This is hardly the first time AIG, a leading provider of insurance under the DBA, and a notable recipient of U.S. government bailout money, has been criticized for disputing benefits. It is also an example of irony, or perhaps chutzpah, that DBA insurance firms dispute these claims, as workers’ compensation insurance is a hidden cost for U.S. taxpayers. The government reimburses contractors for the insurance premiums and also reimburses the insurance company for any combat‐related claims.
There have been enough incidents over the past 6 years to note that the mental health of private military contractors is a significant issue. Even the most cursory online search would bring up the following incidents.
Danny Fitzsimons, who worked for the British private security firm Armor Group, and who shot dead two colleagues after a drinking session in Baghdad’s Green Zone in August 2009, is said to be suffering from PTSD. He was reportedly diagnosed in January 2004 as suffering from PTSD , while still in the British army. Assessments by consultant psychiatrists in May 2008 and June 2009 reported that the symptoms had worsened. Despite this, he was hired in August 2009 by ArmorGroup and sent out to Iraq without undergoing a full medical assessment. Within 36 hours of his arrival, the incident took place in which two colleagues died and an Iraqi was injured.
On November 19, 2006 the San Francisco Chronicle ran an article that noted contractors are not eligible for the network of support that the Pentagon has designed to assist U.S. troops suffering from psychological trauma.
A July 4 2007 New York Times article detailed how thousands of contractors who worked in Iraq are returning home with the same kinds of combat‐related mental health problems that afflict American military personnel.
Bear in mind that in terms of medical coverage, long before they fall under Veteran’s Administration care or DoD‐subsidized health insurance, every U.S. service member are entitled to taxpayer‐subsidized health care insurance under the TRICARE Program, including mental health benefit options. They are also eligible for the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program, which offers portable, guaranteed renewable, federally sponsored coverage. Combat veterans receive free medical care under the Medical Benefits Package of the VA, including Mental Health Care (PTSD, substance abuse); and Suicide Prevention.
As private military contractors generally don’t provide anything remotely like this perhaps that is one reason they can argue that they are more cost‐effective, if not ethically‐effective towards their own workers, than their public sector counterparts.
Reached by phone earlier today Miller said that since there is no system in place that works at all, mental health treatment of PMC workers has to be looked at on a company by company basis.
Miller noted that a few companies have gone above and beyond in dealing with the issue. He points to Dyncorp, which in 2006 created its own care program through its own health insurance plan to better monitor employees for PTSD. The program has psychologists examine returning contractors immediately after they arrive in the United States and six months later. It also has psychologists available via a 24‐hour hotline, provides help filing insurance claims and has created an alumni association for its contractors.
Also last month DynCorp announce the establishment of an Employee Assistance Program , to assist employees in the event of serious or mortal injury.
Another is the CivPol Alumni Association, which promotes the accomplishments of American police officers serving in post‐conflict environments throughout the world. It has a blog devoted to the issue of psychological support among contractors.
And Xe Services (formerly known as Blackwater) also, according to Miller, has a fairly developed program.
Miller also said that today private military contractors “fulfill a scapegoat function”, not unlike that of Vietnam veterans, for those who are unhappy with U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
While these companies are to be commended for being proactive on the issue most companies are not of their size. Whether there are other more systemic, industry wide efforts to deal with ensuring contractors mental health is unknown.
One might hope that industry trade associations, which proclaim their role in helping set standards for the industry might be of help. But Miller says such groups represent “their member’s interests, which are corporate, and don’t necessarily coincide with that of the individual contractor.” He also noted such associations will “never take the place of a good regulatory body.”
Consider IPOA, a major trade association for private military contractors. Section 6.2 of its Code of Conduct states: