News: A goodwill mission: ‘Warhorse’ paralegals pay foreign claims
Story by Sgt. Ruth Pagan
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – Soldiers with 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, are working on an on-going mission at Camp Nathan Smith to pay out foreign claims to the residents of Kandahar.
“The purpose of the Foreign Claims Act allows us to engage the locals who, for one reason or another, have incurred some sort of loss or damage at the hands of coalition forces,” said Capt. Scott Reitor, the foreign claims commissioner with 385th Military Police Battalion attached to 2nd BCT, 4th Inf. Div. “Congress understood when we’re in a foreign country, at war with some belligerent force, there’s going to be a lot of people who aren’t necessarily enemies to us who have incidental damages because of some of the activities we’re undertaking.”
When damage or injury occurs the injured person will receive a claims card.
“If an incident happens a unit is expected to give out a claims card which has the unit’s point of contact, date and time of the incident and if there was any damage,” said Sgt. Rocky Bennett, a paralegal non-commissioned officer for 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd BCT, 4th Inf. Div.
“On the back of the claims card it states the times and location of where to file their claim in English, Pashtu and Dari,” said Sgt. 1st Class Buford Willie, the foreign claims pay agent for 2nd BCT, 4th Inf. Div. “We require them to have claims card to receive pay.”
“We screen claimants based upon their incident type, their claimant status—if they’re from Afghanistan or not, and what documents or proof they’ve brought with them,” Bennett said. “We determine who is a proper claimant and start an investigation for them.”
“It’s a process,” Willie said.
“We have to make sure the incident really happened,” said Spc. Eunice Yi, a paralegal with 2nd Special Troops Battalion, 2nd BCT, 4th Inf. Div. “It involves research, a lot of phone calls, emails and planning.”
“It is a paralegal heavy pursuit,” Reitor said. “The bulk of the work is done by (enlisted soldiers).”
Not all claims are deemed payable.
“There is quite a substantial amount of fraud attempted,” Reitor said.
“We have to make sure the claimant brings in all the required paperwork,” Yi said. “They have to bring in proof of residency, proof of ownership, damage estimates and photos of the damage.”
If they can’t provide all of the necessary paperwork or if the claimant is deemed at fault for the damage then the claim is denied, Bennett said.
Another reason a claim may be denied is that the damage or injury was caused during battle.
“It is cut and dry,” Reitor said. “Whatever is from a kinetic action involving combat is battle damage; everything else is foreign claims.”
“Foreign claims are paid by us,” Yi said. “Battle damaged claims are paid from a different pot of money controlled by Civil Affairs.”
A claim can take anywhere from a month and half or more to be approved and paid.
“A lot of times we are waiting for the claimant to bring back paperwork like proof of ownership or photos of damage,” Bennett said.
Once all the proper paper work is turned in and approved, the claimant will receive an amount based on the damage.
“Pay day is my favorite part of the whole claims process,” Yi said. “Seeing the claimant's face brighten up and knowing I’m doing something good for them makes the long process very worthwhile.”
“We honestly want to help and make a good impression for the Afghan people,” Bennett said. “It’s a goodwill mission.”