Hearing on Defense Base Act

originally posted 2008-05-26 08:09:49, bumped

On May 15, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing on the Defense Base Act. As some of you know, the DBA is a subject near and dear to my heart, that is, if such a thing could be possible.

Committee Holds Hearing on Defense Base Act Insurance

The hearing examined allegations of waste and abuse in the procurement of Defense Base Act (DBA) insurance, the workers’ compensation insurance required for all federal contractors working overseas. Contractors obtain DBA insurance from private insurance companies, and these costs are included in the price of the contract and passed on to taxpayers.

Several items of note below the fold.

New numbers:

Hidden within the Supplemental Information on Defense Base Act Insurance Costs are casualty numbers on contractor fatalities and injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan from two reports by the Department of Labor dated April 2, 2008. However, the numbers cited in the Supplemental are not broken out by nation. And at best, they are only a minimum.

1,292 contractors killed
9,610 wounded

The two contractors whose story I have now been following for close to 5 years, Kirk von Ackermann and Ryan Manelick, are not included in those figures. I'd really like to see the actual reports.

  • Department of Labor, Defense Base/War Hazards Act Summary by Nation for Afghanistan (Apr. 2, 2008)
  • Department of Labor, Defense Base/War Hazards Act Summary by Nation for Iraq (Apr. 2, 2008)

Regarding DBA insurance? No surprise, it's a cash cow for insurers.

Legislation:

According to a brief paragraph in the summary of the meeting the new Defense Authorization Bill passed in the House, H.R. 5658, includes an Amendment "...requiring that DOD implement a new approach to purchasing DBA insurance within the next 18 months. This requirement is likely to save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars." So far, I have been unable to locate the text but it's certainly a long overdue step in the right direction. Hopefully, the Amendment will make it through the Senate and into the final version of the bill.

From the brief summary at Thomas.gov:

H.AMDT.1054 (A009)
Amends: H.R.5658
Sponsor: Rep Waxman, Henry A. [CA-30] (offered 5/22/2008)

AMENDMENT PURPOSE:
An amendment numbered 15 printed in House Report 110-666 to (1) require agencies to enhance competition in contracting; (2) limit the use of abuse-prone contracts; (3) rebuild the federal acquisition workforce; (4) strengthen anti-fraud measures; and (5) increase transparency in federal contracting.

Witnesses:

No civilians spoke at this time, which leads me to believe there may be more to come. For years, there have been numerous complaints that workers have been denied benefits and have had to sue to get medical care or survivors benefits. As a recent example, the lawsuit involving a KBR subcontractor, Daoud & Partners, who denied 12 Nepali workers killed in Iraq were its employees. Ugly story but the law eventually won. (ref below)

Additional reading:

US House committee investigates potential insurance fraud in Iraq
Jurist, May 15, 2008

US to compensate family of 12 Nepalese killed in Iraq
By Manisha Bomjan, May 22, 2008

Nepali Victims Win In US Labor Court
By Rajendra C. Thakuri, May 22, 2008

Iraq, Contingency Contracting and the Defense Base Act
by Susie Dow, ePluribus Media, March 28, 2007

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I subscribe to several alerts for news on the defense base act. I've been kinda surprised at the amount of coverage in the last few days.

For your reading pleasure:

Dogs of War: Defense Base Act revisited (hat tip to avahome)
United Press International - USA
By DAVID ISENBERG WASHINGTON, May 23 (UPI) -- My earlier column on mandatory employee insurance for defense contractors under the Defense Base Act stirred ...

Contractors, insurance firms gouging taxpayers, panel says
Herald News Daily - Williston,ND,USA
The military‘s obligations under the Defense Base Act, he said, dwarf those of other federal agencies. "It‘s not clear that any insurance provider would be ...

House Panel's Chairman Rips Comp Costs for Civilians Working in Iraq
Occupational Health Safety - Dallas,TX,USA
The Defense Base Act of 1941 requires contractors operating in Iraq and Afghanistan to purchase comp insurance for their employees. ...

is the blogging and online news tidbits that are occurring... Newspapers respond to what people are reading about... so then they decide to do a story.

All that's my inarticulate way of saying... Keep it Up, Susie Dow, your work is pushing the story out there.