It's no secret the U.S. military in Iraq relies on a vast army of private contractors - about 126,000 - to help bolster U.S. troops occupying and stabilizing Iraq.
But unlike soldiers returning from Iraq suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who can rely on government care, private contractors who return must face their demons alone, relying on the private healthcare system reports the New York Times.
The Times gives haunting descriptions of the mental anguish faced by returning private contractors.
Tate Mallory, a police officer from South Dakota who worked as a Dyncorp police trainer, was grievously wounded by a rocket-powered grenade last fall. After returning home, he was so mentally scarred, he said, that he begged his brother to kill him.
Kenneth Allen, a 70-year-old truck driver from Georgia whose convoy was ambushed in Iraq, says he endures mood swings and jittery nerves and is often awake all night. And Nathaniel Anderson, a Texan whose truck was hit by rockets while hauling jet fuel, lost a contractor friend to suicide. Though suffering from stress-related symptoms himself, he has yet to see a doctor.
Despite these psychological problems, the federal government has not conducted any systematic review of the problem. Private workers also must face bureaucratic and legal hurdles to get insurance companies to pay for mental care related to their tour in Iraq.
AIG, the giant insurance company that provides coverage for several of the largest contractors in Iraq, has paid about half of claims involving P.T.S.D., said Chris Winans, an AIG spokesman. But many of the others are delayed or challenged because the insurers’ medical experts disagree with the diagnoses, Mr. Winans said.
Mr. [Gary] Pitts, the [Houston] lawyer, said many contractors lived in small towns or rural areas without access to high-quality mental health workers. But even when he has sent clients to respected psychiatrists or psychologists to confirm the diagnoses, AIG still often contests the claim, he said.
Contractors looking for information on PTSD and support can visit AmericanContractorsinIraq.com.