Defense Base Act Compensation Blog

The Modern Day DBA Casualty

Posts Tagged ‘Zurich’

The Department of Labor and the Supreme Group, A Cover Up?

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on July 16, 2012

In the second quarter of 2010 The Department of Labor reports that the Supreme Group had 192 employee death claims filed

http://www.dol.gov/owcp/dlhwc/dbaallemployer6-30-10.htm

The Supreme Group shows no prior death claims filed dating back to September of 2001.

While no single insurer shows death claims filed amounting to this number for this time period

CNA shows 46 death claims filed

Zurich shows 105 death claims filed

And the DoL lists 103 death claims to an uninsured employer (there were previously none listed)

http://www.dol.gov/owcp/dlhwc/dbaallcarrier6-30-10.htm

See Also Failure to Secure DBA Coverage, Failure to Report Claims

.

We filed FOIA’s on February 22, 2012 and again on March 8, 2012

Which included the following:

    1.    Any and all complaints, statements, or reports to U.S. Dept. of Labor (DoL) concerning the activities of Supreme Group, Supreme Food Service, and their subcontractors

    2.    Any and all letters, reports, e mail, memoranda or other record showing communications with people regarding the activities of and/or the filing of DBA claims by Supreme Group, Supreme Food Service, and their subcontractors

             3.        Any and all report(s) of investigation or other memoranda or record concerning results of investigation conducted by DoL or any person working for DoL concerning the activities of  and/or the filing of DBA claims by Supreme Group, Supreme Food Services, and their subcontractors

.

We understand that when filing FOIA requests they must be worded properly

But are we to believe that there were 192 Death Claims filed in one quarter by one company and that during this same quarter over 100 Death Claims were filed to an uninsured employer and

No one at the Department of Labor had anything to say about it?

Posted in Afghanistan, AIG and CNA, Armorgroup, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Defense Base Act, Defense Base Act Insurance, Defense Base Act Law and Procedure, Department of Labor, Dropping the DBA Ball, Follow the Money, Zurich | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Defense Department Inspector General says KBR and the military failed to respond quickly to health risks posed to Oregon soldiers

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on September 28, 2011

The Oregonian   September 28, 2011

The Defense Department and contractor Kellogg, Brown & Root failed to act as quickly as they should have to protect those exposed to a carcinogenic chemical at an Iraqi water treatment plant in 2003, according to a report Wednesday by the Defense Department’s Inspector General.

The report was hailed as a victory for Oregon soldiers by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who was one of a group of senators who sought the IG’s evaluation, and by Oregon National Guard troops who are among those suing KBR. They accuse the contractor of knowingly exposing them to sodium dichromate, an anticorrosive compound that can cause skin and breathing problems and cancer.

Because KBR “did not fully comply with occupational safety and health standards required” under its contract with the Army, the Inspector General found, “a greater number of Service members and DoD civilian employees were exposed to sodium dichromate, and for longer periods, increasing the potential for chronic health effects.”

The report found that “nearly 1,000 Army soldiers and civilian employees were exposed to the compound in the five months it took from the initial site visit until the military command required personal protective equipment.

Please read more here

Posted in Cancer, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Defense Base Act, Iraq, KBR, Political Watch, Toxic Exposures | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Defense Base Act Class Action Lawsuit

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on September 26, 2011

Today  Injured War Zone Contractors and Scott Bloch filed a

Class Action Lawsuit

against the

Defense Base Act Insurance Companies

and some Employers.

Scott Bloch files complaint for $2 billion against major government contractors like

KBR, Blackwater/Xe, DynCorp, G4S/Wackenhut/Ronco Consulting

and the global insurance carriers

AIG, CNA, ACE, Zurich,

on behalf of thousands of former employees,

for

unlawful, fraudulent and bad-faith mistreatment of

injured employees and their families  

Brink Vs. CNA et al

The Defense Base Act Compensation blog and it’s contributors invite you to

Join our Class Action here

The truth will be exposed

WASHINGTON, DC (September 26, 2011)

Since 2003, top government contractors like Blackwater, KBR, DynCorp, CSA/AECOM and ITT have been perpetrating a fraud on their employees and on the American public.  The silent warriors who work for these companies, many of them decorated former military service members, have been injured, mistreated and abandoned by the contracting companies and their insurance carriers who have been paid hundreds of millions of dollars in premiums.

“It is a grave injustice,” Bloch said, “to those who rode alongside American soldiers, including Iraqi and Afghani Nationals, to be case aside without the benefits of the law.  We are supposedly trying to bring them the rule of law.  We are supposedly trying to encourage them in democractic institutions.  We are the ones asking them to believe in justice and individual rights.  This is a travesty to all Americans and those around the world who look to America for an example of humanitarian aid and proper treatment of workers.”

This is a lawsuit for damages in the amount of $2 billion to remedy the injuries and destruction caused to the lives, finances and mental and physical well being of thousands of American families and others whose loved ones were injured while serving America under contracts with the United States.  It seeks an additional unspecified amount to punish the companies who made massive profits while causing this harm to people unlawfully and maliciously and working a fraud on the American public who paid them.
“This abusive and illegal scheme by the defendants has been allowed to go on for too long.  We are talking about loss of life, suicide, loss of homes, marriages, families split up, “ Bloch said, “and the culprits are the large government contractors who should have treated their employees better, and the mega-insurance companies who were paid a hefty sum to make sure the employees were taken care of with uninterrupted benefits in the event of injuries in these war zones.”
This complaint is filed due to actions and omissions of defendants, in conspiracy with others, and individually, to defeat the right of American citizens and foreign nationals to receive their lawful benefits and compensation under the Defense Base Act (“DBA”),  as it adopts the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (“LHWCA”).
The lawsuit explains that those sued engaged under the RICO statute in an enterprise of fraudulent and or criminal acts to further their scheme to defeat the rights of individuals who have been injured or suffered occupational diseases, and death, while on foreign soil in support of defense activities under the DBA.   These acts were perpetrated repeatedly through bank fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, using telephones, faxes, and United States mail .
“These are heroes, decorated by America’s Armed Services,” said Bloch.  “Some of the foreign contractors were decorated special forces soldiers from their countries who assisted the United States in combating threats.  The sheer disregard for human dignity and law is reprehensible and deserves punishment.  These families and many others who have been harmed need treatment, need compensation, need redress of the wrongs that have been perpetrated by these huge companies and insurance carriers for the last 10 years.  They have earned $100 billion per year on the backs of these people, with the blood of these plaintiffs and those whom they represent.”
The was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia and covers individuals from all over the United States, South Africa, Iraq, Afghanistan and other counties.

Contact Scott J. Bloch, PA:
Scott Bloch, 202-496-1290

Posted in Afghanistan, AIG and CNA, AWOL Medical Records, Blackwater, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Defense Base Act, Department of Labor, Dropping the DBA Ball, Dyncorp, Follow the Money, Injured Contractors, Iraq, KBR, LHWCA Longshore Harbor Workers Compesnation Act, Misjudgements, Political Watch, PTSD and TBI, Racketeering, Ronco Consultilng, State Department, Suicide, Toxic Exposures, USAID, Veterans, Wackenut, War Hazards Act, Whistleblower, Xe, Zurich | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments »

Civilian deaths up while defense contractors downsize in Middle East

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on January 18, 2011

We’ll be reporting here soon on the Defense Base Act Claims numbers as reported by the Department of Labor and who has caused them to be so skewed

Thanks to MsSparky for putting this together

In a recent article published by to DangerZoneJobs.com, the foremost authority on overseas contract employment, it was reported there were over 179,000 civilian DoD contractor personnel deployed in Iraq (Operation New Dawn (OND), Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), and the U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) area of responsibility (AOR).

As you can see the contractor numbers are down significantly from the 250,335 reported in Iraq and Afghanistan in March 2010.

According to DOD, there were 250,335 DOD contractor personnel in the CENTCOM AOR compared to approximately 272,000 uniformed personnel in the region who are supporting operations in Iraq and Afghanistan during the first quarter of 2010.

Sadly, while contractor personnel counts were down, contractor deaths were up. Overseas Civilian Contractors scours the various reports in an attempt to compile an accurate list of contractor deaths and injuries. They feel that even one contractor death unaccounted for is one too many. They report that during the 4th Quarter of 2010 there were 140 civilian contractor deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The total number of deaths for 2010 was 513 up from 336 for 2009. The total number of civilian contractor deaths since 2001 is 2,540. In addition to deaths, there have been nearly 66, 500 various injuries reported for civilian contractors working in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Contractor employee numbers down, contractor employee deaths up. It’s not looking good!

Please see the original at MsSparky

Posted in ACE, Aegis, Afghanistan, AIG and CNA, Armorgroup, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Defense Base Act Law and Procedure, Department of Labor, Injured Contractors, Iraq, Racketeering, spykids, Zurich | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

WAR HAZARD RECOVERY: The Top Secret Cost of the Iraq and Afghnanistan Wars

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on August 10, 2010

$8 Trillion for Iraq and Afghanistan Wars does not include Veterans or Contractors Care

Contractors currently outnumber troops on both fronts with more on the way.

Never does a cost estimate  include the huge

DIRTY TOP SECRET WAR HAZARDS RECOVERY

Cost’s of the War Hazards Act to the Defense Base Act Insurance Companies, AIG, CNA, ACE/ESIS, Zurich.

Nor do they include the additional burden placed on the  VA system by Disabled Contractors who are denied benefits by the insurers.  These insurers who are falling over each other to take the huge premiums.

Further many of these Disabled Contractors and their families land in our social services systems to  “survive”.

How will we figure the cost of ruined lives, ruined families?

Veterans for Common Sense

August 5, 2010 (Chicago Tribune) – It’s a shame to let accountants spoil the charming romance of war, but sometimes they insist. Recently the Congressional Research Service reported that our military undertakings in Iraq and Afghanistan have marked an important milestone. Together, they have cost more than a trillion dollars.

That doesn’t sound like much in the age of TARP, ObamaCare and LeBron James, but it is. Adjusted for inflation, we have spent more on Iraq and Afghanistan than on any war in our history except World War II. They have cost more in real dollars than the Korean and Vietnam wars combined.

But we can only wish we were getting off so lightly. Neither war is over, and neither is going to be soon. The House just approved $37 billion in extra funding to cover this year, and the administration wants another $159 billion for 2011. That won’t be the final request.

Worse, the CRS figure is only part of the bill so far. It noted the sum doesn’t include the “costs of veterans’ benefits, interest on war-related debt or assistance to allies.” All of those will go on after these wars are over, which someday they may be.

Scholars Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia and Linda Bilmes of Harvard published a book in 2008 called “The Three Trillion Dollar War,” which gives a more realistic estimate. But that, too, is an understatement. They figure that when all long-run costs are factored in, the tab will be at least $5 trillion and could reach $7 trillion, or nearly twice as much as this year’s entire federal budget.

And that was two years ago. I asked Bilmes for an update, and she said some obligations, like veterans’ medical and disability compensation costs, “have exceeded our earlier projections.” Do I hear $8 trillion?

The beauty of the current conflicts, however, is that we can pretend we don’t have to pay for them. Unlike past wars, when taxes were raised to defray the cost, these have been financed with the help of borrowed funds. But eventually the astronomical bill will have to be paid. Read the entire Column here

Posted in ACE, Afghanistan, AIG and CNA, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Defense Base Act Law and Procedure, Department of Labor, Dropping the DBA Ball, Follow the Money, Iraq, Racketeering, War Hazards Act, Zurich | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Fallen Soldiers’ Families Denied Cash as Insurers Profit

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on July 29, 2010

“It’s a betrayal. It saddens me as an American that a company would stoop so low as to make a profit on the death of a soldier. Is there anything lower than that?”

Yes Cindy we understand.  AIG, CNA, ACE, Zurich and more are also War Profiteers and should be prosecuted as such.

By David Evans at Bloomberg

The package arrived at Cindy Lohman’s home in Great Mills, Maryland, just two weeks after she learned that her son, Ryan, a 24-year-old Army sergeant, had been killed by a bomb in Afghanistan. It was a thick, 9-inch-by- 12-inch envelope from Prudential Financial Inc., which handles life insurance for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Inside was a letter from Prudential about Ryan’s $400,000 policy. And there was something else, which looked like a checkbook. The letter told Lohman that the full amount of her payout would be placed in a convenient interest-bearing account, allowing her time to decide how to use the benefit.

“You can hold the money in the account for safekeeping for as long as you like,” the letter said. In tiny print, in a disclaimer that Lohman says she didn’t notice, Prudential disclosed that what it called its Alliance Account was not guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its September issue.

Lohman, 52, left the money untouched for six months after her son’s August 2008 death.

“It’s like you’re paying me off because my child was killed,” she says. “It was a consolation prize that I didn’t want.”

As time went on, she says, she tried to use one of the “checks” to buy a bed, and the salesman rejected it. That happened again this year, she says, when she went to a Target store to purchase a camera on Armed Forces Day, May 15.

‘I’m Shocked’

Lohman, a public health nurse who helps special-needs children, says she had always believed that her son’s life insurance funds were in a bank insured by the FDIC. That money — like $28 billion in 1 million death-benefit accounts managed by insurers — wasn’t actually sitting in a bank.

It was being held in Prudential’s general corporate account, earning investment income for the insurer. Prudential paid survivors like Lohman 1 percent interest in 2008 on their Alliance Accounts, while it earned a 4.8 percent return on its corporate funds, according to regulatory filings.

“I’m shocked,” says Lohman, breaking into tears as she learns how the Alliance Account works. “It’s a betrayal. It saddens me as an American that a company would stoop so low as to make a profit on the death of a soldier. Is there anything lower than that?”

Millions of bereaved Americans have unwittingly been placed in the same position by their insurance companies. The practice of issuing what they call “checkbooks” to survivors, instead of paying them lump sums, extends well beyond the military.

You’ll want to read the entire story here if you can stomach it

Posted in Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Follow the Money, Political Watch, Veterans Affairs | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

US Independence Day 2010 Injured War Zone Contractors in Extreme Distress

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on July 3, 2010

We fly our  flag upside down today as a signal of the

Dire Distress and  Extreme Danger to Life and Property

We Injured Overseas Contractors and our families find ourselves in.

Many of you  have lost your health far past your original injuries due to a lack of health care,

your homes due to denial of financial benefits,

and your families  to the stress these hardships put upon everyone

despite the DBA insurance premiums that were  paid by the taxpayer

to assure this would not happen.

The Executive Branch of our government , both current and past,   sold us out to the

Defense Base Act Insurance Companies.

The  Department of Labor and it’s Administrative Law System

boldly defy the law and regulations and aid the insurance companies in their efforts to deny us.

Our  Judicial Branch is no longer  ours to utilize

Our Legislative Branch is missing in action

Would our forebearers who fought so hard to gain the Independence

Declared July 4, two hundred and thirty  four years ago  today,

have done so just to be pawns to AIG, CNA, ACE, Zurich….. ?

We are no longer Independent

This is not Freedom from Tyranny

Our lives are  controlled by Corporate interests who value no life beyond their own

Who cast off our Veterans, Our Patriots,  Our Allies

their children

Delay, Deny, Hope that we die

The upside down U.S. flag is an official signal of distress. It is not meant to be, and is not officially recognized as any type of disrespect when so displayed for the right reasons. To the contrary, here is the relevant part of the US Code of Laws regarding how to fly the flag when in distress:

THE FLAG CODE
Title 36, U.S.C., Chapter 10
As amended by P.L. 344, 94th Congress
Approved July 7, 1976

§ 176. Respect for flag: No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America; the flag should not be dipped to any person or thing. Regimental colors, State flags, and organization or institutional flags are to be dipped as a mark of honor.

(a) The flag should never be displayed with the union down,

except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to

life or property.

Posted in ACE, AIG and CNA, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Defense Base Act Law and Procedure, Department of Labor, Exclusive Remedy, Political Watch, Zurich | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Federalization of Gulf Coast States Workers’ Comp and your Defense Base Act Claim

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on June 15, 2010

Update:  While Hilda Solis was in attendance at the meeting with BP we have no indications that Worker’s Comp is included in the 20 Billion drop in the bucket antied up by them

______________________________________________________________________________________

Apparently  the decision to have the  Secretary implement the emergency necessary to apply the Libby Health Care Act to the Gulf Coast States Workers’ Compensation program has already been made.

The Libby Health Care Act was tagged onto the Health Care Reform Bill.

After  Obama’s meeting with BP today we will probably hear that they have “voluntarily” agreed to pony up to the Superfund and waive control of claims  administration or cede it to the Department of Labor.    Under  Worker’s Compensation Law they are relieved of all responsiblity for any reason to injuries to Oil Spill Workers.  We already know they are not using safety precautions and here

CDC conducts health survey at construction site to house oil spill clean-up workers; NIOSH reviews medical records from hospitalized fishermen

BP posts oil spill clean-up workers’ injuries log

EPA Data show dispersants plus oil are more toxic than either alone.

This likely explains some strange goings on in the fourth and sixth Regions  over the last month.

If you have a claim in these districts you may soon be competing with injured Oil Spill Workers for Department of Labor processing and hearings.  Click here to find your region and district office.  If your lawyer moved your claim to one of these districts for his own “convenience” you can thank him again.

Certainly the insurance companies will be no more inclined to pay benefits to Oil Spill Workers than  they are Injured War Zone Contractors.

How many of these States buy their Workers Comp insurance from AIG, CNA, ACE or Zurich?

We’ll let you know.

Posted in ACE, AIG and CNA, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Defense Base Act Law and Procedure, Department of Labor, Political Watch, Toxic Exposures, Zurich | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Update on ACE Defense Base Act Insurance carrier

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on March 30, 2010

What happens when you speak up and say ACE isn’t doing such a bad job at taking care of Injured Contractors stuck under their care by the Defense Base Act?

You quickly find out that it is not true.

ACE, and their lawfirm, which you can find leading the pack at the Longshore Conference are apparently working  just as hard at screwing injured contractors out of the benefits they are due under the Defense Base Act as AIG and CNA.  This is according to the injured contractors and the attorneys that represent them.

Sorry we spoke too soon.  And Zurich, your right on their heels.

Posted in ACE, AIG and CNA | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

P&C Insurers Seek Exemption From Federal Oversight

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on March 22, 2010

ACE, Chubb, CNA, Zurich, all DBA insurers,want exemption from Federal Oversight !!!

WR Berkley is applying to be approved to sell DBA

NU Online News Service, March 19, 2:07 p.m. EDT

P and C National Underwriter

WASHINGTON—Ten large property and casualty insurers today asked leadership of the Senate Banking Committee to exempt the industry from federal oversight in financial services reform legislation that will be marked up starting Monday.

In a letter to the committee, the 10 insurers, calling themselves the Property & Casualty Leaders Coalition, said they oppose “misdirected” provisions of the legislation “that would shift the cost of failures of financial institutions outside of our sector to our customers.”

They are talking about a provision of the legislation proposed Monday by Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., that would make insurers and other large, complex financial services companies subject to oversight by the Federal Reserve Board and a new Financial Stability Oversight Council.

Under the bill proposed by Sen. Dodd, federal oversight, in addition to current state oversight, would be applied to nonbank financial companies—determined by a two-thirds majority vote of the Financial Stability Oversight Council—to be subject to prudential supervision by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. The reason is that “material financial distress” at the company “would pose a threat to the financial stability of the United States.”

The House financial services reform legislation passed last December contains a similar provision. Both bills would also create an Office of National Insurance.

The latest letter was written by the new Coalition to Sen. Dodd and Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., the ranking minority member of the committee.

The companies signing the letter were the Ace Group; Allstate; Chubb; CNA; Liberty Mutual; Nationwide Insurance; State Farm; Travelers; W.R. Berkley Corporation; and Zurich Financial Group.  Full Story here

Posted in AIG and CNA | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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 pchatterjee@igc.org [3]

T. Christian Miller contributed to this report.

Original Story here

Posted in AIG and CNA, PTSD and TBI | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

 
%d bloggers like this: