Wherever they go, overseas contractors fill important political and logistical roles that regular service members could not possibly fill.
Politically, private military contractors allow the U.S. to flex its military muscle while downplaying the commitment of troops. That pitch plays well to the people at home and also to the locals. Both groups are anxious to have all the benefits of a strong military presence with none of the risks. Contractors do not quite make that happen, but the results do come close.
Moreover, contractors fill specific roles which service members either do not like or lack the tools to perform. One example is a translator in a place like Afghanistan. Even if a service member does speak the language, there is still a very large cultural and ethnic barrier. Another example involves support personnel, such as mechanics and cooks. Many service members either cannot work on today’s complex vehicles or view KP as a form of punishment.
The ongoing civil war is dragging on with no end in sight. So, Syria is arguably the most volatile war zone in the entire MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region. Moreover, Russian mercenaries are in-country trying to prop up Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad. Their presence makes the Syrian conflict a global war as opposed to a local one.
The military contractors in active war zones like Syria are almost indistinguishable from regular service members. In fact, if there is a group of soldiers in a helicopter, one would be hard-pressed to separate Department of Defense personnel from KBR personnel. Contractors share in all the responsibilities of regular service members and face all the same dangers. Combat wounds are quite common such as gunshot wounds or shrapnel injuries from a bomb or mortar.
Injured contractors do not have to worry about emergency medical expenses. In most cases, the company’s Defense Base Act insurance company pays these expenses directly. Contractors get help and never see a bill.
A few hundred miles to the northeast, another long-term war still rages. American forces invaded Afghanistan, which was a haven for al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups shortly after 9/11. More than a dozen years later, much to the chagrin of most, they are still there in significant numbers. That is especially true of private military contractors who outnumber regular service members by a significant margin.
Afghanistan is a local conflict as opposed to a regional or global one. Other than the United States, there are no foreign countries involved. This war is a little different from the one going on in Syria, and the dangers that contractors face there are a little different, as well. Instead of fixed firefights with professional soldiers, contractors in Afghanistan are more likely to be injured in an ambush from a small group of militia, or perhaps by an exploding roadside bomb.
The tactics that groups like these use often result in brain injuries for soldiers and contractors alike. Indeed, some practitioners call concussions the “signature wound” of the Afghanistan war. Not many people leave the country without sustaining one. For the most part, medical science treats these wounds as physical injuries. So, injured victims are eligible for DBA benefits, such as two-thirds of their average weekly wage.
15years after George W. Bush gave his famous (or infamous) “mission accomplished” speech aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, it does indeed seem that the long-term Iraq War is winding down. In December 2017, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over ISIS, which was the last remaining major terrorist insurgent force in the country.
Now, private military contractors and regular service members mostly focus on pacification and police actions. That is not to say that Iraq is “safe.” There are still dangers everywhere. But, one can argue that being an overseas contractor in Baghdad is not much more dangerous than being a police officer in Chicago (1,500-plus murders since 2016).
The ability to choose your own doctor is a significant advantage in a place like Iraq. Injured contractors may have little choice as to an emergency physician. But it is somewhat comforting to know that, once they get stateside, they can change select their own doctor without any problems or excess paperwork.
An earthquake nearly destroyed the country in 2010. Haiti is a historically poor nation with a traditionally bad government, so it lacked the resources to deal with the tragedy. U.S. forces stepped in to provide security and oversee things like relief aid distribution.
Eight years later, progress has been slow, and many of the same problems remain. Private contractors in Haiti wear two hats. Some work on the massive rebuilding projects that the country sorely needs. Others provide security and guard against aggressive local warlords.
Some people find it hard to believe that there is still a large American presence in Haiti, but that is the case. When contractors get injured, whether it is because of a combat wound or a fall at a construction site, DBA compensation is available.
Most people have never heard of Diego Garcia. It is a tiny dot in the vast Indian Ocean. But the island has some strategic significance and also an interesting history. It was an emergency landing spot for the Space Shuttle and, according to some, a black-ops CIA interrogation center during some parts of the Global War on Terror.
Combat injuries are not a problem on Diego Garcia. But workplace injuries happen a lot. Almost literally everything and everyone that comes to or leaves the island does so by ship. So, longshoremen have lots of work to do. Since it is almost literally a world away from the United States, workplace safety does not always have the same priority in Diego Garcia as it does in Denver, Colorado.
The Defense Base Act is not a combat-injury compensation system. It is simply a workers’ compensation injury compensation system. If you were serving as a contractor overseas in a place with at least one U.S. military installation, you may be eligible for the aforementioned benefits.
Contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen & Frankel, P.A. for more information about the procedure under the Defense Base Act.