Injured In Syria

In a way, the war in Syria is a lot like the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, in which American forces fight to bring democracy to a land that has not experienced much in the way of representative government. In other ways, the Syrian Civil War is more reminiscent of the Lebanese Civil War of the 1980s, in which various groups fought for supremacy in an extremely confused environment. That makes Syria an especially dangerous place for both regular service members and private military contractors.

When they are injured, U.S. military service members can rely on the Veterans Administration for treatment. Private military contractors have access to medical care and other benefits, thanks to the Defense Base Act.

Combat Actions In Syria

Loosely organized terrorist groups form some of the parties involved in the Syrian conflict. Many Middle Eastern terrorists use next-generation improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in what they see as a justified struggle against a foreign power. These IEDs are incredibly lethal. Furthermore, the concussive blast alone may be sufficient to cause a permanent, traumatic brain injury.

Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad is one of the most well-entrenched dictators in the region. His socialist Ba’ath Party, the same party that produced Saddam Hussein, has been in power for decades. His army is one of the best in the region, as well. Most of the soldiers are combat veterans who are fanatically loyal to their leader. They are also very well-equipped to fight. Therefore, they pose a significant danger to both contractors and service members.

U.S. forces in the area fight in support of rebel groups, but not all these groups are on the same page. Especially as victory gets nearer for these groups, they sometimes fight against each other. Since they know one another so well, these conflicts within a conflict are especially dangerous for everyone involved.

Finally, foreign mercenaries are in country fighting to prop up Assad. Like the Syrian army, these mercenaries are well-equipped combat veterans. Unlike American military contractors, mercenaries fight only for money. They care little or nothing about anything else. That attitude makes them a particularly fearsome adversary.

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Postwar Reconstruction

Once the fighting finally ends, reconstruction efforts can begin in earnest. According to some estimates, that cost may be as high as $1 trillion.

Infrastructure is usually the first priority in these efforts. Typically, refugees do not even think about coming back until basic services are restored. The roads must also be passable and secure, but that is only the beginning. Without schools, hospitals, and other such services, many refugees will think twice before returning to their homes.

This reverse exodus is vital to the future of Syria or any other war-torn country. Unless neighborhoods are repopulated and some sense of normalcy returns, the next destructive conflict is probably just around the corner.

What Contractors Do Overseas

Private contractors basically have a skill set that other government employees do not have. That makes these individuals valuable in both the combat and reconstruction phases of a foreign war.

Thanks to private military contractors, the Department of Defense has flexibility in a place like Syria. Field commanders can rush assets where they are needed at the time they are needed. Then, once the emergency passes, the contractors can go home. Furthermore, contractors also serve as translators and assist with electronic warfare activities.

Private contractors continue to serve after combat troops leave. A hammer can be just as potent as a machine gun. Often, overseas contractors serve as project managers and foremen on endeavors like the ones mentioned above. Armed contractors often stay behind, as well, to provide security and deterrence.

How Contractors Get Hurt

Combat injuries may occur at any time. There is no “rear area” in a place like Syria. A militant or other attack is just as likely to happen in a shopping area as in a bitterly-contested neighborhood. Gunshot and shrapnel wounds are bad enough, but they usually heal given time. Traumatic brain injuries are permanent. Surgery and physical therapy can ease the symptoms, but there is no cure.

Many construction sites, especially where government safety inspections are rare, are not much safer than combat zones. Falls and other workplace accidents, like being electrocuted or struck by a falling object, are quite common.

Compensation Available

The Defense Base Act covers all these injuries and others like them. Showing rare foresight, Congress passed this law in 1941. The qualifications are simple and straightforward. Private military contractors are eligible for injury compensation if they:

  • Work for private employers on U.S. military bases or on any lands used by the U.S. for military purposes outside of the United States, including those in U.S. Territories and possessions;
  • Work on public work contracts with any U.S. government agency, including construction and service contracts in connection with national defense or with war activities outside the United States;
  • Work on contracts approved and funded by the U.S. under the Foreign Assistance Act, which, among other things, provides for cash sale of military equipment, materials, and services to its allies, if the contract is performed outside of the United States; or
  • Work for American employers providing welfare or similar services outside the United States for the benefit of the Armed Services, e.g. the United Service Organizations (USO).

The DBA applies to employees of any subcontractors of a contract involved in work detailed above and to both US and local national employees.

Generally, these workers are employed by American contractors performing public works for the U.S. government in U.S. territories, at U.S. military bases located outside the continental United States, and in support of military aid programs within allied nations. 

Furthermore, the injury need not occur while the contractor is on duty. As long as there is a relationship between the injury and the reason the contractor was in-country, DBA compensation may be available.

These benefits include money for lost wages as well as money for medical bills. The lost wage benefit gives victims an income stream when they need it most. Typically, the DBA insurance company directly pays medical providers. Most contractors never see bills.

However, these benefits are not automatic. The insurance company often challenges DBA requests, often on the grounds that all the charges were not “medically necessary.” So, you need an aggressive attorney who will stand up for your rights if you are injured overseas.

If you or a loved one was injured while serving as a contractor in Syria, the lawyers at Barnett, Lerner, Karsen & Frankel, P.A. are the aggressive advocates you need. Our legal team is also highly experienced in these complicated matters. Call us today for a free consultation.