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'Shooter' could find Osama but not his own VA benefits
The March 2013 issue of Esquire carries the tale of “the Shooter.”

Outliers: 'Shooter' could find Osama but not his own VA benefits

By Modern Healthcare
Posted: February 16, 2013 - 12:01 am ET

Outliers was a little puzzled last week when we read that the Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden was without healthcare after leaving the service last fall after 16 years.

A fascinating story about the veteran, who is called simply the Shooter in the piece, was jointly published by the Center for Investigative Reporting and Esquire.

In the 15,000-word story, Phil Bronstein—who oversees the Center for Investigative Reporting—wrote: “Here is what he gets from his employer and a grateful nation: Nothing. No pension, no healthcare, and no protection for himself or his family.”

Not true, says Stars and Stripes reporter Megan McCloskey. The former SEAL, like all combat veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, is automatically eligible for five years of free healthcare services through the Veterans Affairs Department. McCloskey added that Bronstein said his claim that the government gave the Shooter “nothing” for healthcare benefits is accurate because no one told him those benefits were available. “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's entitled,” McCloskey wrote in her piece.

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At that point, the debate between the story's publishers and McCloskey devolved into what was or wasn't in the piece published online by the Center for Investigative Reporting versus the version published by Esquire. But Esquire stands by the story's main argument that the man who killed bin Laden is having to bear the burden for his healthcare and his family's.

But there was a bright spot in the incident. Esquire later reported that the Shooter and some fellow veterans traveled last week to Capitol Hill, where they presented nine members of the House and Senate with a three-part proposal to help elite members of the military transition to civilian life. Included in that plan, which wouldn't require legislation, is a recommendation for enhanced transition services that must be provided on an “opt-out” basis. It also calls for 18 months of comprehensive health insurance available immediately for veterans and their families.

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