Sign up for our newsletter
Get health tips, wellness advice, and more

Thanks for signing up!
You've been added to our list and will hear from us soon.

See all Healthline's newsletters »
Healthline Connects
Healthline Connects

Labor Day 2007: New Face of Labor - Hired Guns

Our President has made a surprise visit to Iraq to meet with General Petraeus and assess the situation. Next Sunday, September 9, 2007, HBO will air Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq and I have been writing about the types of injuries our servicemen and women are suffering in the Afghan and Iraq wars. We have 30,000 injured veterans of these two wars coping with disabilities today, and the HBO film by Executive Producer James Gandolfini gives us some insight into their struggle.

There is a big, new industry that has exploded along with the war on terror - that of private military/security contractors. This means new labor - and as a disability manager this is something that interests me. I can't help but wonder about their disability insurance, who pays for their injuries - are the contractors experiencing similar injuries? What happens when they do get injured? I am reading a fascinating book this weekend, Robert Young Pelton's Licensed to Kill: Hired Guns in the War on Terror - just a little light summer reading every American who wants to know what's going on with our world might want to read. Mr. Young has a link on his website for Insurance which takes one to Ingle International and Imagine Ltd. where one can purchase Special Risk Product insurance. The Specialty Insurance or KRE to those in the know, provides protection against "...kidnap and extortion..when traveling to dangerous places". Need it be said, "War is not an insurable risk," per Bruce Wood, of the American Insurance Industry.

Blackwater is the most well known of the private military contractors who provide", peacekeeping, professional military and stability operations..." for profit. Contractors are former military, police officers,CIA, Special Forces agents and Navy SEALS. Triple Canopy is another - they seek Quiet Professionals and have openings in Emergency Medicine and IT for those of you looking for adventure.

Well, thank you Joseph Neff, Staff Writer for the (Raleigh Durham) News & Observer to Lynch Ryan over at Worker's Comp Insider for getting to the bottom of this issue. Questions like this really plague me and I lose sleep until I know the answers.
  • 126,000 private contractors work for the US government in Iraq
    • 1000 have died
    • 13,000 have been injured
  • Each is insured against injury or death on the job
  • US taxpayers pay both the insurance premiums and the benefits thanks to two WWII era laws:
    • 1941 Defense Base Act requires contractors to be insured
    • 1942 War Hazards Act allows the insurers (not the insured) to apply to the US government to cover payments for contractors injured or killed
  • No one is overseeing the amount the insurers are charging the government - so they are charging "exorbitant premiums" per Bunny Greenhouse, of the Army Corps of Engineers
    • Greenhouse initiated the practice of competitive bids in 2005
    • she fought down the minimum premium from $25,000 (even if the assignment was 2 weeks!) to $7,500
    • because of her advocacy we no longer have "a monopoly price and a monopoly vendor"
  • No agency regulates the premiums or tracks the costs
  • Even the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the congressional watchdog agency, was unable to calculate the costs to taxpayers.
  • The contractors insurance market is dominated by AIG
Dyncorp International has hired Mission Critical Psychological Services to help its employees who struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) upon completion of their assignments. Mental health issues are going untreated in private contractors returning from Iraq. Insurers are fighting the claims, and the civilian mental health community is ill prepared to deal with combat-related stress. AIG has paid about 50% of the PTSD claims filed.

This is one of those rabbit hole stories - the more you know, the more you realize you don't know. For more reading and to understand a new face of labor, visit AmericancontractorinIraq.
Happy Labor Day, whatever you do!

Thank you Jimmy theSuperstar for Iraq picture.
  • 1
Was this article helpful? Yes No

About the Author

The Healthline Editorial team writes about the latest health news, policy, and research.