|PTSD, DBA and the Company you work for.... Litigation Outcomes
|Who pays your legal fees? :
There are two circumstances under which the employer/carrier will be responsible
for your legal fees:
1) If your claim is denied initially and your lawyer is successful in having it
2) If your claim was originally accepted and medical and compensation were paid
but your lawyer is successful at getting you something more than was offered at
your informal hearing.
You are entitled to expert witnesses and second opinions the same as the
Employer/Carrier but there is nothing in place for paying for these upfront.
You will receive reimbursement if you win.
This information was provided verbally by the Jacksonville Regional DOL office.
Who pays the Employer/Carriers legal fees?
The legal fees are reimbursed by the WHA on a case by case basis.
If the Employer/Carrier is successful in denying your case there is no case to present
to WHA for reimbursement.
Why are claimants not being represented at hearings as
ferociously as the employer/carriers?
Of the more than 15,000 death, injury, disease, and PTSD cases
that have been filed with the DOL less than 700 have been settled.
You can see these cases here:
Department of Labor Office of Administrative Judges
Cohen Milstein Wins Death Benefits for Slain Nepali
Workers in Iraq
Administrative Law Judge Larry Price, who gave Daoud's insurer, CNA
International, 10 days to hand over the money, after which a 20 percent
penalty would be assessed. Roger Levy of Laughlin, Falbo, Levy & Moresi
in San Francisco, who represents Daoud, says the company will not appeal
By Dahr Jamail
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Thursday 05 October 2006
An anxious unrest, a fierce craving desire for gain has taken possession of
the commercial world, and in instances no longer rare the most precious
and permanent goods of human life have been madly sacrificed in the
interests of momentary enrichment.
- Felix Adler
In all past wars the United States has been involved in, including the two World Wars,
Vietnam and the first Gulf War, the military was self reliant and took care of its basic support
functions like cooking, cleaning and other services.
That changed when the Cheney administration took control of the government in 2000. War
has now been privatized, and the shining examples of this privatization are Afghanistan and
Iraq. As you read this there are approximately 100,000-125,000 American civilian
contractors working in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their jobs range from providing security to
desk work to interrogating prisoners to driving convoy trucks to clearing unexploded
ordnance. A year back, in November 2005, the US Department of Labor listed 428 civilian
contractors dead and 3,963 wounded in Iraq - none of which are ever counted in the official
Employing civilian contractors supposedly saves money in the long run and, more
importantly, frees trained soldiers for battle. The notion of low expenditure stemmed from
the assumption that civilian contractors were hired for temporary/emergency engagements.
This assumption no longer holds worth in the face of the current long-term (permanent)
guerrilla war (read-Iraq and Afghanistan) without clear front-lines.
Given the astronomical profits posted by these defense contractors, in addition to
widespread fraud and waste, it is difficult to believe that any administration would want to
adhere to this model, unless of course certain members of that administration were
financially profiting from it.
Those vague front lines stretch all the way back home, for it was at home that Tim
Eysselinck became one of the thousands of uncounted and unaccounted-for civilian
casualties in Cheney's so-called war on terror.
Eysselinck worked for RONCO Consulting Corporation since 2000, and his last assignment
in Iraq from August 2003 up to February 2004 was as the head of a de-mining team that
was assigned to clear cluster bombs, land mines and other unexploded ordnance. A
combination of this work, a perceived life-threatening airplane accident, and witnessing
military personnel kill innocent civilians proved lethal for him. By the time he returned home
to Namibia he was steeped in post-traumatic stress disorder.
Two weeks before his death, he told a friend in Namibia, "There was a lot of death and
murder going on [in Iraq] that was just not right, and the only thing they could do was to
follow orders." He also told her, "I should go back."
For nine years, Eysselinck had served as a captain in the US Army and was very proud to
be a member of the Armed Forces. He had been commissioned as a Lieutenant of Infantry
from the ROTC at the University of Florida on completion of his BA. He was a graduate of
the Infantry Officer Basic course, Airborne School, and was Ranger qualified. He had served
as a Platoon Leader, Company Executive Officer and Battalion Adjutant in a Light Infantry
Division based in Hawaii. After four years he was promoted as Captain. Before leaving he
gave up Active Duty. In 1994 he returned to serve with Special Operations Command
Europe and was deployed to Bosnia, West Africa, and finally Namibia in 1998. Throughout
his military career, Captain Eysselinck received excellent Officer Evaluation Reports.
LTC Nichols, Director of SOCEUR, wrote of Captain Eysselinck: "Absolutely outstanding.
Top 5% of all the officers I have every known. Top pick for line Battalion Command.
Performs exceptionally under mental stress."
Eysselinck's rating comments for his 1998 posting in Namibia as military liaison officer
included the following: "Captain Eysselinck has once again demonstrated why he is on our
very short list of Reserve Officers who can be relied upon to complete real world missions."
He left the army in 2000 because his wife, Birgitt, had made that a condition of their
marriage. But when he returned home from his time in Iraq, Tim was a changed man.
His mother, Janet Burroway, is a writer and academic who lives in Florida. In an earlier
interview with journalist Rick Kelly, she described her son on his return from Iraq thus: "What
he experienced had a shattering effect on him. There was absolutely no hint of the
depression to come. But the anger was palpable. It was shattering to him, to come to feel
that the war was wrong. He spoke of corruption, lies, greed and a brutish stupidity. At the
time, I was so happy to hear that he had seen something of what I felt about the war that I
didn't stop to think about how deeply wounding that would be to him. He said that he was
disgusted with the Bush regime, and that Bremer had screwed it all up with the Iraqis. He
was always, almost glibly, willing to die for his country, and even saw himself as going
heroically into battle. But that's not what happened to him. He said at one point to a friend in
Namibia that he was ashamed to be an American. I'll say that any day of the week, but for
Tim to say it represents such a huge turnaround."
His wife Birgitt told the same journalist that during his Christmas break in December 2004,
her husband had discussed the atrocity he was witnessing in Iraq. She feels this must surely
have contributed to his PTSD: "He also said that another time they were driving behind, or
with, a military convoy that just started shooting into the civilian houses. And he said, 'Then
they try to deny it when civilians are killed.' And he said the military does not have to pay
compensation, and he said it with sort of a smirk, like he was saying: 'typical.' They
[contractors] were shot on at the site. There were improvised explosive devices placed
alongside the roads that they were using, the sites where they were working. One of his
colleagues was crippled by a blast - these are all things now that they are trying to pretend
didn't happen. They should at least write a certification that if somebody comes out of a war
zone they [contractors] need to be debriefed. You can't just let them back to an
unsuspecting family and society. Back in Namibia, we weren't prepared for this. We don't
even know what post-traumatic stress disorder is. If I had a clue about what it was, I would
have sent him to a doctor immediately, because he had the signs."
And like Tim's mother, his wife too had noticed that it was a changed man who returned from
Iraq. "There were changes. The biggest change was his sleeplessness," she told Rick Kelly,
"And he had this uncharacteristic hyper-vigilance - locking the doors, making sure both
safety gates are closed. Tim was driving recklessly, physically trembling at times and
repeatedly blinking his eyes. He was irritable, anxious and displayed uncharacteristic
outbursts of anger on his last day. At the end, he was watching the news quite obsessively
and writing to his men almost every second day, which I only discovered afterwards. He was
asking how they are. When the Lebanon Hotel blew up, he writes, "Are you OK?" You know,
this type of thing: "I watched the news with trepidation, I hope you take care. Worrying about
you guys, hope you made it through the recent bombings." He obviously had soldiers' guilt,
or survivors' guilt, whatever you call it.
In a state of shock and disillusionment about a war he had previously supported,
40-year-old Eysselinck committed suicide at his home in Windhoek, Namibia, shortly after he
had returned from Iraq on a three-month leave of absence in agreement with RONCO
because he felt "over-stressed" after two years in Ethiopia and then Iraq.
It turns out that while working in Iraq, a major stressor for Eysselinck was the persistent
attempts by RONCO headquarters to disarm him and his team in Iraq with a view to avoid
potential liability. This had become an ongoing struggle, even after other contractors who
had been unarmed were killed, ambushed and severely beaten. Eysselinck had threatened
to quit if they disarmed him.
Five minutes before Tim killed himself, while holding up the US military-issued Iraq's Most
Wanted playing cards, he told his wife, "You get me professional help." Birgitt had said in
her interview with Kelly: "He knew something was wrong. Three weeks before, he woke up
and said to me, "Something is wrong with me, I'm feeling down." But what was I to do with
that statement? Feeling down? I also blame myself in a way, because I don't have any
knowledge of depression, I know nothing about the subject. I mean this was a clear and
obvious symptom. And then he said it again a week later - that he couldn't sleep and was
waking up three times a night." Around noon on the day of his death, in the presence of the
housekeeper, Tim said he was depressed. Later the housekeeper recounted she had seen
him marching through the house like a soldier.
With Tim's death began a nightmarish journey and legal odyssey for Birgitt. RONCO refuses
to acknowledge that Tim's work caused his PTSD and refuses to pay her any compensation
for Tim's death. She initiated legal action to qualify for support from the CNA International
insurance carrier under the US Defense Base Act.
RONCO responded to her efforts to first establish Tim as a war casualty and then to get
justice by not acknowledging any of it. Not only did the company turn a cold shoulder, they
even went out of their way to discredit him, adding to her anguish.
It is important to note that among RONCO's full-time employed staff of 90 US and 300
host-country personnel, the company has many ex-government officials, including a former
USAID deputy assistant administrator, mission directors and retired senior military
personnel. Their clients include USAID, the US Department of Defense and Blackwater. The
company has been awarded contracts in Iraq worth well over $10 million.
Birgitt recently told me that three days after Tim's death, she had received a call from
Stephen Edelmann, the president of RONCO. "He expressed his condolences and wanted to
know what happened and concluded that "It [Tim's death] was nobody's fault ... it's a
defective gene." Reportedly Edelmann had also said that RONCO was too small a company
to have a pension scheme."
Birgitt told me that RONCO sent a wreath to the funeral. Her disillusionment showed in her
words: "This was the sum total of their assistance to a man who worked from them since
November 2000 as a Deputy Task Leader in Namibia, then as Chief of Party in Ethiopia, and
someone who finally put his life on the line to establish their projects in Iraq."
Roughly three months later, Tim's mother wrote RONCO a letter, with a psychiatrist's report
attached, requesting compensation from the company. RONCO realized it would not be able
to wriggle out of paying $3,300 that they owed Tim for unused vacation time. To Tim's
mother's claim they replied that Tim had been a valued member of their team and referred
the family to a lawyer with whom to file a DBA claim.
It is also clear that RONCO has no debriefing infrastructure for their employees who return
from Iraq. As Birgitt said, "The point is that they should have debriefed their people. They
can't send people into a war and then not take care of them properly. I sent a happy,
healthy man to Iraq. We had no problems, no marital problems, no family problems, no
money problems - no problems. So evidently, this [Tim's PTSD-induced suicide] was caused
by the war and what happened there."
Five months before his death, on 16 November 2003, Tim wrote the following email to his
"Talked to Ben tonight and he said that you were worried about me. Don't, I have a deal with
Birgitt that if things got bad here I would be brave and be a coward and run away. I would
never consider this if I was in the military, but I'm smart enough to know that I don't have to
be here and I have way, way too much to live for to take anything but a well-calculated risk
with my life. I have a son and daughter to marry off and both of them need me more than
this place. So again, I'll be brave and be a coward, if I feel that my security is really at risk. In
the mean time, I've trained 100+ Iraqis that can maybe make a difference and save a few
lives. You can't really argue with that as an accomplishment."
But his perception evidently changed after RONCO went operational in November 2003.
That is when Eysselinck and his team of international trainers accompanied Iraqis to multiple
task sites daily; going through checkpoints around Baghdad to do Battle Area Clearance of
live munitions. On 10 January 2004, Tim wrote in his diary: "Everything crazy now. I hope I
can make it home safe." The diary entry included detailed doodles of bombs, rifles, aircraft,
gas masks and rocket-propelled grenades.
Is there something we have forgotten? Some precious thing we have lost, wandering in
- Arna Bontemps
When the claims case came up, instead of taking responsibility for negligently causing the
irreplaceable loss of a beloved husband, father and son, and apologizing for the severe
emotional damage inflicted upon his family and friends, RONCO introduced into evidence a
scurrilous fabricated attack on the character of its deceased employee whom they had
themselves entrusted with their most difficult and profitable project.
Among other things, the deceased Eysselinck was accused of being rude, uncaring and
indifferent; a military Ranger "wannabe" who "was only a tab wearer but never saw combat."
This depraved "defense strategy" compelled his widow to obtain statements from over 16
witnesses, including a statement from the Namibian Defense Force, in order to rebut the
allegations made about Tim by a RONCO employee.
RONCO then hired an 82-year-old retired psychiatrist, who when interrogated admitted to
not having read current research on PTSD, to falsely claim that the onset of PTSD
symptoms occurs immediately after the traumatic event and that suicide is an outcome of
depression rather than PTSD.
After their efforts to discredit Eysselinck backfired, RONCO set out to denigrate his work and
the very nature of the war in Iraq. Two RONCO workers made the incredible claim that
conditions had been far from dangerous in Baghdad between August 2003 and February
2004. They also claimed that Tim had not been exposed to threats. They made these
claims, along with testifying that neither of them had seen Tim during that time. There was
and continues to be overwhelming evidence from work reports in the country that are
contrary to these fictitious and bogus claims.
It appears that RONCO is more concerned with evading potential liability and sustaining
their profit margin than with the safety and well-being of their employees.
Tim was never diagnosed with PTSD before he died so there is no hard evidence that he
had PTSD. The reason there exists no irrefutable evidence of his having PTSD is RONCO's
criminal negligence in failing to provide psychological screening and counseling to a staff
member who spent seven months in a war zone.
According to the Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine, the suicide
rate in the US Army in 2005 was the highest since 1993. Almost 1,700 service members
returning from the war in 2005 said that they harbored thoughts of hurting themselves or felt
that they would be better off dead. Over 3,700 said they had concerns that they might "hurt
or lose control" while with someone else.
In July 2005, the US Army Surgeon General, Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, announced that,
according to a survey of troops returning from the Iraq war, 30% developed mental health
problems three to four months after coming home. This is in addition to the 3-5% diagnosed
with a significant mental health issue immediately after they leave the theater, and 13%
experiencing significant mental health problems in the combat zone itself.
For decades, it has been an undisputed medical fact that the onset of PTSD is not
immediate after the traumatic stressor. This is why the US Army has a policy to debrief
troops on their return from the war zone and of checking back in with them six months later
in order to check for signs of PTSD.
Tim's family never thought they would have to prove in court the obvious fact that it was
dangerous to work in Baghdad during the occupation and the truth that their deceased
loved one had faced threats sometimes on a daily basis, not to mention that his job entailed
handling unexploded ordnance. Tim worked on the task sites daily and was exposed to the
very real threat of being killed while handling unexploded bombs and mines over and above
the daily security hazards that all contractors in Iraq face.
Nevertheless, the judge in their case did not agree with the family and the professional
opinion of their psychiatrist, despite the fact that the judge had found Eysselinck to have
been "a person of high moral character much loved by family, friends and co-workers,"
"patriotic, a perfectionist, polite and fiercely honorable," and "a devoted husband and father
who was respected by fellow workers and trainees."
A human person is infinitely precious and must be unconditionally protected."
- Hans Kung
And one is left to wonder how many more Tim Eysselincks there are in Iraq? How many more
of them have returned home not knowing about PTSD or how to treat it? How many of their
families are currently unnecessarily at risk from the often volatile behavior caused by PTSD
or are left in the bereft position that Birgitt finds herself in?
Civilian contractors in Iraq, though they are paid handsomely for their time there, are easily
lost in a legal no-man's-land if tragedy strikes. Their families are then left in the lurch as
well. With an estimated 100,000-125,000 American contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, we
can safely assume there are thousands of stories similar to Tim's and still counting. To each
story is attached an individual and a family.
And the occupation grinds on with no end in sight ...
Dahr Jamail is an independent journalist who has reported for the Guardian, the
Independent, and the Sunday Herald. He now writes regularly for Inter Press Service and
Truthout. He maintains a web site at dahrjamailiraq.com.
|The Defense Base Act
Workmans Compensation Blog
From the LHA
c) A person including,
but not limited to, an employer,
his duly authorized agent,
or an employee of an insurance
who knowingly and willfully makes a
for the purpose of reducing, denying,
or terminating benefits
to an injured employee,
or his dependents
pursuant to section 9 [33 USC § 909]
if the injury results in death,
shall be punished by a fine not to
exceed $ 10,000, by imprisonment
not to exceed five years,
or by both.
Judge Kennington condemns
wounded Iraq Vet to life of misery of
Former Iraq Contract Firefighter
More than two years after returning from
Iraq, Firefighter Shane Shifflett finally
received the justice he sought when he
was awarded $15,000 in health benefits
from his former employer, WSI Fire, in
After battling a maintenance facility fire while
stationed in Mosul on Nov. 2, 2004, Shifflett
said he suffered smoke inhalation and an
upper respiratory infection and damage to the
inner lining of his lungs.
In July 2004, he began a year-long $98,000
contract with WSI Fire, an Arlington, Va.-based
division of Wackenhut Corp. that provides
security and firefighting services to the
government. But after sustaining those injures,
he was forced to forgo the remainder of his
contract and pay for plane ticket back to his
home in Las Cruces, N.M
American Contractors in Iraq and