More than 180,000 civilian contractors work on or near the battlefields in Iraq supporting our Armed Forces. In addition to physical injuries, they may suffer combat-related mental disorders from having worked side-by-side with soldiers, thereby exposing them to the same dangers.
Sharp increase in DBA cases
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, from 2001 to March 31, 2008, nearly 1,300 deaths and over 9,600 time loss injuries from Iraq and Afghanistan have been reported under the Defense Base Act.
The rise in Defense Base Act claims, with or without the continuation of the Iraqi war, is here to stay for the foreseeable future. The United States will maintain its involvement in "extraterritorial activity" for many years. War is not a necessary ingredient for the Defense Base Act to apply to a workforce.
The Shadow Army
It's estimated that 43,000 foreigners and 118,000 Iraqis support our Armed Forces. These non-Americans may have been employed by foreign companies who themselves have contracts with agencies of the U.S. government or may be subcontractors or sub-subcontractors of such companies.
Many have even been directly employed by U.S. companies for one reason or another. In many cases they are simply willing to work for lower wages than Americans, and in others they may posses a skill that cannot be readily found in Americans. In the case of the Iraqi War, what most obviously comes to mind for the latter are Arabic to English translators. However, these workers are not entitled to all that American workers or their dependents might be entitled to for the same injuries or deaths.
On June 1, 2008, the U.S. military ordered a court martial of a civilian contractor charged with aggravated assault on another contractor while working as an Army interpreter in Iraq. This was the first court martial of a civilian contractor since the Vietnam War.
This blog was excerpted from the Defense Base Act and War Hazards Compensation Act Handbook, which will be published by LexisNexis in September 2008.
News flash: The Department of Labor and Loyola University New Orleans will be offering a seminar on the Defense Base Act sometime this fall. Stay tuned for further details.