Now that the General Services Administration has certified the former Vice-President as the winner of the November election, Biden is beginning to assemble his White House team. That team is expected to include DoD veteran Michèle Flournoy as Defense Secretary.
This appointment, if it happens, would not be controversy-free. Some moderate Democrats see Flournoy as a bridge-builder who can erase the tension and mistrust which often permeated the DoD during the Trump years. Some liberal Democrats criticize her ties to groups like WestExes Advisors, a consulting firm she began after she left the Obama White House. In fact, the progressive Center for International Policy has asked the Senate not to confirm Biden cabinet picks, including Flournoy, who are connected with lobbyists or the private sector.
Insiders say Biden is unlikely to bow to this pressure. Additionally, progressives have not proposed an alternative Defense Secretary.
Presidential Changes and Private Military Contractors Through the Years
Contractors have seen uncomfortable power transitions before. In 1801, Thomas Jefferson replaced John Adams in the original blue wave. Armed soldiers accompanied Jefferson to the White House, because no one knew how Adams and his Federalist party would react.
At that time, private contractors were already common in the American army. These individuals were blacksmiths, cooks, wranglers, and other “camp followers.” The biggest difference between these individuals and modern private military contractors is that camp followers had no formal military training. Although they could pick up a gun and defend the camp if necessary, any training they acquired was mostly through osmosis.
Much later, in 1933, Herbert Hoover refused to speak to his replacement Franklin Roosevelt. The tension in the limousine ride during the inaugural makes your family’s holiday tension look like a walk in the park.
By that time, America was a world empire, with overseas possessions in the Pacific and elsewhere. Although there were many more contractors by this time, they had essentially the same roles. However, they did not just fulfil these roles at home. They were also on foreign soil doing the same things. As a result, during Franklin Roosevert’s tenure, Congress passed the Defense Base Act. As outlined below, DBA benefits take care of contractors who are hurt on foreign soil.
Additionally, contractor roles had expanded slightly. In addition to serving in nonmilitary support roles, contractors also provided military support. Examples include maintaining weapons, providing military advice, and training forign soldiers.
Ronald Reagan replaced Jimmy Carter in 1981. Reagan did not need an armed escort and Carter was gracious in defeat. Nevertheless, the contrast between Hollywood actor Reagan and Sunday School teacher Carter was almost black and white, so the transition was jarring to say the least.
A few years later, pretty much everything changed for private military contractors. The General Accounting Office said it would no longer interpret the 1893 Anti-Pinkerton Act, which forbade the federal government from deploying paramilitary formations, as a blanket ban on all such partnerships. So, in the late Cold War, private contractors began actively supporting American troops abroad.
Then as now, this support is limited to defensive operations. Contractors protect supply convoys, escort VIPs, and so on. They do not serve in an offensive capacity. That is the biggest difference between American contractors and foreign mercenaries. “Contractors” and “mercenaries” are not the same thing.
Power transitions do not affect contractor injuries. They face the same dangers. However, power transitions could affect injury response.
Trauma injuries and occupational diseases plague contractors as well as regular servicemembers. Trauma injuries include things like combat wounds, training accidents, and off-duty falls. Occupational diseases include things like toxic exposure.
The Biden White House might oversee some changes in occupational disease injury care, specifically with regard to burn pits. Beau Biden, the President-elect’s son, succumbed to brain cancer shortly after a JAG tour of duty in Iraq. Most likely, toxic burn pit smoke caused his fatal disease.
A burn pit is a huge hole that is filled with garbage. That garbage is doused in jet fuel and set ablaze. Many of the contents in these pits, such as discarded vehicle parts, rubber tires, styrofoam cups, and medical waste are hazardous substances. But that did not stop field commanders in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere from ordering contractors to burn these things. Many injured veterans say that smoke and ash were everywhere, both inside and outside.
The Veterans Administration has consistently denied that there is a connection between burn pit smoke and serious injury. Given his personal experience, Biden might be at least open to changing that policy. However, as far as contractors are concerned, there is a connection. The Department of Labor, which administers the Defense Base Act, has approved compensation for injured contractors who were exposed to burn pit smoke.
Injury Compensation Available
For brain cancer and most other forms of this disease, survival rates have increased significantly since the 1990s. These innovations have been expensive. The cost of cancer treatment routinely exceeds $10,000 a month.
The Defense Base Act usually pays these medical bills. In fact, DBA benefits usually cover all reasonably necessary medical expenses, such as:
- Emergency treatment,
- Medical evacuation costs,
- Follow-up doctor visits,
- Medical devices,
- Prescription drugs,
- Physical therapy, and
- Occupational therapy.
Frequently, the DBA insurance company pays medical expenses directly. Other times, an attorney arranges for injured contractors to receive medical treatment at no upfront cost. Additionally, most DBA victims can choose their own doctors. In other words, they get the complete medical treatment they need, as opposed to the treatment the company doctor is willing to provide.
For more information about DBA wage replacement, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.