Roger Yu, USA TODAY
The Navy SEAL Team Six member who shot and killed Osama bin Laden says he has lost his health insurance benefits after leaving the service in September 2012, according to an interview in the March issue of Esquire that ran Monday on its website.
The unnamed shooter, who spoke at length with journalist Phil Bronstein, says he also lost a future pension because he left the SEALs about three years before the official retirement requirement of 20 years of service, says the report, which was completed with cooperation from the Center for Investigative Reporting.
"My health care for me and my family stopped at midnight Friday night. I asked if there was some transition from my Tricare to Blue Cross Blue Shield. They said no," the Shooter, as he's referred to in the story, told Bronstein. "You're out of the service, your coverage is over. Thanks for your sixteen years."
Tricare, a health care program of the U.S. Department of Defense Military Health System, provides civilian benefits for military personnel, retirees and their dependents. The government provides 180 days of transitional benefits, but the SEAL is eligible only if he agrees to remain on active duty in a support role, or become a reservist, the report says.
But Stars and Stripes refuted the SEAL's claim in a report Monday. All combat veterans, including the SEAL, are eligible for five years of free health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs, the report says. And no servicemember who does less than 20 years gets a pension, unless he or she has to medically retire, the report says.
Bronstein told Stars and Stripes that his assertion in the story that the government gave the SEAL "nothing" in health care benefits is both fair and accurate because the SEAL was unaware of the VA benefits at the time of the interview. In the Esquire article, Bronstein didn't raise the possibility that the SEAL's ignorance of VA benefits may explain why the SEAL thought he had no access to health care. "That's a different story," Bronstein told Stars and Stripes Monday.
The SEAL told Bronstein that he has lost some vision and was planning to buy private insurance for $486 a month but will have to pay out-of-pocket for some chiropractic care.
The SEAL has no private sector job waiting for him and his wife is "waiting to see how he replaces even the $60,000 a year he was making (not including special bonuses)," the report says.
Because he left the Navy early, he doesn't get a pension. If he had stayed in for the required 20 years, his pension would have been 50% his base pay - $2,197 a month, according to the Esquire report.
The SEAL joined the Navy at 19 after a breakup with a girl. "That's the reason Al Qaeda has been decimated," he told Bronstein, "because she broke my ...heart."
He has had 12 long-term SEAL deployments, and has "thirty-plus kills of enemy combatants," the article states.
Twenty-three SEALs flew to Pakistan in the dark of the night on May 2, 2011 with the mission of killing bin Laden. Although the Shooter was the "number two" behind the point man going up the stairs to bin Laden's third-floor residence, he was the one who pulled the trigger that killed the al-Qaeda leader, says Bronstein, adding he confirmed the Shooter's role in the mission with "enough people connected to the SEALs and the bin Laden mission."
The Esquire story comes five months after another SEAL, Matt Bissonnette, published a book about the raid and his role in the mission. The Pentagon says the book revealed classified material.
The SEAL refused to identify to Bronstein that Bissonnette is the colleague who wrote the book. "I still want him and his family to be safe no matter what," he told Bronstein. "If he didn't want (his name) out, I shouldn't either. That is my thinking, anyway."