A recent report from Brown University provides some disturbing information about inadequate compensation under the Defense Base Act (DBA) for foreign workers hired by Pentagon contractors to work on U.S. bases in Afghanistan during the war who were injured or killed. Many were from Nepal and other developing countries. These third-country nationals (TCN) could be hired for lower wages than Americans.
The report, which is part of the Costs of War Project, also sheds light on the rate of injuries and deaths of these workers compared to their U.S. counterparts. These bases have been a common target of Taliban attacks and explosive devices. During the war, some 4,000 contract workers were killed. About half were TCN. Thousands more suffered serious injuries.
The researchers looked at the cases of over 200 people who worked as everything from janitors and cafeteria workers to guards. Many of those injured and surviving families of those killed got little or none of the compensation due them under the DBA, according to the report.
The DBA requires Pentagon contractors to have insurance for these workers. According to one of the report’s authors, “One of the few protections they have is the Defense Base Act for insurance, and even that is not working.”
Lack of reporting requirements and consequences for violations
Part of the problem, according to the report, is a lack of reporting requirements for Pentagon contractors who are provided millions of dollars to purchase DBA insurance for their workers. They aren’t currently required to report whether they even purchased – let alone what they paid out.
Further, even those found to have violated the DBA often suffer only minor consequences. Four lost their contracts.
So far, a U.S. Department of Defense spokesperson has only said that the DBA is “very clear when overseas workers’ compensation and war-hazard insurance is required,” but that they’re not familiar with the report.
Some contractors didn’t tell injured workers or surviving loved ones about the insurance – let alone how much they were entitled to. One woman whose husband was killed said she received $48,000. Under the DBA, she should have received closer to $250,000. She, like others, is taking legal action. If you are having difficulty getting the compensation to which you’re entitled under the DBA, having legal guidance can help you deal with the bureaucracy and red tape.