Brink, a former police officer, lost his right leg and most of his fingers. He was flown to London, where surgeons used some of his toes to replace some of his lost fingers.
CNA, the insurance carrier for Brink’s employer, paid for that treatment. But when he returned to Johannesburg, South Africa, disputes arose over the cost of follow-up surgeries, psychological counseling, an electric wheelchair and related renovations to Brink’s house. CNA took months to pay for the surgeries and rejected the other bills, Brink said. His credit rating plunged, his wheelchair was repossessed, and he lost his home to foreclosure.
In May 2007, Brink flew to Chicago, believing he had an appointment to meet with his CNA claims adjuster. When he arrived, Brink said, he was told nobody would meet with him. Security guards escorted him out of CNA headquarters.
Two years later, Brink is pressing his claim in the Labor Department’s dispute-resolution system. He said his outstanding medical bills total about $150,000.
CNA said that it “does not have any direct contact with workers,” but otherwise declined to comment, saying that individual cases are confidential.
Brink, 39, said scores of South Africans who worked in Iraq are in similar situations. He is now in law school and hopes to represent injured contract workers from his country someday.
“It’s not that I want something out of the ordinary,” Brink said. “I just want what I’m entitled to, nothing more, nothing less.”
This article was produced and published by ProPublica, an independent, non-profit newsroom based in New York that produces investigative journalism in the public interest.