also needs up to 300 more substance abuse counselors.

“We are an army that is based on authorizations that were prior to eight years of war,” said General Chiarelli. “And I have been pounding the system to say, ‘we have got to sit down and determine what we need after eight years of war.”

The U.S. Army has been focused on mental health issues for several years, but concern was heightened earlier this month when a soldier killed 12 colleagues and one civilian in a shooting rampage on a base in Texas. The alleged gunman is an officer, and a psychiatrist who specializes in stress, and was scheduled to be deployed to Afghanistan. He is also a Muslim, who is now believed to have militant leanings.

The Army is funding a huge mental health study which will keep track of as many as half a million soldiers during the next five years. It is also implementing a variety of innovative programs designed to make it easier for soldiers to report their own problems, and to help comrades who show signs of being suicidal.

“This is a matter of life and death, and it is absolutely unacceptable to have individuals suffering in silence because they’re afraid their peers or superiors will make fun of them, or worst [that] it will adversely affect their careers,” said the general.

General Chiarelli says soldiers need to realize that mental problems are just like bullet wounds and broken legs, and must be treated by trained professionals.  He calls dealing with the Army’s mental health and suicide problems the toughest challenge he has faced in his 37 years of service.

Original story here

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Camp Lejeune whistle-blower fired

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on November 16, 2009

A psychiatrist who tried to prevent Fort Hood-style violence among Marines about to “lose it” instead loses his job

By Mark Benjamin

Last April, two Marines at Camp Lejeune predicted to a psychiatrist that some Marine back from war was going to “lose it.” Concerned, the psychiatrist asked what that meant. One of the Marines responded, “One of these guys is liable to come back with a loaded weapon and open fire.”

They weren’t talking about Marines suffering from a tangle of mental and religious angst, like news reports suggest haunted the alleged Fort Hood shooter, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan. The risk they reported at Camp Lejeune was broader and systemic. Upon returning home, troops suffering mental health problems were getting dumped into an overwhelmed healthcare system that responded ineptly to their crises, the men reported, and they also faced harassment from Marine Corps superiors ignorant of the severity of their problems and disdainful of those who sought psychiatric help.

As Dr. Kernan Manion investigated the two Marines’ claims about conditions at the North Carolina military base, the largest Marine base on the East Coast, he found they were true. Manion, a psychiatrist hired last January to treat Marines coming home from war with acute mental problems, warned his superiors of looming trouble at Camp Lejeune in a series of increasingly urgent memos.

But instead of being praised for preventing what might have been another Fort Hood massacre, Manion was fired by the contractor that hired him, NiteLines Kuhana LLC. A spokeswoman for the firm says it let Manion go at the Navy’s behest. The Navy declined to comment on this story.

While military officials and the media examine whether the Army missed warning signs that might have indicated an unhinged Nidal Hasan was capable of killing 13 people at Fort Hood, Manion’s Camp Lejeune story is a cautionary tale of what happens to those who blow the whistle on conditions for military personnel with mental problems.

Continue Reading here

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Honoring Veterans of the Disposable Army

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on November 11, 2009


by T. Christian Miller, ProPublica – November 11, 2009 4:14 pm EST

Today we honor the veterans who have served in the country’s armed forces. Nobody seriously questions whether they deserve such recognition. The men and women who defended this country and fought its wars made immeasurable sacrifices.

I have spent much of the last year writing [1] about another group of people who suffered losses on behalf of U.S. interests abroad: the civilian contractors injured or killed [1] while doing their jobs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

They are not, of course, soldiers. They could quit their jobs and go home any time they wanted. Many were paid far higher wages than their military counterparts. They knew they were signing up to take a specific job in a dangerous part of the world.

And yet, neither are the contractors working in Afghanistan and Iraq ordinary laborers. Civilians compose half the manpower [2] in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have seen and experienced the full horror of war. More than a thousand have been killed. Thousands more have suffered debilitating physical and mental injuries [3]. And yet, the Pentagon does not even know how many have died, nor how many are actually working [4] (PDF).

I have come to see the civilian contractors as a new kind of class in the demography of war. They are quasi-veterans: civilians who have experienced war much as soldiers do. There are tens of thousands of them. And while it’s hard to argue that they deserve ticker tape parades and Medals of Honor, it’s also hard to believe that they should be sent home with little more than a pay stub and a patchy health care system that doesn’t even address basic medical needs.

I received a letter from a former KBR contractor which crystallized the strange position of those who work was a war zone. D.A. Corson, who worked at a variety of companies in Iraq until 2008, wrote the following, which I thought worth sharing:

Civilian contactors in combat zones will likely continue to be a staple of military engagements. They cook, clean, make ice, purify water, install housing, do laundry, install and maintain generators for lighting, air conditioning, truck the beans, bullets and bandages, install latrines, wastewater treatment facilities, and as many of the other logistical functions as the military can give them to do so the troops can do their job, i.e., go out and, God willing, win the peace.

They too left their families, homes, and friends. They too labor 84-hour weeks, endure shellings, mortars, and RPG attacks, IEDS, and heat strokes. They too live on three meals a day of four different flavors of noodles or MREs when the convoys cannot get through and rations are running low. Some of them see to it that the bodies of your fallen sons, daughters, husbands, and wives are seen off from combat airfields with proper honors when no military personnel are available to do the honors themselves. They watch helplessly on Armed Forces media as our homes thousands of miles away are blown and washed away in hurricanes, floods and other disasters and wonder if their families are safe. Many die, are injured, captured and held as POWs; some have been beheaded. They too suffer high divorce rates and come home with their own cases of Combat Stress. Many serve for over a year and then came back 2 and 3 times for another year. Many are still there going on 5 and 6 years now. When they come home they have no Veteran’s benefits, indeed, no benefits at all in many instances, save perhaps a very pricey COBRA.

Yes, all go for the money. They too are doing what they think necessary for their families to get a little piece of the American Dream, but they are not all a bunch of money-grubbing, carpetbagging, war profiteers. We are your neighbors, friends, relatives, and fellow Americans. So many are there because they have to be. One young lady had just had a baby. Her husband had cancer, and she had to leave her newborn infant and other children, as well as her terribly ill husband to pay the bills and keep a roof over their head. But more than that, each wanted to serve our troops. They wanted to do their part. So many are Viet Nam veterans. They do their jobs; they serve our troops, proudly. They do it for them. They do it for freedom; they do it for our country. The American contractors all still take off their hats and get tears in their eyes when hearing the national anthem. When they go home their benefits end. Many are having to fight to get their medical insurance benefits for the injuries received and many families are fighting to get their life insurance benefits for their fallen loved ones.

They knew going in that returning to bands playing, flags waving, and such were not part of their bargain. That’s not why they went. However, in your churches and other ceremonies, when you ask your veterans to stand, after you have given them their well-deserved honors, you might want to give a thought to then asking any civilian contractors who served the troops in combat zones to stand up beside the vets too. I’ll bet they’d be proud to do so, again. Maybe there won’t be many in your particular gathering, but they are there: one for every soldier according to the Congressional Budget Reports and one dying for each 3 soldiers killed.

And by the way, you’re welcome. Maligned, appreciated, even counted or not, I am sure most would do it all again. It was an honor.

D. A. Corson
Camp Anaconda, Balad, Iraq –June 2004 through October 2006 B.I.A., Basrah, Iraq –July 2006 through May 2007 Ali Al-Saleem Air Base, Kuwait — September-October 2007

God Bless America !

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Number of wounded troops in Afghanistan increasing

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on November 11, 2009

By KIMBERLY HEFLING (AP) – 3 hours ago

WASHINGTON — Far from winding down, the numbers of U.S. soldiers coming home wounded have continued to swell. The problem is especially acute among those fighting in Afghanistan, where nearly four times as many troops were injured in October as a year ago.

Amputations, burns, brain injuries and shrapnel wounds proliferate in Afghanistan, due mostly to increasingly potent improvised bombs targeting U.S. forces. Snipers’ bullets and mortar rounds also are to blame.

Of particular concern are the so-called hidden wounds, traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder that can have long-term side effects such as depression.

Since 2007, more than 70,000 service members have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury — more than 20,000 of them this year, according to the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center. Most of the injuries are mild but leave symptoms such as headaches and difficulty concentrating.

Vince Short, 42, a former Army specialist who suffered brain injuries in a 2003 roadside bomb attack in Iraq, said he can’t help but feel for the soldiers coming home from Afghanistan with similar wounds.

“I cry out for them. It’s tough. It’s hard to put it in words,” Short, who served with the District of Columbia Army National Guard, said in an interview at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Washington, where he receives weekly physical and mental therapy.

Thanks to the therapy, he said, he’s in a good place. But in the early years of his recovery, he found it difficult to return to work, and his marriage fell apart. Short said he was confident and motivated before he was injured. Now, he has memory problems and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

“At that point, there was still a lot of panicking going on inside of me because it’s like, ‘What’s going to happen to me?'” said Short.

“I used to have a career. I used to have a good solid marriage. I was doing really good, and now look at me.

Read full story here

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Wartime Contracting in Afganistan and Iraq Airs on C Span today

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on September 14, 2009

Witnesses testify on the U.S. State Department’s selection, management, and oversight of security and other contractors.

9:30 am  C Span 3


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