Bin Laden Shooter Is Eligible for Health Care, But It Sucks [Updated]

By
Photo: Warrick Page/2011 Warrick Page

One of the most wrenching details of Esquire's profile of the Osama bin Laden shooter was the assertion that he wasn't offered support after leaving the Navy: "Nothing. No pension, no health care, and no protection for himself or his family." But Stars and Stripes Megan McCloskey points out that he is, in fact, eligible for care through the Department of Veterans Affairs, a fact not mentioned in the Esquire story. "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."  Writer Phil Bronstein told McCloskey his characterization was accurate because "No one ever told [the Shooter] that this is available."

There wasn't space in the Esquire piece to explain the Shooter's relationship with the V.A., Bronstein said, telling McCloskey, "that's a different story." The story did get written, but not by Bronstein in Esquire. The Center for Investigative Reporting, of which Bronstein is chairman, ran a report on Monday detailing the delays the Shooter has encountered as he's tried to get the care for which he's eligible: "Like 820,000 other veterans, the Shooter has a disability claim that is stuck in a seemingly interminable backlog at the VA, where the average wait time currently exceeds nine months." It puts Bronstein's assertion in the Esquire article into better context, but you have to look for it.

Update: Esquire has published its own response to McCloskey (from "the Editors") that explains, in part:

McCloskey's story is entitled, "Esquire article wrongly claims SEAL who killed bin Laden is denied healthcare" and it is that headline that contains her first factual error, for nowhere in Bronstein's piece does he write that the Shooter was "denied" healthcare. Rather, what Bronstein's piece properly establishes is that once the Shooter and his colleagues separate from the service, they must go into the private market to buy insurance to match the coverage for themselves and their families that they had when they worked for the government, and that this transition is an abrupt one. There are benefits available to combat veterans via the VA, which "The Shooter" discusses (this constitutes the second factual error in McCloskey's piece, more on that in a moment), so what does Bronstein mean when he writes, "Nothing. No pension, no health care, and no protection for himself or his family..."? Well, he means precisely that. Because while the Shooter may be eligible for some direct benefits from the VA, his wife and two children are eligible for nothing.

The rest is here.