(WASHINGTON) – The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) announced today that it is investigating whether any of its members have been injured while serving in combat zones as civilian employees in the Department of Defense (DoD). Recent media reports have confirmed that civilian employees injured while serving in combat zones have been denied access to military medical facilities and forced to rely on federal workers compensation.
DoD civilian employees with specialized skill sets are serving critical job functions in combat zones in both Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. These employees who volunteer to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan conduct operations side by side with American forces, but are not considered military personnel and do not have access to the medical treatment provided to injured soldiers.
“The military cannot conduct its operations without civilian employees, but they are treating them like second class citizens,” said John Gage AFGE national president. “This, like Walter Reed, is yet another example of lack of effective foresight by this Administration.”
When civilian employees are injured in the line of duty their cases are being diverted to the federal workers’ compensation program, which does not recognize combat injury. The loophole has forced civilian employees to seek medical attention from traditional physicians with limited experience in treating complex combat injuries, such as post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury.
“We have not received any reports that our members have been injured in the line of duty, but with so many serving (over 1,500) it is a grim reality that must be anticipated,” Gage added.