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Labor Market Surveys and the Defense Base Act – How your benefits can be reduced July 22, 2008

Posted by Aaron Walter in Uncategorized.
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Along with IMEs (Independent Medical Examinations) and FCEs (Functional Capacity Evaluations), the Labor Market Survey is a common device used by insurer’s to suspend or reduce your benefits.

 

A labor market survey is study of the job market in your area, performed by a “Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist” who is hired by the insurance company. It is designed to be a list of jobs that you are qualified for and are physically capable of performing based on your physical limitations.

 

More often than not, the survey is not intended to help you find a suitable job, but rather creates an excuse to reduce your bi-weekly benefits. When you are either held off of work by your doctor, or have limitations which prevent you from returning to your original position overseas, the weekly benefit you receive of 2/3 of your weekly wages (with caps depending on the year in which you were injured) is known as Total Temporary Disability (TTD). It refers to your “total” inability to earn money.

 

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Dispelling/Confirming some Defense Base Act Myths July 20, 2008

Posted by Aaron Walter in Uncategorized.
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1. The Defense Base Act only applies to US Citizens

 

FALSE – The DBA applies both to US Citizens and to foreign nationals. So long you were injured while working for a company contracting directly with the US government (usually the Department of Defense) that is in some way providing support to the US military or contributing to efforts that could be construed as supporting the national security interests of the US, you are likely covered by the Act. We have been witness to recent efforts by some insurers to forcibly apply less beneficial foreign Workers’ Compensation systems from the Middle East to some of these injured employees. Be aware of your rights and be prepared to stand up for them.

 

2. My benefits can be cut off I fail to go to an IME or FCE

 

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Defense Base Act applied to human trafficking case in Iraq July 19, 2008

Posted by Aaron Walter in Uncategorized.
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I came accross this July 11, 2008 story from the Washington Business Journal.

It tells the sad tale of 12 men from Nepal hired by KBR subcontractor, Daoud & Partners to work in a luxury hotel in Jordan. Unfortunately, these men were forcibily re-directed, if not kidnapped, by the subcontractor and sent to Iraq to serve as cheap labor at US military bases. In an even more unfortunate turn of events, the men were kidnapped by insurgents and eventually killed.

The case is a good example of how wide the reach of the Defense Base Act really.  It does not merely provide coverage for workers ON military bases. It covers all employees of contractors working for/with the US government, including both US Citizens and foreign nationals.

One thing to note though is that whether you are from Nepal, Germany, Russia, or Houston, Texas, the DBA provides that your weekly benefits will be paid in US dollars. Given the state of the US Dollar, that isn’t always a good thing.

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Fisher v. Halliburton – KBR Lawsuit Revived July 17, 2008

Posted by Herb Chestnut in Uncategorized.
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3 comments

Last month, in a somewhat surprising decision, U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a District Court ruling that employees of KBR could not sue their employer in tort.  The opinion involved the so-called “Good Friday Massacre” where several truck drivers employed by KBR lost their lives when attacked by insurgents.  The plaintiffs sued KBR alleging, among other things, that KBR had falsely and fraudulently induced them to come to work in Iraq with the assurances of KBR that they would be completely safe.  The U.S. military was responsible for the protection of the contractors and KBR’s defense contractors used this fact to convince the lower court to dismiss the suit.

The theory behind the dismissal was the trial judge’s opinion that the plaintiff’s could not prove their case without necessarily bringing into question the Bush Administation’s policies and strategies for protection of civilians in Iraq.  This being the case, the claims of the plaintiff’s necesarily involved “political questions” regarding the Executive branch and the Judicial branch, the courts, are prohibited from interfering in the function of the Executive branch. 

While the theory of the defense was creative, it was a very harsh result due to the the facts of the case .  The plaintiffs in the suits (four suits were consolidated and decided together) alleged that KBR had assured potential employees that they would have “[f]ull 24 hour a day U.S. military protection…” to insure safety and that employees would be “…100% safe.”  On April 8, 2004, plaintiff Kevin Smith-Idol was injured when his convoy was attacked by insurgernts.  The next day, several more trucks were sent on the same route resulting in more injuries and deaths to KBR employees.  There were allegations that the route had been closed by the military and the Army had been engaged in a 48 hour battle with over 300 insurgents.  In summary, KBR sent unarmed civilians into not only a “war zone” but an active battle.

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