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Scott Bloch Law Law Blog

Try saying that three times fast

 

RAND LAUNCHES STUDY ON HEALTH AND WELL-BEING OF PRIVATE CONTRACTORS

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Well known think tank RAND Corp has commissioned a study of the health and well-being of contractors who work overseas.  It is about time that someone with brains gave some serious thought to what has turned out to be a medical and humanitarian crisis for those contractors and their families.

I encourage all who have been overseas working as private military or security contractors to contact RAND and provide your input on their 10 minute survey.  I think it is important for them to recognize the serious problem with contractors who have medical and mental issues that are not only overlooked by the companies and their insurance carriers, but often are worsened by the harsh mistreatment of them toward those who have sacrificed so much.

Here is the rest of their press release to give you information on how you can participate in this important study.  Let it be the beginning of comprehensive study and reform of how Congress and the Pentagon and State Department handle this growing epidemic involving more than 100,000 killed and injured contractors in the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters, as well as the many more people in families this has affected.

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The RAND study is the first comprehensive survey of the health and well-being of individual

contractors who have worked in theaters of conflict, and gives them an opportunity to tell

researchers what it is like to be a contractor in a conflict zone.

“Private contractors provide critical support to both governmental and nongovernmental

entities across the globe,” said Molly Dunigan, project co-leader and a RAND political

scientist. “We hope the data we collect will give a more accurate picture of what contractors

experience.”

The study will include a web-based survey of private military and security contractors.

Anyone who has deployed on contract to a theater of conflict at any point over the past two

years is eligible to complete the survey, regardless of the job he or she performed. The survey

is anonymous, with no information collected about either the survey respondents or their

employers.

Anyone who wants to take part in the survey can access it online at

http://mmic.rand.org/contractor. For questions regarding the study, contact the project at

contractorsurvey@rand.org.

The study is part of RAND’s continuing program of self-initiated independent research.

Support for such research is provided, in part, by donors and by the independent research and

development provisions of RAND’s contracts for the operation of its U.S. Department of

Defense federally funded research and development centers.  It is being conducted within the

Forces and Resources Policy Center, a component of the RAND National Security Research

 

Contact:

Lisa Sodders

lsodders@rand.org

310.451.6913

 

OFFICE OF

MEDIA RELATIONS

703.413.1100 x5117

and 310.451.6913

media@rand.org

www.rand.org

Division helping to improve policy and decision making governing personnel management

and use of defense resources to enhance readiness and sustain the nation’s all-volunteer force.

 

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The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and

decisionmaking through research and analysis. To sign up for RAND e- mail alerts:

http://www.rand.org/newsletters.html

Bloch Wins Benefits for Widow of Iraq Contractor Suicide

Scott Bloch with assistance from Josh Gillelan, II, succeeded in winning death benefits for the widow of an Iraq war contractor who worked for KBR and had been subjected to multiple mortar attacks and witnessed other gruesome and stressful effects of war.  Over the course of a couple of years, he developed psychological injuries and began acting extremely agitated.  He returned home to deal with growing problems with his wife and daughter, but he could not cope with circumstances at home and within a month committed suicide.

The widow won at hearing, but KBR and AIG had appealed to the Benefits Review Board.  The widow’s attorney had abandoned her and filed no brief on appeal, so the Board had only the view of AIG and KBR and reversed on questions of expert evidence and which psychiatrist was more believable regarding what caused the suicide – an intervening cause that had nothing to do with his stress from Iraq, or an unbroken chain of events that included the stress and heightened impulsiveness of a person who has been affected by Iraq.

On remand, the Judge determined that the weight of the evidence was in favor of reinstating benefits, and ordered AIG to pay back pay and pay going forward for all death benefits owing under the Defense Base Act.

“There is nothing more satisfying than to help a widow who had been abandoned not only by the contractor and the insurance company, but had also been mistreated by her own attorney whom she trusted to act in her best interests,” said Bloch about the outcome of the case.  “Our client was very deserving,” he said.  “Even when the system let her down she kept faith and fought on.”

To read the entire decision, go here Decision and Order on Remand Dill.

CONTRACTED: America’s Secret Warriors

 Author Kerry Patton has written a book that helps dispel the errors floating about concerning American’s undecorated and unsung warriors.  Contracted: America’s Secret Warriors, is a fictionalized account but offer much to underscore the heroism and contribution of so many to the country’s cause.

As a military veteran and expert in intelligence, security and counter-terrorism who has worked at the highest levels of government, including the Department of Defense and Homeland Security, Patton initially began Contracted as an autobiography.  However, fear of breaching intelligence secrets led Patton to switch gears, writing a fictionalized story instead, one based on true events, but told through the voice of Declan Collins, a former military man recruited out of civilian life by the CIA for intelligence work in Afghanistan.

There, Declan and his civilian partner, Rex Browhart, himself a former military vet, find themselves assigned as military advisors at a Forward Operating Base in eastern Afghanistan.

At the FOB, Collins and Browhart form a working alliance with a varied group of officers and enlisted men on a plan to arm Afghan warlords eager to fight the Taliban, a plan Collins believes will save American lives.

Most of the men aiding Collins in this task are a mixture of Special Forces, including Delta Force, Navy Seals and Army Rangers and Green Berets. To Collins, these men are modern day warriors, part of a dying breed, driven to sacrifice their lives for God, family and country.

It’s a patriotic theme Patton employs throughout his book, one in which money isn’t the primary motivating factor driving these contractors — most of whom are former military — but rather a deep love of country further fueled by an abiding loyalty to aid their brothers-in-arms.

Unfortunately, the press has helped to paint a picture of civilian contractors as either nothing more than mercenaries in search of a quick paycheck or out-of-control homicidal maniacs, such as those in Blackwater, the private security consulting firm employed by the US government during the Iraq war.

Not surprisingly, that negative portrayal tends to overlook the heroism and sacrifices that many contractors have performed and endured once they have left the comfort and safety of the civilian world for life in a combat zone.

In fact, it is to that point that Patton reportedly wrote Contracted, noting it is “truly meant for those unsung heroes who never get recognized yet often get chastised.”

That recognition comes at the same time as the use of civilian contractors in combat zones by American corporations, defense contractors, and governmental agencies — including the DOD, State Department and CIA — is growing in both prominence and danger.

Specifically, in 2012 American civilian contractors constituted 62 percent of the US presence in Afghanistan. These contractors are used in many unarmed roles, including transporting supplies, staffing food services, building homes and commercial facilities and serving as interpreters.

However, they are also employed in armed capacities, jobs which include providing security for State Department and Pentagon officials, guarding US installations, gathering intelligence and training the Afghan army and police.

Still, whether operating in armed or unarmed roles, the risks these civilian contractors face are great. In 2011, 430 American contractors were reported killed in Afghanistan — 386 who worked for the Defense Department — and 1,777 injured or wounded.

In fact, 2011 marked the first time that deaths among civilian contractors working for American companies in Afghanistan outnumbered the deaths of US military personnel in that country.

Yet in addition to the physical risks they face, civilian contractors can also be subjected to the prospect of financial ruin.

For example, while the federal Defense Base Act requires American contractors to carry insurance that will provide their employees with medical care and compensation, there have been numerous instances in which medical coverage has been cancelled and contractors and their families uncompensated.

Not surprisingly, all of this has gone relatively unnoticed by the American public, ignorance perhaps driven in part by journalistic indifference.

Of course, to be fair, it’s not entirely unusual that the full details of war have difficulty coming to light. That view was once expressed decades after the Civil War had ended, when Walt Whitman, in a moment of reflection, wrote, “The real war will never get in the books.”

To his credit, Kerry Patton’s new novel, Contracted: America’s Secret Warriors,has managed to allow us a glimpse into the real war in Afghanistan and the hazardous and heroic role played there by America’s civilian contractors.

BLOCH VOWS TO FIGHT ON WITH DBA CLASS ACTION

 

Scott Bloch vows to appeal dismissal of complaint for $2 billion against major government contractors like KBR, Blackwater and DynCorp, G4S/Ronco and the global insurance carriers AIG, CNA, ACE and Zurich, on behalf of thousands of former employees, for unlawful, fraudulent and bad-faith mistreatment of injured employees and their families  

 

WASHINGTON, DC (December 21, 2012) – Today the Federal District Court in Washington, DC dismissed all of the claims of 31 persons who have been subjected to a scheme to harm and defraud by Insurance giants CNA, AIG, Zurich and ACE, as well as by the multi-billion dollar Contractor community of Blackwater, KBR, ITT, RONCO, L-3 and many others.

Scott Bloch addressed the dismissal: “Some of the injured plaintiffs have fought for their rights to recover for their injuries for more than 8 years, having lost limbs and contracted PTSD, brain injury and many other injuries.  None of what this class action is claiming on their behalf and on behalf of thousands of others who have been grievously wronged is recoverable in the workers compensation scheme known as the Defense Base Act or DBA.  That is why they had to seek redress in Court.  These companies must pay for what they have put these brave individuals and their families through, and we will not stop fighting on their behalf and will appeal this.”

The Court reasoned that the DBA is the exclusive remedy and one cannot access justice in the Courthouse, but instead must seek relief through the Department of Labor.  The problem is, all of the claims are not for matters that the DBA provides relief for or can be redressed by the Department of Labor, and many of the individuals already have obtained whatever relief they could in their workers compensation case.  They are not asking the Court for that kind of relief, but for the insurance companies and the contractors to stop committing fraud in stopping payment on checks that are agreed to be owed, or authorizing medical care for brain injuries or needed surgeries they agree they have to pay for, but simply refuse to pay bills or to pre-pay for procedures as they have to.  Some people have to go for months, even years, with no medical care, and there is nothing the Department of Labor will do or even in many cases can do to stop this illegal and fraudulent behavior.

Since 2003, top government contractors like Blackwater, KBR, DynCorp, G4S, CSA/AECOM and ITT have been perpetrating a fraud on their employees and on the American public.  The silent warriors who work for these companies, many of them decorated former military service members, have been injured, mistreated and abandoned by the contracting companies and their insurance carriers who have been paid hundreds of millions of dollars in premiums.

“It is a grave injustice,” Bloch said, “to those who rode alongside American soldiers, including Iraqi and Afghani Nationals, to be cast aside without the benefits of the law.  We are supposedly trying to bring them the rule of law.  We are supposedly trying to encourage them in democractic institutions.  We are the ones asking them to believe in justice and individual rights.  This is a travesty to all Americans and those around the world who look to America for an example of humanitarian aid and proper treatment of workers.”

This is a lawsuit for damages in the amount of $2 billion to remedy the injuries and destruction caused to the lives, finances and mental and physical well being of thousands of American families and others whose loved ones were injured while serving America under contracts with the United States.  It seeks an additional unspecified amount to punish the companies who made massive profits while causing this harm to people unlawfully and maliciously and working a fraud on the American public who paid them.

“This abusive and illegal scheme by the defendants has been allowed to go on for too long.  We are talking about loss of life, suicide, loss of homes, marriages, families split up, “ Bloch said, “and the culprits are the large government contractors who should have treated their employees better, and the mega-insurance companies who were paid a hefty sum to make sure the employees were taken care of with uninterrupted benefits in the event of injuries in these war zones.”

The Plaintiffs have 30 days in which to file a notice of appeal.

 

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Scott Bloch Appears on Television Program on Contractor Problems

 

Scott Bloch appeared on an international television show, “The Heat” on CCTV America, concerning the problems contractors face in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The segment, entitled, “Is US outsourcing the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan,” interviewed Mr. Bloch as well as his client, Daniel Hoagland who suffers from oropharyngeal cancer due to his dental problems he developed while working for KBR in Iraq.  This powerful interview shows the degree to which contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan and their insurance carriers bypass the law, disregarding the human suffering this causes.   Mr. Bloch speaks about the class action against contractors and insurance companies in this interview, focusing on the opportunity to bring justice and appropriate care to the thousands who have suffered after their tours in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan.

Watch the segment here, linked in from defense base act blog:

 

To watch the entire show as it aired, go to this link: http://english.cntv.cn/program/theheat/20120325/107797.shtml

Judge Denies Blackwater’s Motion for Arbitration

Read First Amended Complaint as filed Mercadante et al. v Blackwater et al here.

WASHINGTON, DC (May 23, 2012) – Blackwater Industries, which changed its name to Xe Services, and now has changed it yet again to Academi LLC, lost its initial bid to have the $240 million suit for employee misclassification sent to arbitration and dismissed from federal court in Washington, D.C.

Scott Bloch filed an amended complaint  (see link above) in the class action lawsuit on behalf of four former security specialists, who were injured while working for Blackwater, in order to recover their payment of social security, unemployment insurance, and unpaid benefits and state and local withholding and unemployment insurance, and other unspecified damages.  The action seeks $240,000,000 in damages for lost benefits, overtime, treble damages and punitive damages, as well as additional amounts as proved for the class of specialists.

The court has rejected that motion filed by Blackwater and required it to file another motion to determine if the same Plaintiffs agreed to have an arbitrator determine if the agreements were unconscionable, procured by duress, fraud and undue influence.

“Blackwater acted illegally and unconscionably toward these brave individuals,” said Bloch.  “Through their fraud as pointed out in the Amended Complaint, they avoided overtime for security workers who worked sometimes 12-16 hours a day 6 days a week.  They were forced to sign agreements they never read and were not given time to read and not given copies, which took away valuable rights and were unlawful in their terms.  Now the court has rejected their initial motion and required Blackwater to seek the same relief if they can prove that the Plaintiffs who never were allowed to read the original agreements agreed to have an arbitrator determine whether they properly agreed to anything.  We continue to assert the illegality of the agreements and the actions of Blackwater.”

Read Xe’s Arbitration Bid Denied in Misclassification Suit here.

Contact Scott J. Bloch, PA:

Scott Bloch, 202-496-1290

$50 million Lawsuit Targets Large Law Firm Billing Practices

 

 

 

On January 27, 2012, Scott  Bloch filed a lawsuit in Missouri against a large regional lawfirm, Husch Blackwell LLP.  Co-counsel William Skepnek of Lawrence, Kansas, and Loren Moll of Kansas City firm Caldwell & Moll, join him in the suit.  All three have a background in major actions against  lawyers who put their own interests ahead of that of their clients.

As reported in the media, the legal malpractice suit in Missouri state court claims that “the firm bungled the company’s 2008 stock offering and caused EnerJex to suffer $50 million in losses.

“In late 2007, EnerJex decided to raise capital by, among other things, engineering a reverse stock split, selling 5 million shares and getting listed on the American Stock Exchange … Husch Blackwell attorneys and co-defendants Jeffery Haughey and Robert Green …had little or no experience in performing the due diligence for a small startup or micro-cap company similar to EnerJex … the firm missed critical deadlines: EnerJex’s S-1 registration was filed with the SEC in April 2008, five weeks behind schedule, according to the petition.

“The suit also claims that Husch Blackwell’s work on EnerJex matters “was bloated with superfluous lawyers who performed redundant and unnecessary work.”

“EnerJex claims Haughey made numerous fraudulent representations to the company, including his claim that he could conduct due diligence for $25,000 and represent EnerJex in the public offering for as little as $100,000.”

To read more, click here for the article on this important lawsuit.  Click her Petition as filed to read the Petition filed in state court.

“Clients have a right,” said Bloch about the case, “to greater loyalty in carrying out their objectives, not the objectives of their attorneys in satisfying their billable hour goals.  The legal team here seeks not only to get justice for our client but to send a clear message to large law firms that overbilling and improper billing practices cannot go on.”

Iraq WSI Firefighters Sue for Fraud and Backpay

 

 

 

 

 

The Law Offices of Scott J. Bloch, PA, filed a lawsuit on behalf of two dozen firefighters who worked for Wackenhut Services International (WSI) in Iraq from 2005 to the present, seeking $100 million in back pay for the firefighters and thousands similarly situated.  They worked under a subcontract of WSI with KBR/Halliburton, under LOGCAP contracts to provide 24/7 firefighting and paramedic services on bases.  KBR and WSI conspired, according to the Complaint filed on December 6, 2011 by Washington D.C. lawyers Scott J. Bloch and Michael J. Trevelline, to deny pay for overtime, on call time, and higher graded work, to thousands of firefighters over the last five years.

Read coverage of the law suit Firefighters say stiffed in Iraq Courthouse News Service and Firefighters Sue Halliburton, Others For Iraq OT Pay – Law360.

Read the press release on the case PRESS RELEASE Complaint WSI firefighter Class.

Read the Hill et al v WSI et al Complaint District of Columbia live database as filed here.

National Scandal of Abuse of Injured Contractors

Scandal in Mistreatment of Silent Service Members

Wednesday, September 28, 2011 (appeared in Fed Smith, at http://www.fedsmith.com/article/3120/scandal-mistreatment-silent-service-members.html)

 

 

 

 

by

Scott J. Bloch

I like representing heroes. I did it in the federal government, helping whistleblowers who were taking it on the chin for protecting us. One of the more rewarding things I had the privilege of doing in government as U.S. Special Counsel was protecting the jobs of heroes returning from National Guard or reserve duty under USERRA.  Now back in private practice, I have been privileged to protect the rights of our silent service members – private contractors who work in Iraq and Afghanistan and Kuwait in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

While about 150,000 troops from America have served in Afghanistan and Iraq at any given time over the last few years, we don’t hear much about the 200,000 private contractors, about 100,000 from America, the rest from England, South Africa, Australia and other countries such as Kuwait, Iraq, India, Afghanistan, South America, Uganda and so on. There have been several thousand deaths among these contractors, and over 50,000 injuries, some catastrophic, some psychological, sometimes both.

Many of them are decorated veterans of the two current wars, Operation Desert Storm, the Bosnian conflict, or Vietnam, some with purple hearts, silver and bronze stars and other combat medals and awards. Many have been in the special forces of their countries’ armed services. They believe in helping America fight terrorists and defend freedom. They have placed their lives on the line as security personnel, carrying guns, or as combat drivers, as firefighters on bases where they are attacked, bombarded by mortar fire, shot at, and subjected to extremes of war and heat, during long work days usually seven days a week. These are not “mercenaries,” with all of the negative connotations contained in the word. They are patriots.

Many of these ordinary heroes have suffered physical and mental injuries, including having their limbs blown off, contracting brain injuries from concussion blasts of roadside bombs, or severe post traumatic stress disorder from being subjected to horrifying scenes of dismemberment, death, and threats of same every day. What has the American government done for them, and what have the insurance companies being paid billions done for these men and women?

There is a system in place that is supposed to help them, like the military system in place to help injured soldiers, like the system in place to help displaced workers under USERRA, but then we saw in the Walter Reed Medical Center debacle and when I was United States Special Counsel what happens when a system breaks down and stops treating people as individuals. They become prisoners in a bureaucracy that does not stoop to help them quickly as the law requires and sometimes punishes them for seeking their benefits. Some in the system have expressed resentment that these workers who dodge bullets would earn higher pay for going to a war zone where its temperature is only outpaced by the danger.

These silent warriors are often deprived of their benefits and subjected to a torturous process of denial of claims, and a circuitous series of bureaucratic delays and bad faith mistreatment by the insurance companies and the contracting companies who have been paid by tax dollars to provide them the workers compensation insurance.

Their injuries are often grievous, involving disabling physical, mental and brain conditions. Yet the hell of war is nothing compared to the hell of dealing with a system that favors the contractors, their insurance carriers, and the difficult-to-negotiate bureaucracy that administers the benefits under the Defense Base Act by way of the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act. The law is supposed to be liberally construed to get benefits to injured employees, including disability payments to replace wages, and all medical benefits necessary to remedy the conditions.

One of the scandals of all of this leviathan process is that the taxpayer pays the premiums on this expensive workers compensation insurance, and the insurance companies can get all the money back they pay out in benefits if the injuries result from a war hazard. DynCorp, KBR/Halliburton, Blackwater, have all been hit with hundreds of millions in fines for fraud on the American people. Congress just found that CNA for one has overcharged the government $58 million for insurance because the contractors do not reimburse them for overpayments. Insurance Giant AIG has obtained 40 billion in bailouts, but just had to pay half a billion in fines for fraudulently understating insurance experience figures, and now is wreaking havoc on the lives of these brave, silent soldiers.

These insurance companies can even get a 15% rider of administrative costs and attorneys fees. Yet the companies and the insurance carriers act like these brave men and women are a bunch of loafers on the system, cheaters and deadbeats. And they play games with their lives, and the lives of their families that has caused many to be ruined, thrown out of houses, thrown out of wheelchairs, credit in the toilet and lives in shambles.

They face ridicule, delays, run arounds, abuse, and a lengthy wait in an administrative system only Kafka could have thought up. Many spend years waiting to resolve their cases while attorneys toss around arcane questions of law or medical practice. Benefits get held up, months go by with neither the contracting company, the insurance carrier or the Department of Labor acting on the case. Some people have committed suicide waiting on the process, some have given up bringing claims out of utter disgust or discouragement. Many would rather go without than deal with the punishment of the DBA.

Congress has had hearings on this, inspectors general have looked into criminal allegations against the companies and their carriers, and the people continue languishing, getting worse due to non treatment, and losing their doctors who refuse to be abused by the insurance companies like AIG or CNA or Zurich or ACE American who run the tables with their attorneys and deny benefits at the drop of a hat, and then often start them again, willy nilly.

That is why I have instituted a class action against the major defense contractors and insurance carriers to stop their illegal behavior and provide justice for these abused contractors.  I have been joined by Bill Skepnek in this fight.  To read the complaint or more about this problem, go here.

So the next time you hear someone call these people mercenaries, or think the injured are faking it, remember the battalions of silent warriors protecting you and me, and the horror they face on their return. These people are heroes, and their families have been forced to fight a war here at home, and they need our help, our support, and our members of Congress to do something before it’s too late.

 

© 2011 by Scott J. Bloch. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Scott J. Bloch.

Scott J. Bloch was Special Counsel over the U.S. Office of Special Counsel from December of 2003 until December of 2008 and now practices law in Washington, D.C. on behalf of injured contractors, whistleblowers, and employees throughout the country and around the world.

Bloch files $2 billion suit against top government contractors and insurance companies

WASHINGTON, DC (September 26, 2011) – Since 2003, top government contractors like Blackwater, KBR, DynCorp, G4S, CSA/AECOM and ITT have been perpetrating a fraud on their employees and on the American public.  The silent warriors who work for these companies, many of them decorated former military service members, have been injured, mistreated and abandoned by the contracting companies and their insurance carriers who have been paid hundreds of millions of dollars in premiums.

“It is a grave injustice,” Bloch said, “to those who rode alongside American soldiers, including Iraqi and Afghani Nationals, to be case aside without the benefits of the law.  We are supposedly trying to bring them the rule of law.  We are supposedly trying to encourage them in democractic institutions.  We are the ones asking them to believe in justice and individual rights.  This is a travesty to all Americans and those around the world who look to America for an example of humanitarian aid and proper treatment of workers.”

Pro Publica reporter T. Christian Miller has reported on the case here: http://www.propublica.org/article/injured-war-contractors-sue-over-health-care-disability-payments.  Read PRESS RELEASE Complaint DBA Class here.

Read more here about this landmark case.