Civilian contractors who were injured or wounded while supporting American troops in Iraq continue to face long battles with insurance giant AIG for payment of their disability claims, despite Congressional inquiries and calls to reform the system that has handled tens of thousands of disability claims from employees of overseas contractors.
The injured workers, including some wounded by small-arms fire or IEDs during insurgent attacks, complain that AIG has continued to "delay and deny" their claims nearly a year after a joint investigation by ABC News, ProPublica, and the Los Angeles Times first exposed serious problems with AIG's handling of disability claims under a government-funded insurance system. An analysis found that AIG challenged nearly half of the claims involving the most serious injuries.
"They will spend whatever it takes, or do whatever it takes, to berate, belittle and humiliate us," said Bill Carlisle, an injured Arkansas man who drove trucks in Iraq for nearly two years.
The joint investigation last year exposed how AIG, which handles 90 percent of the contractor disability claims, engaged in a pattern of "delaying and denying" benefits to civilian workers injured in the war-zone, while it pampered executives with millions in bonuses and hundreds of thousands in spa retreats and private jets.
A ProPublica analysis of 30,000 claims found that AIG challenged 43 percent of the claims involving the most serious injuries. AIG contested more than half of the claims from contractors who said they were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
"People like myself who went outside the wire, we went out there without a weapon, and we come back haunted by certain things, and then we have to have the added stress of AIG doing these things or not doing things – it's just horrible," said Carlisle.
Carlisle says he lives in constant pain from a severe groin injury he sustained while loading his truck for a convoy mission, and that he also suffers from PTSD. He says he has tried to look for work, but cannot find a job that will accommodate his work restrictions.
Carlisle says he fell behind on car and home mortgage payments after AIG cut off his disability pay last September. He expects the bank to re-possess his car in the next few days. His home, which is now under foreclosure, is scheduled to go on the auction block next month.
"It's just horrible. I've gone from having good credit to having bad credit, and now I'm one step from being homeless," said Carlisle.
Filings with the Department of Labor (DOL), which oversees the civilian contractor insurance program, show that AIG halted Carlisle's payments, stating that he had been released to work by doctors with no restrictions. A DOL claims examiner later found that Carlisle was still entitled to receive the benefits under the program because doctors had determined that Carlisle could not return to his job in Iraq and he established that he had been making efforts to obtain other work.
In a statement, AIG spokesman Mark Herr said the company was "committed to handling and resolving" benefit claims from injured contractors "professionally, ethically and fairly."
"We owe all these injured contractors a debt for their service to our country," said Herr. "They have been supporting our military in a hostile war zone, often incurring very serious injuries while engaged in that service,"