Civilian contractors supporting U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan face many of the same dangers as troops do, but the system for providing healthcare when they’re injured is very different. An investigation by the Los Angeles Times and Pro Publica found that the insurance companies responsible for their treatment routinely deny serious medical claims. The company responsible for nine out of ten claims from civilians injured in the war zones is one whose name has become very familiar to most of us: AIG.

T. Christian Miller and Doug Smith report that insurers filed protests in half of the cases of injuries resulting in more than four days of lost work – and in more than a third of the cases in which workers were killed. That leaves many disabled workers and grieving spouses facing a lengthy appeals process: Disputes resolved through mediation take an average of six to seven months, while those ending up in the courtroom last an average of two years.

Tim Newman, a South Carolina sheriff’s deputy who lost his leg in Baghdad told the reporters, “It’s almost like we’re this invisible, discardable military. Once we’ve done our jobs, they can actually sidetrack us and not worry about us anymore.”

In other news:

EHS Today: The Protect America’s Workers Act, reintroduced by Representative Lynn Woolsey, will expand workplace safety protections to workers who are not currently covered and increase penalties for employers found to have repeated and willful violations of workplace safety rules.

Associated Press: 17-year-old Maria Vasquez Jimenez died of heat stroke last year while working in a vineyard. Now, three top officials from the labor contractor that employed her have been charged with involuntary manslaughter.

California Healthline: A bill introduced in the California Assembly would require employers to provide employees with paid sick leave.

New York Times: Efforts to provide troops in Afghanistan with lightweight armor are progressing more slowly than hoped.

Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report: Blood lead levels in adults continue to drop, but high levels in workers from certain industries persist.