Congressional hearings generally follow a script. Lawmakers publicly
vent their outrage, administration officials offer plausible defenses,
and the outcome is inconclusive. But this month's airing of complaints
about the government's system for taking care of civilian workers
injured or killed while on the job in Iraq and Afghanistan was notable
for its unanimity.
Republicans and Democrats, Obama administration officials, private
insurance companies and injured contractors all agreed that there are
serious flaws in the Defense Base Act, 
a 70-year-old law that requires federal contractors to purchase special
workers' compensation insurance for employees working in war zones.
The Labor Department, which oversees the system, acknowledged that
it had failed to consistently provide for the needs of the injured.
Insurance carriers complained that tight deadlines and paperwork
requirements were outmoded for the complexities of a war zone. Injured
civilians recounted long, painful battles to get prosthetic legs,
prescription eyeglasses and other basic medical needs.