Returning War Contractors Face Second Battle, Against AIG

Whatever your role in the U.S. war effort, if you were injured overseas, at least you'd be covered back home, right?

Today, Pitts says, AIG owns about 85 percent of the policies on the contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he says they have been difficult to deal with in the extreme, even if they have gotten somewhat more amenable to their clients in the last couple of years. Pitts says they are more willing to settle cases than they used to be. Before the financial crash and the subsequent taxpayer bailout of AIG, Pitts says, they took virtually every single injured claimant to court, no matter how clear-cut it was that AIG needed to pay out.

"But they are still looking for a deal, obviously," Pitts says. "But the litigation continues."

For its part, AIG defends its business practices. In response to our query, AIG spokesman Matthew Gallagher sent the following ­statement:

Former KBR trucker Terry Enzweiler, in floppy sun hat, suffers from agoraphobia stemming from post-traumatic stress disorder. He hired Houston attorney Gary Pitts to help him get his benefits and disability back after AIG stripped them away after a year.
Photo courtesy of Terry Enzweiler
Former KBR trucker Terry Enzweiler, in floppy sun hat, suffers from agoraphobia stemming from post-traumatic stress disorder. He hired Houston attorney Gary Pitts to help him get his benefits and disability back after AIG stripped them away after a year.
Photo courtesy of Terry Enzweiler

"AIG is committed to handling every claim professionally, ethically and fairly. We provide the highest level of service to our customers and claimants, which includes the prompt adjudication and payment of claims. We do not disclose information about individual claimants or cases."

Pitts explains a typical case. "Say you are working for Fluor in Afghanistan and you get hit with a mortar shell," he says. "If you have a significant injury, you will be sent home, but if you need to be stabilized first, you will be sent to a military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany. Then you will be sent home, and the workers' compensation carrier [often AIG subsidiary Chartis] and the Department of Labor will be notified of your injury. After that, your employer is out of the picture, and it's you and your insurance company. There's usually a big lag time. AIG will have an investigator come out and get your statement, take your photo, get a medical release, collect whatever medical papers you might have."

Pitts says that AIG would then "very often" deny the case even with all the evidence. "And then it's up to you to come up with more evidence supporting the fact that you suffered your injury overseas, and then we will have a prima facie case, a case based truly on its face," he says. "Once we have that, we can request an informal conference with the Department of Labor. They'll give us recommendations in your favor."

According to Enzweiler, that step was utterly useless. He says the DoL's claims adjuster wrote letters in favor of his claim to AIG and several of its subsidiaries. "The letters said, 'You have to pay Terry Enzweiler because he was hurt on the job. According to the law, according to the insurance, you owe it to him.' And AIG gets these letters and they can just go, 'Pfft. Go pound sand. The only person we have to listen to is an administrative law judge.'"

Which is the next step Pitts must take. "At that point, the insurance company has 14 days to either comply or we'll be on the way to a federal administrative law judge," he continues. "There are 48 of them around the country hearing these kind of cases. You have to wait your turn for a trial. After that, you have to wait for your decision."

All of this takes a long time, obviously. Enzweiler says he almost lost everything. Were it not for an Illinois state homeowners' program, the worst would have befallen his family. "Otherwise, my wife, me and two kids would have gone to a homeless shelter."

Pitts describes a worst-case scenario. "Early on in the war, I had a guy who got hit by a mortar in Afghanistan. He comes home, and they just ignore him. So we got the approval conference reservations; we're on our way to a judge. During this whole process, which can take from the time you get home to the time you get a decision making the insurance company do something, we're looking at maybe a year and a half. And during that time, you are getting nothing. No comp. Your wages have stopped. Your medical insurance gets cut off within 60 days generally." By the time that client got paid his $100,000-plus settlement, he had been living in his car for a full six months.

"Lag time" certainly describes the process for David Boiles of Willis, Texas, another of Pitts's former clients. A Marine who served overseas in the Vietnam era, and later a stateside big-rig driver, Boiles was a 58-year-old KBR truck convoy commander in 2006. (Boiles says convoy commanders are civilians who ride shotgun in a rig and act as liaisons between the other civilians and the military escorts. In court documents, the gruff Boiles likened the position to that of a "glorified secretary." )

On February 20, his convoy came under insurgent attack. Boiles was in the second truck, a beat-up 23-year-old KBR 915, just behind the lead vehicle, a mine-resistant, ambush-­protected "Buffalo." "They can go through anything and just haul ass," says Boiles in a deep East Texas drawl. His driver could not keep up in the battered 915. "My driver was doing the best he could, and there was all this dust in the road."

And then came the end of his days in Iraq. "They blowed a hole in the goddamn road," he says. "We bottomed out in that hole."

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gossamersixteen topcommenter

Really dislike AIG, they owe the taxpayers/Uncle Sam billions but seem to have no problem whatsoever in spending tens of thousands of dollars to put their logo in what appears to be neon on their building with a helicopter no less.  Very necessary my arse...

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