Treating Civilian Casualties of the Iraq War

On NBC Nightly News tonight they ran a story of a civilian who was severely wounded in Iraq that was “refused treatment” at Walter Reed ARMY Hospital (I wonder how he got from Iraq to Walter Reed?  I imagine it was on a US Military airlift after being first treated at US Medical facilities in both Iraq and Europe – that’s the normal course).

I haven’t been able to find the story online yet.  Thanks to Marcie, the video is here:

One of the arguments that was made was that every civilian casualty should get the same care at US facilities as our active duty Armed Forces get.

Now let’s make this clear – the US DOES provide a tremendous amount of medical care to civilians injured in Iraq.  To Iraqi civilians as well as civilian contractors, journalists, business people, etc.  At tremendous expense (and I have no issues with this – it is the right thing to do)

This specific case was about a contractor.  I don’t know all the facts, I admit – but I do have some initial reactions:

  • Our Military Health Care system, especially our Veteran’s Health Care System is bent severely, if not broken.  It can hardly bear the strain of caring for the Active Duty and Veteran troupes.
  • Civilian contractors generally make 4-5x what an active duty service member makes.  Their employer should be required to provide them adequate health care, or they should do what I do – pay it myself.  These contracting companies are filling their coffers with money and they CAN afford to take care of their people.  The GAO should make it a condition of letting a contract.
  • Some of the same people that express shock over the bad condition at Walter Reed, and other facilities seem to also support using these facilities to treat injured civilians – this seems irrational to me.  We CAN (and have, and still are) improve our Military Health Care facilities – but not effectively if we burden them with more, and more and more.

Expecting our Military Health Care Facilities to dramatically improve care to our active duty and veteran soldier’s while also expecting them to take on a new role of health care provider to civilian contractors is foolhardy.


  1. Link to story

  2. Sorry I tried to fit so much information into a post.
    I totally agree that the military medical system should not be further burdened by civilians. Our soldiers are being let down badly by the overloaded, underfunded, and understaffed system as it is.
    The contract companies are often not doing their part when an employee is injured and the insurance company would rather let them go through the military system. There is no penalty to either of them and the military is stuck with the responsibility.
    If you have a chance to check out my site you’ll read why I find the military health system to be so scary right now.
    Our wounded deserve better.

  3. Marcie – thanks for your response. As I noted, I didn’t know many of the facts (the news has an uncanny way of not really delivering any).

    For instance, I didn’t know he was a government contractor. In any case my basic argument is still valid – we can’t treat the wounded Active Duty Military as well as we should be – adding the responsibility for care for contractors (once they are back in the US) is not a burden that these Military Health Care Facilities should be expected to bear.

    If the US Government is responsible for their care (as you state), then they should receive that care – at a civilian hospital/care facility

    And since I *still* don’t know any details I’ll withhold my comments on believe me they didn’t do him any favors.


  4. All employees working under US Government contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan are legally supposed to be covered under a Defense Base Act insurance policy. This policy relieves the Contract Company of any liability for any reason and disallows litigation by employee or his family.
    All claims are reimbursed to the insurer by the Federal Government under the War Hazards Act.
    So the DBA insurance company gets the huge premiums and is reimbursed their expenses plus a 15% admin fee. The employer includes the huge premiums in their contract costs.
    The taxpayer is paying for all this either way.
    The employee is entitled to private medical evacuation and private medical care but they are often not getting it.
    They put my husband through the field hospital, Landstuhl, and Walter Reed and believe me they didn’t do him any favors!!
    No one is making out in this mess except for the insurance companies and the Contract Companies.