Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The many risks in Iraq

Andrew Frye (Bloomberg News) notes T. Christian Miller's ProPublica report on a US insurance firm at risk of criminal charges:

An administrative law judge has referred a U.S. insurance company for criminal investigation after the firm failed to pay benefits owed to survivors of Iraqi translators killed while working for the American government.
Under a federally funded program, Chicago-based CNA Financial Corp. provides insurance coverage to contractors killed or injured while working overseas for the United States. The slain translators were helping to train Iraqi police recruits.
Instead of paying out benefits, however, CNA withheld information from the federal government and avoided making payments to nine families who lost relatives in a 2006 attack, according to court files and interviews. One widow lost her home, unable to keep up payments after her son and other translators were ambushed by insurgents in the southern city of Basrah, one of her attorneys said.

Staying on the topic of Iraq risks, Xiong Tong (Xinhua) notes, "Australian soldiers and contractors in Iraq might have been exposed to blood-borne diseases such as HIV or hepatitis, as staff at Defense's main hospital unit in the Middle East failed to sterilize surgical equipment properly, local media reported on Tuesday." Cindy Tweed (Top News) adds, "The negligence by the medical unit at the Al Minhad air base for a long period from February 2009 to August 2010 had disappointed the Air Chief Marshal, Angus Houston, while in a statement the Defense department had warned the solders, including those who passed through the medical unit against the risk of blood-borne diseases. Solders treated at the hospital were likely to contract HIV or hepatitis, added the warning."

Moni Basu (CNN -- link has text and video) reports on the ghosts some veterans are carrying back home while, last Friday, Elizabeth Fiedler (Morning Edition, NPR) reported on the unemployment crisis facing veterans:

Kevin Miracle, 30, has seen a lot. He served 10 years in the Army after enlisting when he was just 17. During that time, he did two tours in Iraq and two in Afghanistan. Since he got out in September, life has not been easy.
"When you're over there, you don't realize how bad things have gotten at home," Miracle says. "Getting out and finding a job was so hard. I couldn't get a job anywhere."
The former staff sergeant spent eight hours a day looking for work, but with no offers, he felt like he'd been demoted to a "private" in the civilian world.
"I literally filled out an application at McDonald's," he says. "And they told me I was over-qualified, thank you for your service. But, I mean, I would clean toilets, do what I had to do to pay my bills."

Today the House Veterans Affairs Committee was supposed to hold a hearing entitled "Putting Veterans Back to Work" but . . .


In other veterans news, we'll note this from Senator Patty Murray's office:

AFTER WALTER REED: Chairman Murray to Hear First-Hand Accounts from Veterans, Examine Problems Surrounding Suicides, Prosthetics, and Coordination that Remain Four Years After Scandal

In second of two major hearings, Chairman Murray will hear directly from veterans and top VA and Pentagon officials about challenges that remain in the care for amputees, rising suicide rates, poor coordination between the agencies, and delays in disability evaluations

(Washington, D.C.) – Tomorrow, U.S. Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Patty Murray will hear first-hand accounts from veterans who have faced challenges because of the lack of collaboration between the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DoD). The hearing will focus on DoD and VA’s joint disability evaluation process, military and veteran suicides, the lack of cooperation in certain areas between the two agencies, and the quality of care at the two Departments for amputees. During the hearing, Chairman Murray will also question VA’s top mental health administrator about the recent 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling finding the mental health care offered by the VA to be so poor that it’s unconstitutional.

WHO: Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Patty Murray

Tim Horton, Iraq Veteran who was wounded and lost his leg to an IED attack in Iraq

Steve Bohn, Iraq Veteran, representing Wounded Warrior Project

Janet E. “Jan” Kemp, VA National Suicide Prevention Coordinator

Antonette Zeiss, Acting Deputy Chief Officer Mental Health Services, Office of Patient Care Services, Department of Veterans Affairs

Jim Lorraine, Lt. Col. ASAF (Ret.), Executive Director, Wounded Warrior Care Project

George Peach Taylor, Jr., MD, MPH, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Health Protection and Readiness

WHAT: Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Hearing on the State of VA/DoD Collaborations and the Challenges those Agencies Face in Caring for Veterans

WHEN: Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

10:00 AM EST/7:00 AM PST

WHERE: Russell 418

WEBCAST: http://veterans.senate.gov/

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