Journalism in the Public Interest

Iraq War Contractor Fined for Late Reports of 30 Casualties

The Sandi Group was fined $75,000 after delaying reports to the U.S. government that more than 30 of its workers had died or been injured.


A foreign security contractor guards a drilling oil site on Nov. 29, 2005, in Kaproke, Iraq. As of December 2012, 3,258 civilian contract workers had been killed or died in Iraq, and another 90,000 had reported injuries. (Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images)

Feb. 8: This post has been corrected.

The U.S. Department of Labor has fined a private security contractor $75,000 for failing to file timely reports on the casualties of workers in Iraq as required by law. The Sandi Group, based in Washington D.C., delayed telling the Labor department that 30 of its employees had been killed while working for the company between 2003 and 2005, according to the department.

The Sandi Group, a privately held company known for employing large numbers of Iraqis as security guards, did not return requests for comment. Since 2005 the company has won U.S. government contracts worth at least $80.9 million, according to a federal contracting database.

The fine, believed to be the largest ever levied against a single company for failing to report war zone casualties in a timely manner, is part of an enforcement crackdown that began after a ProPublica series highlighted problems with a government program designed to provide health benefits to civilian contractors working in Iraq and Afghanistan. "Timely reporting of work-related injuries, illnesses and fatalities are vitally important to protect the interests of injured workers and their families," Gary A. Steinberg, acting director of the Department of Labor office which negotiated the settlement amount with the company, said in a prepared statement.

The Labor Department is responsible for administering an obscure government program called the Defense Base Act. The act requires that contractors working overseas for the U.S. government take out specialized insurance, similar to workers compensation, to provide medical treatment for injuries sustained on the job, or to pay death benefits in the event of work-related fatalities.

The ProPublica series found the system in shambles. Insurance companies routinely delayed payments and medical treatment to injured American workers, while charging taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars for the policies. The Labor Department failed to bring enforcement actions against companies that flouted the law, even when federal administrative judges urged the agency to act. Foreign workers, such as Iraqi and Afghan translators who helped U.S. troops, frequently at risk to their own lives, often received no benefits at all.

After the series ran, the department began publishing information on contractor deaths and injuries and posted report cards showing how quickly insurance companies reported casualties. They also vowed more aggressive enforcement.

Injured workers, however, say that problems remain. Marcie Hascall Clark has battled for years to receive medical treatment and lost wage payments for her husband, who was injured in Iraq. She says she hasn’t seen any improvement in a process she contends still moves too slowly. “The [Labor Department] is worse than ever,” said Clark, who runs a website for injured contractors.

As of December, 3,258 civilian contract workers had been killed or died in Iraq, and another 90,000 had reported injuries.

Correction: This post and headline has been corrected to show that 30 incidents which The Sandi Group delayed in reporting included both deaths and injuries of workers.

I’m not trying to let Sandi off the hook, here, but this is where we draw the line?  KBR actively tried to cover up sexual assault and murder (well, I guess it’s possible that one woman beat herself to death) in secure parts of their bases and provided bottled water to our troops tainted with parasites, but we’re going to crack down on slow paperwork!?

Again, great that we’re getting any traction against this kind of scum, but I can’t help wondering if this was really the most effective place to start…

Still waiting for an investigation into the x-ray machines we had to go thru sometimes twice a day.  I have a video, anyone want to see it?

To John,  The problem is that many of these companies cut corners everywhere.  From the reporting of paperwork to the misuse of supplies, and hiring people from the worst parts of towns to work. (IE KBR)  KBR is known to go into the poorest of towns with high unemployment because they can get people to work for pennies.  These companies will hire none English speaking foreign nationals to do a job for a 1/4 of what a trained American will do it for.  Then when they get injured because of lack of knowledge, training or sheer stupidity they feel they can throw them away. 
Which leaves those who know their jobs, are trained, and get injured hurt and they feel they can just throw them away.  We have to pick a battle and when you have people coming home to families injured or dead and being told oh sorry the paperwork isn’t here so we can’t pay you yes this is a great place to start. 
It opens the eyes of many when they see how little they care for life.  They bottom dollar is what they care for.  Not the person that is doing the job or that they are doing the job for.
It is sad when in the Contract world we know who to work for and who not to work for.  FYI most of the American based companies are the worst.  I did say most.  Then they choose insurance companies like AIG and CNA to do the dirty work to throw millions at lawyers to hold off paying medical bills, paying wages, paying death benefits and harassment of family and employee. 
I am a wife of a Contractor, he has been injured fought our way threw the system.  Been kicked in the gut and gave up.  Now after years he is back doing his job.  So yes this is a wonderful place to start.

Marcie Hascall Clark

Feb. 7, 2013, 1:15 p.m.

It certainly is pitiful that this is where we have to start but here we are. 
Despite years of investigation by T Miller, two Oversight Committee hearings and supposed follow up investigation, this is the first real slap on the wrist to come out of the Department of Labor against a contract company.
In every other aspect of DBA Administration the Employer and the Carrier, the E/C, are inseparable.  No mention of the Carrier in this instance is notable.
The Department of Labor and their Inspector General refuse to investigate or punish the DBA Insurance Companies no matter how much evidence we provide them with.  No real investigations are performed based on the opinions of a few DoL employees.
The Defense Base Act Insurance Companies are killing people and ruining families.
The Department of Labor is enabling them.

Yet another part of the Bush legacy.

Bush? How about clinton and now obama?

$75K is the largest fine?! I’m insulted on behalf of the victims and survivors. That’s not enough.

Must be tough for a soldier or marine who is continually exposed to such underhanded dealings by Corporate America whenever he or she returns to base from a combat patrol to keep the idea that “We’re American - we always do the right thing!” foremost in their minds when they again leave base with all of that firepower.

The price of making war a profit center for Corporate America is perhaps steeper than their extortionate invoices make readily apparent.  We want our troops to have an idealized picture of America…but it is too much to expect anyone to balance the duality of that idealistic vision and the reality the results from Corporate America’s greed.

Bob, I do understand that what they’re doing is still a problem.  I just find it an odd allocation of resources.  If any of my clients (I do the occasional bit of contract work, though not at the level you’re talking about, of course) didn’t pay me, but the neighbors were poisoning their children, I’d be rather shocked if the cops came to solve my problem first.

Again, that’s not to take away from problems like you’re seeing.  But people were murdered and our troops were put into harm’s way, which makes this sort of gesture seem a little hollow.  Like, they care, but not if caring is actually going to improve things in the future.

Thomas Taylor

March 4, 2013, 3:39 p.m.

Why it is tragic that contractors suffer injuries and death overseas, they do so voluntarily while usually getting exorbitant salaries for questionable work. We pay for Armed Forces and the amount paid for mercenaries and others who get a paycheck from private companies is obscene. What happens when this mercenary force gets paid by a higher bidder, say China, what then? Will they turn on their own country? Damn right they will because that’s the job they are paid to do regardless of who signs the pay check. Why are contractors surprised that insurance companies are slow to pay? They have no problem cashing the government’s checks. American and/or Foreign National contractor employees are not the problems of the US. Corporations are people so complain directly to them.

This article is part of an ongoing investigation:
Disposable Army

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Civilian contractors have been an indispensable part of the U.S. war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan, but they have returned home without the support available for troops in uniform.

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