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Esquire article wrongly claims SEAL who killed bin Laden is denied healthcare

The original online Esquire story upon which this post was based has been changed.

Esquire magazine claims “The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden ... Is Screwed.” 

The story details the life of the Navy SEAL after the successful raid to take out the No. 1 terrorist, and it asserts that once the SEAL got out of the military he was left to fend for himself.

“...here is what he gets from his employer and a grateful nation:

Nothing. No pension, no health care, and no protection for himself or his family.”

Except the claim about health care is wrong. And no servicemember who does less than 20 years gets a pension, unless he has to medically retire.

Like every combat veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the former SEAL, who is identified in the story only as “the Shooter”, is automatically eligible for five years of free healthcare through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

But the story doesn’t mention that. 

The writer, Phil Bronstein, who heads up the Center for Investigative Reporting, stands by the story. He said the assertion that the government gave the SEAL “nothing” in terms of health care is both fair and accurate, because the SEAL didn’t know the VA benefits existed. 

“No one ever told him that this is available,” Bronstein said. 

He said there wasn’t space in the article to explain that the former SEAL’s lack of healthcare was driven by an ignorance of the benefits to which he is entitled. 

“That’s a different story,” Bronstein said in a phone interview with Stars and Stripes about what he omitted from the article.

The Center for Investigating Reporting posted a story on its website today that goes into greater detail about the SEAL's interactions with the VA, including that he has a disability claim that is stuck in the backlog.

Esquire magazine has not yet responded to a request for comment.

The story’s claims are getting a lot of buzz - The Washington Post picked up the detail about the SEAL's healthcare situation - disconcerting veteran advocates like Brandon Friedman, who served as an Army infantry officer in Iraq and Afghanistan and used to be a VA public affairs officer. 

“Misinformation like this doesn’t help veterans,” he said. “When one veteran hears in a high-profile story that another veteran was denied care, it makes him or her less likely to enroll in the VA system.”
 

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