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Army Vet Struggles to Receive Brain Treatment as Private Contractor

Courtesy Jennifer Barcklay(SPOKANE, Wash.) -- Jennifer Barcklay, a civilian contractor who was injured by a bomb in Afghanistan, will finally receive therapy for a traumatic brain injury after a nearly two-year fight to get treatment.

While Barcklay, an Army veteran, needed specialized medical treatment after serving her country, she faced two problems: she is a private contractor and not eligible for treatment active duty soldiers can receive, and she lives in Spokane, Washington miles away from hospitals offering that treatment.

On Wednesday, almost two years after she survived a mortar blast in Afghanistan and one year after doctors first recommended cognitive rehabilitation therapy, her insurer agreed to pay for this expensive treatment.  She and her attorney, David Linker, received approval in the form of a letter dated June 15, approving travel arrangements and treatment at a specific facility in California.

After the long waiting period, Barcklay said she has mixed feelings.

"I'm happy that they're finally doing what they're supposed to do, but I'm not sure about the whole process," she said.  "What it put me and my family through was horrible."

Barcklay, 40, worked for defense contractors starting from 2006 after being honorably discharged from the Army in 1996 for a knee injury.  But her insurer, Chartis Insurance, a division of AIG, wouldn't cover her cognitive rehabilitation therapy, as first reported by the Spokesman-Review.

The therapy is an expensive treatment that thousands of U.S. soldiers are receiving.  Those soldiers can usually obtain treatment from Department of Veterans Affairs facilities because they obtained the injuries while on active duty.

Military contractors are often in dangerous war zones but denied medical benefits despite statutory protections.  The Defense Base Act of 1941, in fact, requires defense contractors to provide medical and disability insurance for their employees in war zones.

Barcklay was a civilian helicopter mechanic when she obtained her injuries.  In September 2009, an enemy mortar exploded 10 yards away from her at Forward Operating Base Shank in Afghanistan.  The blast, which severely injured two other people, slammed her into the ground, causing ear trauma, joint pain and, she says, it continues to cause frequent seizures.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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