Claims for damages from civilian contractors to Afghanistan rise – business insurance

After 20 years of conflict, many US soldiers and civil contractors have returned home from Afghanistan and Iraq very differently than when they were first deployed. Mental injuries are common in war zones, but a 2013 study by RAND Corporation found civilian contractors are much more likely to suffer from it.

At the time of the study, 25% of private contractors were showing symptoms of PTSD compared to just 11% of service workers, and experts say these numbers are an understatement.

"You are sent to a war zone and then have the same experience as trained soldiers, with no background, without the exposures and training that the soldiers have, and the consequences could be quite severe," said Samuel Frankel, partner at Barnett, Lerner, Karsen , Frankel & Castro PA in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The company represents injured workers and specializes in Defense Base Act claims – workers compensation benefits for civilians working on US military bases outside the United States.

"Nothing in these government contracts requires an employer to properly train their contractors before exposing them to the threat of war," said David Barnett, founding and managing partner of the company.

Last year, the total number of claims for damages submitted by contractors over the past three years was 6,000 claims from September 2020 to September 2021, according to Frankel.

The influx of claims has overwhelmed claims processing, creating problems with processing, filing and payment by insurers.

“A lot of it involves validity to make sure the claims are valid, and a lot of it involves just the numbers,” Frankel said. "We are talking about 20 years of war … Thousands upon thousands of contractors from all over the world now have to be processed by the Defense Base Act and directed by the US Department of Labor, which at the end of the day only has about 40 judges."

“It's just a huge volume that then leads to delays in handling all of the things you would normally expect an insurance company to do in the event of a claim: investigations, validity checks, processing and payment of claims that are now in arrears “, Said Frankel.

The validation of the claims is a necessary first step, as there are deep "consistencies" between them that arouse suspicion among insurers and lawyers, said Frankel.

"Because of the commonality within a region, we have to ensure that it is legitimate and not just persecuted because others are persecuting it."

The bigger challenge in processing mental injury claims is making sure there is adequate medical documentation from someone with appropriate credentials, said Eric Richardson, senior client services manager at Gallagher Bassett Services Inc., based in Carlsbad, California.

“When someone is being treated abroad, we need to pay special attention to what kind of references the foreign doctor might have and let him answer clarifying questions if necessary, as he may not work according to the same diagnostic criteria that we would do here Said Mr. Richardson said.

Often a second opinion is required, which extends the claim and makes the costs more expensive, he said.

Mr Richardson expects claims numbers to continue to surge over the next year and advises insurers to develop a contingency plan to deal with the current claims backlog as more claims arise.

“Monitoring the number of people they have employed overseas by having risk advisors close by to provide advice to the insured on risk reduction wherever they are; have staff lists that you can revise at short notice, ”offered Mr. Richardson.

"Anything you need to quickly boot up and deal with a tip should be ready."

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