Private Patriots: America's Most Misunderstood Freedom Fighters

As a practicing Defense Base Act attorney, I have been granted invaluable insight into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. During my practice, I have read thousands of pages of incidents reports detailing countless terrorists attacks perpetrated against American forces, and viewed numerous photos memorializing the aftermath of the same. I have met those wounded in the war, heard their stories, and spoken with the families of those who have lost their loved ones. It is an honor and a privilege to fight on their behalf every morning I wake up. 

It goes without saying that I am disheartened when I encounter people who know little about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The three main glaring omissions from America's current consciousness I have observed are: (1) people fail to realize that the current war in Afghanistan is America's longest war by a large margin, (2) few are aware that there are more contractors than actual soldiers fighting the war, (3) even fewer people truly understand the sacrifices undertaken by the men and women who make up America's defense contractor community. 

In his new book entitled Zero Footprint, author Simon Chase highlights the men and women who make up America's defense contractor community:

If you haven't found yourself in the middle of shit in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan or Syria recently, you probably have little understanding of what we do. Or that we're sometimes called upon to perform missions too sensitive and top secret for even Delta Force or SEAL Team 6. We're mostly guys, and some women, who live in your neighborhoods, drive fast cars, work out a lot, and spend long periods of time away from home...There are hundreds of thousands of us living in the United States working for companies like G4S, DynCorp, Unity Resources Group, Erinys, Triple Canopy, and AEGIS Defense Services. They hire us to do the dirty and dangerous jobs the military and intelligence services can't or don't want to do.

In a real sense, America's defense contractors are our elite super heroes. Unfortunately, respect for these men and women has been lost through media manipulation centered around the misconduct of one notorious defense corporation during the early part of the war. In my experience, this portrayal is unfair, and inaccurate. 

Our contractors fight overseas alongside their military counterparts, yet oftentimes fail to receive the adoration deserved for their valuable service. They do not get to wear the regalia, their families are not afforded military funerals, they do not receive metals for untold acts of bravery, they don't have their own federal holiday, and they are oftentimes ignored by the establishment in times of need. Defense contractors compromise the "tip of the spear" fighting the war on terror in hostile territory, and deserve the respect they have earned by risking their lives for America's freedom. 

In many ways, members of the defense contracting community are victims of circumstance. The President, and our politicians, know that continuing the war on terror is an absolute necessity. However, they also realize that continuing to send servicemen into battle and instituting a nation-wide draft is political suicide. Even more politically unpopular are newspaper headlines featuring American soldier casualties. Our politicians have tactfully avoided the political downside of the war effort by turning to private contractors to continue America's dirty work, while simultaneously withdrawing troops to garner political accolade. 

Oftentimes, defense contractors are former elite veterans seeking the higher income needed to provide a better life for their families. They transfer the valuable skills developed in the military to the private sector in order to put their children through college, or pay their mortgages. With high risk, comes high reward. It is unfortunate, but our politicians and bureaucrats at the U.S. Agency for Veterans Affairs simply do not provide adequate compensation to our soldiers who risk their lives overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan. This continued policy of underfunding military personnel has prompted many servicemen to go into the private sector.   

Below, you will find my commentary on a few pieces which highlight the harrowing environments our defense contractors face each and everyday. Hopefully, this raises awareness of the sacrifice America's defense contractors make fighting the war on terror in furtherance of our contiued freedom stateside:

Inside Blackwater: Iraq's Most Controversial Private Military Contractor

This short documentary features the operation of Blackwater and Armor Group in Iraq & Afghanistan. This video contains interesting footage of company compounds, training techniques, protocol for protecting clientele, training and insurgent ambushes. In addition, the filmmakers follow Nepalese contractors training local national troops who work for far less wages than their British counterparts. This documentary also contains an interview with Armor Group executives and recruiters which highlights the stringent qualifications needed to be a defense contractor. 

Finally, this documentary is concluded with a piece concerning the tragic death of Blackwater employee Stephen Scott Helvenston who made the ultimate sacrifice. Overall, this piece did a decent job at showing (1) the dangers faced by defense contractors in combating terrorism, and (2) the magnitude of the sacrifice of America's defense contractors. 

 

VICE: Superpower for Hire: Rise of the Private Military

This documentary examines the rise of international Private Military Companies ("PMC"). It follows Security Contractors in Venezuela as they escort high profile client. Additionally, the filmmakers interview Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater (Xe/Academi), who provides insight on the increased use of defense contractors in the theater of war. Furthermore, this video gives an inside look at the Anti-terror Training Academy locate in Czech Republic, which is Europe's leading PMC training facility.

The Defense Base Act : A Brief History and Explanation of the Administration of Benefits

 
DefenseBaseActLawyer
 

The Defense Base Act is a federal workers' compensation program, which provides medical and wage-replacement benefits to military contractors injured while working on a wide variety of U.S. defense projects worldwide. Defense Base Act Attorney John-Austin Diamond explains the history and administration of the Defense Base Act below.

Background and History of the DBA

The 77th Congress of the United States enacted the Defense Base Act, 42 U.S.C.S. § 1651-1654, on August 16, 1941 to provide disability benefits to a previously neglected portion of the American workforce, namely, overseas military contractors. For years, defense contractors working alongside US military forces risked their lives with no guarantee of traditional military benefits provided to their counterparts by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.

Prior to the enactment of the Defense Base Act, military contractors who sustained serious injuries while contributing to the American war effort found themselves in a “no mans land” when it came to obtaining disability benefits. Although vital to the strength and operation of the American military, these contractors were not entitled to traditional benefits available to active military members.   Likewise, as their employment was performed overseas, many of these injured contractors were unable to file for workers’ compensation benefits in their home state. To remedy this frustrating conundrum, Congress enacted the Defense Base Act, which provides lifelong medical benefits and compensation benefits to those injured in the course and scope of their employment at US military bases abroad.

In order to fully understand Congress’ intent in passing the Defense Base Act, one must examine the history of the United States during the later half of 1941. During this historic time period, the country was gearing up for World War II. On July 2, 1941, the Empire of Japan enacted measures to mobilize a standing army of over one million men. On August 9, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt met with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill onboard a navy ship to formulate the Atlantic Charter which established united military goals for the Allied powers. On December 7, 1941, The Imperial Japanese Navy attacked US military forces at Pearl Harbor. The United States then officially entered the war on December 8, 1941, and the rest is history.

Remobilizing America’s military following the carnage of World War I required a uniquely capitalistic approach to achieve victory in World War II. To maximize America’s war efforts, President Roosevelt deployed both military and non-military personnel throughout Europe and the South Pacific with the aid of the newly enacted Defense Base Act. As President Roosevelt’s then Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson famously proclaimed, “If you are going to try to go to war, or to prepare for war, in a capitalistic country, you have got to let business make money out of the process or business won’t work.” Thus, the widespread use of military contractors in war zones was born, and America prevailed in the Second World War.

The use of military contractors has grown exponentially since the inception of the Defense Base Act. According to a Congressional Research Study from May 2013, defense contractors accounted for 50% or more of the total military force in Afghanistan and Iraq during America’s longest war, The War on Terror.

Governance and Administration of Benefits Under the DBA

The Defense Base Act is a federal workers' compensation program administered by the United States Department of Labor's Office of Workers' Compensation Programs, Division of Longshore & Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. All new injuries reported under the DBA are processed through the Department of Labor's Second Compensation District office in New York, New York.

Upon receiving notice of an injured defense contractor, all employers must report the injury to the New York office of the Department of Labor through the filing of Longshore Form LS-202 First Report of Injury or Occupational Illness. This report is to be filed in duplicate with the District Director of the Second Compensation District, and is required to be filed within 10 days of a work-related injury. 33 U.S.C. 930(a). Any employer or insurance carrier who fails to submit this report within 10 days will be subject to a civil penalty up to $11,000 for each such failure. 33 U.S.C.930(e).

Once a claim is created, the responsible insurance carrier will either approve the claim and file a Form LS-206 Payment of Compensation Without Award, or deny the claim by filing a Form LS-207 Notice of Controversion of Right to Compensation. In the event the insurance carrier controverts your claim, the Department of Labor will schedule an Informal Conference wherein the insurance company's trained attorneys will argue why your claim should be denied. If no resolution is achieved during the Informal Conference, the matter is referred to the Office of Administrative Law Judges for a formal hearing. Appeals are then taken to the Benefits Review Board, Federal District Courts, and ultimately to the Supreme Court of the United States.

In the event that your injury is controverted or denied by your insurance carrier, immediately contact an attorney who is knowledgeable in the field of Defense Base Act law. Contact Diamond Law Practice today at (212) 220-7134, or JDiamond@DiamondLawPractice.com for a free claim cosultation.