While an Esquire magazine contributor said on Monday that the U.S. Navy SEAL who shot and killed Osama bin Laden doesn’t have access to health care after leaving the service, military guidelines indicate that the operative would still be eligible for government benefits.
“What they offered when he came out, the day after the raid, was a form of witness protection,” Phil Bronstein told NBC host Matt Lauer. “Someone, perhaps jokingly, at the SEAL command said, ‘We can get you a job driving a beer truck in Milwaukee, and you have to break all contact with your extended family.’ It’s like a Mafia snitch.”
The unidentified SEAL team member, who Bronstein referred to as “the Shooter” in the article, said he lost access to his benefits package after leaving the Navy four years short of the 20-year mark.
However, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs guidelines stipulate that “Combat Veterans who were discharged or released from active service on or after January 28, 2003, are eligible to enroll in the VA health care system for 5 years from the date of discharge or release.”
The article does not list a specific reason as to why “the Shooter” left the service entirely, as opposed to transferring to another post following the May 2011 raid in which he killed the al-Qaeda leader. Instead, Bronstein wrote, he signed up for a four-month deployment to conclude his tenure:
“I wanted to see my children graduate and get married.” He hoped to be able to sleep through the night for the first time in years. “I was burned out,” he says. “And I realized that when I stopped getting an adrenaline rush from gunfights, it was time to go.”
But now that he’s stripped of his military benefits, Bronstein wrote, “the Shooter” has to pay for health insurance for himself and his family out of pocket, and he can not mention his military exploits while applying for jobs in the civilian world.
“He also can’t talk about anything, really,” Bronstein told Lauer. “Technically, certainly theoretically, this is all private. What do you put on your resume when your job has been classified for that long?”
In the article, Bronstein said he spoke to another former SEAL, now a Wall Street trader, describing him as an example that “should be evangelized” to other outgoing operatives.
“His own life reflects that ‘SpecOps guys could be hugely value-added’ to civilian companies,” Bronstein wrote. “Though he says business schools — degrees in general — might be an important step.”
Bronstein alluded to “a few [government] programs” for SEALs leaving the service, but said they were not widely known.
Watch Lauer’s interview with Bronstein, aired Monday on NBC, below.