In an interview with Esquire titled "The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden … Is Screwed," the former SEAL told journalist Phil Bronstein that upon leaving the service in September 2012, he lost benefits ranging from current health care to a future pension. And now he's stuck in a months-long wait for his disability claim to be considered.
He had survived his last deployment, and there was a barbecue near his house to celebrate with about thirty close friends from "the community." The Redskins were on, his favorite team, and there was lots of Commando ale, brewed by a former SEAL.
"I left SEALs on Friday," he said the next time I saw him. It was a little more than thirty-six months before the official retirement requirement of twenty years of service. "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. You're out of the service, your coverage is over. Thanks for your sixteen years. Go fuck yourself."
The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR), for which Bronstein serves as executive chairman, notes that this SEAL's case falls in line with 820,000 instances in which veterans are mired in a backlog for disability help.
"It was nearly impossible to believe when he first told me he got such a dearth of support from the U.S. government," Bronstein said in the CIR report. "Where’s the thank you?"
In a Monday interview with NBC's "Today Show," Bronstein spoke with host Matt Lauer about the crux of his Esquire piece -- the post-military struggles that veterans face.
Even if the SEAL had served a full two decades, Bronstein told "Today" that he would have received just $2,197 per month. A Navy chorus member with that time of service is eligible for the same package.
"It's a nine-month average wait for regular vets to get their disability claim adjudicated," Bronstein said. "In this guy's case, his health care that he got, called Tricare from the military, ended the night he left. He gets no pension, none, zero."
"So the guy in the Navy choir gets the exact same pension [as] the guy we're asking to be the new face of warfare around the world," Lauer remarked.
"Yes, exactly," Bronstein replied.
UPDATE (10:15 p.m. ET): Stars and Stripes posted a story Monday evening, charging that the Esquire piece's claim of no available military health care options is inaccurate. The independent U.S. military news source points to a Department of Veterans Affairs program which provides five years of free health coverage post discharge.
When asked by Stars and Stripes about that option, Bronstein stood by his reporting, adding that no one ever told the SEAL "that this is available."
CLARIFICATION: A previous headline on this post stated that the former Navy SEAL was reportedly uninsured. The Esquire article notes that the man, who retired from the military, was planning to buy private insurance for $486 per month and pay out-of-pocket for certain treatments not covered by that insurance.