Since 9/11, demand for Military War Dogs (MWDs) has skyrocketed, and these animals now number more than 1,600. They serve in Afghanistan, Iraq, and many other theaters.
These animals are highly trained and usually cost in excess of $25,000 each. They are so costly that the Army is buying animatronic MWDs from TraumaFX, an Atlanta-based division of military contractor KForce, in order to train medics. The K9 Hero, which is the latest-generation canine mannequin, weighs 50 pounds, is fully articulated, and can mimic a host of injuries, including breathing problems and excessive bleeding. KForce Vice President Carolyn Hollander said the company originally anticipated selling a few dozen artificial MWDs and the project was more a labor of love, but that demand has “grown overwhelmingly.” So, Diesel, the K9 Hero’s successor, will add even more functions, such as amputatable limbs, multiple gunshot wounds, and bloated bowels. Because members of the development team came from Industrial Light and Magic, the pooches bear more than a passing resemblance to Chewbacca. So far, lawmakers have been supportive of the program, since currently, many MWDs come from foreign countries that have more highly-established canine training protocols. In 2016, veterinarian Cynthia Otto told Senators that “The risks of relying on foreign sources of dogs to support our national security are high.”
Roughly 60% of MWDs must leave the service because of injury, and that has a profound effect not only on cost but on troop morale. Moreover, “When there is a dog casualty, the handler often dies, too,” added Mission K9 Rescue Co-Founder Bob Bryant.
Types of Service Injuries
Most animals suffer trauma wounds, which is why it is so important that medics know how to assist them almost instinctively.
Many contractors also sustain trauma wounds, perhaps in armed action against militants or perhaps in a fall. Typically, medical treatment begins at a foreign medical facility close by where the victim is stabilized, and then treatment continues at a stateside hospital. Extensive physical therapy usually follows.
Many contractors also suffer from occupational diseases, such as exposure to toxic burn pits or hearing loss from working in a loud environment. The respiratory or other problems develop over a long period of time, making them difficult to properly diagnose and even more difficult to connect with service as a military contractor.
Compensation is available as long as the victim establishes a connection between the injury and service as a contractor. One of the biggest exceptions is that the law does not provide compensation for willful acts, and that includes suicide. If the victim became despondent over covered injuries and that depression triggered the suicide, the outcome may or may not be different.
According to the most recent science, PTSD is in fact a physical injury. In fact, the Canadian government eschewed the PTSD label in favor of Operational Stress Injury, and OSI victims are eligible for the Sacrifice Medal, which is like a Purple Heart.
The Defense Base Act and Medical Bills
Both these types of injuries are compensable under the DBA, a 1941 law that provides injured overseas contractors compensation for medical care, including:
- Emergency treatment,
- Diagnostic procedures,
- Doctor’s visits,
- Necessary surgical procedures,
- Medical devices,
- Prescription drugs,
- Physical therapy, and
- Ancillary costs, such as travel expenses.
It is important that our lawyers keep in constant contact with all your physicians so we can ensure that you are getting the best care and so we can accurately ascertain your case’s settlement value. The same thing applies to any other medical staff, such as diagnostic technicians, physical therapists, and nurses.
DBA Procedure Overview
At the very start, strict time deadlines apply in these cases and hearing officers almost never grant exceptions. So, if you think there is a connection between your injury/illness and your service, the best course of action is to file a claim.
For more information about the lost wages available under the DBA, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen & Frankel.