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The Defense Base Act – What is it and what rights does it provide? March 18, 2008

Posted by Herb Chestnut in Uncategorized.
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The Defense Base Act (DBA) is an extension to the federal workers’ compensation program which covers longshoremen and harbor workers. The Defense Base Act covers persons employed at U.S. defense bases overseas. The Defense Base Act is designed to provide medical treatment and compensation to employees of defense contractors injured in the scope and course of employment.

WHO IS COVERED BY THE DEFENSE BASE ACT?

Generally, workers employed by American contractors performing public works for the U.S. government in U.S. territories, at U.S. military bases located outside the continental United States and in support of military aid programs within allied nations. 42 U.S.C. section 1651 (a). Also, persons who are employed overseas by welfare and morale projects such as the American Red Cross, the U.S.O. and the Salvation Army are generally covered. “Public Works” is defined in 42 U.S.C section 1651(b)(1).

TECHNICAL REQUIREMENTS & FILINGS

The initial technical requirement of the Act is to report the injury immediately to one’s immediate supervisor. Notice of the injury should also be given in writing using form LS 201. Once that is done, medical treatment is generally offered. It is the employee’s responsibility to file a claim (form LS 203) with the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs. This is required within one year of the date of injury or the last payment of compensation, whichever is later. Other forms utilized in Defense Base Act claims may be accessed at the LHWCA Forms Page.

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Hillary Clinton to Ban Private Security Contractors in Iraq ? March 17, 2008

Posted by Aaron Walter in Uncategorized.
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We try to stay away from the political debate over Iraq, but this tidbit is quite topical in our ongoing discussion of the Defense Base Act (DBA). Private security contractors have been controversial addtions to the U.S.’s contractor forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Based on the nature of their positions in this dangerous arena, it is no surprise that a large number of these contractors have had to rely on Workers’ Compensation under the DBA. Maybe those days are numbered:

Speaking this morning, Hillary hits Obama for not ruling out continuing to use armed private contractors in Iraq. She wants to ban such contractors.

Read more from The Campaign Spot.

UPDATE: Bloomberg.com has a good article on this now.

The Pentagon has about 137,000 contract workers in Iraq, of which about 7,300 work in security. One contractor in particular, Blackwater Worldwide of Moyock, North Carolina, has come under scrutiny by Congress and the courts after a series of violent incidents involving its employees, including a 2007 shooting that killed at least 17 Iraqis.

KBR May Have Provided Tainted Water to US Troops in Iraq March 16, 2008

Posted by Aaron Walter in Uncategorized.
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And the hits keep coming for KBR. Click – KBR – in case you missed their previous antics.

US contractor may have provided tainted water to soldiers in Iraq

A spate of illnesses among US troops at several bases in Iraq may have been caused by untested and possibly tainted water supplied by a private contractor then owned by Halliburton, according to a Pentagon audit to be released today.

The inspector general of the US defence department found a rise in diarrhoea, cellulitis and skin infections reported by troops who used the polluted water for personal tasks such as shaving and laundry at US bases, including three serviced by the defence contractor KBR.

The audit said the military provided water of questionable quality at two further bases.

Until last year KBR had exclusive rights to provide food, shelter, laundry services and transport to US forces serving in Iraq. At the time of the outbreaks KBR was controlled by Halliburton, the former employer of vice president Dick Cheney.

Independent Pentagon auditors found that at camp Q-West, a base 40 miles south of Mosul, KBR added chlorine to wastewater before distributing it for personal hygiene. At another base, Camp Ar Ramadi in Anbar province, 45% of soldiers surveyed said their personal hygiene water had an unusual odour or colour. The tests were carried out between March 2004 and January 2006.

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Security Contractor Blackwater Being Investigated For Tax Evasion? March 16, 2008

Posted by Aaron Walter in Uncategorized.
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For more, see the March 12 post from the “Ataxingmatter’ Blog

House chairman asks agencies to probe Blackwater

In letters sent to the Internal Revenue Service, Small Business Administration, and Labor Department on Monday, Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, requested investigations into whether Blackwater Worldwide, the private security contractor involved in the shooting of 17 Iraqi civilians last year, is complying with federal tax, small business and labor laws.The committee says that Blackwater might have failed to withhold $50 million in taxes from workers’ paychecks while receiving $1.25 billion in federal contracts since 2000.”I request that the Internal Revenue Service initiate an inquiry into whether Blackwater has complied with federal tax laws and take any appropriate action,” Waxman wrote in his letter to the IRS.In March 2007, the IRS concluded that Blackwater had improperly designated security guards working in Iraq as independent contractors and not company employees to sidestep its obligation to withhold taxes on wages, Waxman said in a public statement accompanying the letters.”As a result, Blackwater obtained small business contracts without competing with other qualified bidders that properly designated their guards as employees,” said Waxman. His committee reported that Blackwater has won at least 100 small business contracts totaling more than $144 million since 2000.Waxman also said that Blackwater refused to cooperate with a Labor Department audit to determine whether the security company violated equal employment opportunity laws.
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Sad News Regarding Several Security Contractors Missing Since 2006 March 14, 2008

Posted by Aaron Walter in Uncategorized.
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This disappointing story was reported yesterday by the Washington Post:

Five Severed Fingers Identified as Belonging To Guards Held in Iraq

 “The four Crescent contractors whose fingers have been identified are Jonathon Cote, 25, of Getzville, N.Y.; Paul Reuben, 41, of Buffalo, Minn.; Joshua Munns, 25, of Redding, Calif.; and Bert Nussbaumer, 26, of Vienna, Austria. The fifth finger belonged to Ronald J. Withrow, 40, of Lubbock, Tex., a contractor and computer specialist for JPI Worldwide who was abducted Jan. 5, 2007, near Basra.”

 Our prayers go out for these men and their families.

Are you receiving the proper amount in Workers’ Compensation benefits? March 12, 2008

Posted by Herb Chestnut in Uncategorized.
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I had an Informal Conference today.  For those of you who have not gotten to this stage yet, an Informal Conference is your opportunity to discuss a problem you are having with your claim with the District Office of the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP).  The conference is normally held by telephone and involves the claimant (you) or your attorney, the insurance carrier (or its attorney) and a claims examiner from the OWCP.  There is no special method required to request the conference.  A letter from one of the parties  identifying an issue to the District Office where you claim is pending is all that is required.  Even though the conference sounds, like its name, informal, it is a very important part of the process.

Getting back to my conference, one of the issues was average weekly wage (AWW).  Generally, AWW is calculated by first determining if the claimant worked substantially the whole year prior to the injury.  If so, was this work with the same employer or, at least, similar employment?  If so, the wages are simply calculated, divided by 52 and an AWW is determined.  There are several problems which rear their ugly heads, such as: what constitutes “substantially the whole year” and what type of job qualifies as “similar employment”.  According to cases decided under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Act (LHWCA), 37 weeks is the benchmark for the term “substantially the whole year”.  Therefore, if you have worked 37 out of the last 52 weeks, you may qualify. 

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