Battleland

Was bin Laden’s Killer ‘Screwed’ by the U.S. Government?

  • Share
  • Read Later
Warrick Page / Getty Images

Lightning strikes in the distance behind the compound where Osama bin Laden was killed in an operation by U.S. Navy SEALS on May 4, 2011, in Abbottabad, Pakistan

So: Did the Navy SEAL who allegedly killed Osama bin Laden get — in the provocative word on the cover of the March issue of Esquire magazine — “screwed” by the U.S. government?

Monday’s story released by Esquire about the unnamed — and now former — SEAL who says he killed bin Laden has been kicking up a lot of dust over his claim that the government has tossed him overboard, just as the U.S. military did with bin Laden’s body.

Bin Laden’s body went into the Indian Ocean, from the deck of the carrier U.S.S. Carl Vinson. The Shooter, as the article’s author, Phil Bronstein, refers to the man who claims to have killed bin Laden, is still alive but also met an unhappy ending, at least as far as his 16 years of naval service is concerned:

… the Shooter will discover soon enough that when he leaves after 16 years in the Navy, his body filled with scar tissue, arthritis, tendonitis, eye damage and blown disks, here is what he gets from his employer and a grateful nation:

Nothing. No pension, no health care, and no protection for himself or his family.

As veterans’ advocates were quick to point out, that’s not true; he is entitled to five years of free health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Beyond that, anyone who has spent more than a day in uniform knows there is no pension for anyone who leaves the service short of 20 years. That’s one reason some experts have argued for a portable 401(k)-like investment plan for troops that they could fund while in uniform — perhaps with matches from the government — and take with them whenever they leave.

Interestingly, the Esquire story didn’t focus on why the Shooter left the Navy just more than three years shy of becoming eligible for a pension. Most troops beyond 15 years are very interested in making it to 20, as this Battleland piece from last year makes clear.

Stars and Stripes deconstructs the Shooter’s claims in some detail. The military newspaper asked Bronstein about the five years of health care that vets who fought in the post-9/11 wars are entitled to receive:

“No one ever told him that this is available,” Bronstein said.

He said there wasn’t space in the article to explain that the former SEAL’s lack of health care was driven by an ignorance of the benefits to which he is entitled.

“That’s a different story,” Bronstein said in a phone interview with Stars and Stripes about what he omitted from the article.

Veterans were divided on the Shooter’s fate.

“It’s unfortunate that Esquire reported that the Navy SEAL veteran was entitled to ‘no health care’ after his separation,” says Brandon Friedman, an Army vet and former VA official. “That’s clearly not accurate — as he is eligible for at least five years of free VA health care. After five years, it will depend on his disability rating and/or income. Either he didn’t pay attention during his outprocessing briefings or the person briefing him failed to tell him. This is important because such reporting can cause other veterans to also believe they’re not entitled to benefits when, in fact, they are.”

Others don’t see it that way. “So the guy that killed bin Laden gets a whole 5 years of free VA healthcare and still NO Pension or protection,” one posted to Stars and Stripes. “WOW sounds like a great deal! The VA is splitting hairs and the benefits are B.S.”

58 comments
portobellogal
portobellogal

A brave, talented navy seal did not understand that one serves 20 years in the military in order to earn benefits???

just askin'.....

Mr.Bruce
Mr.Bruce

This Sailor brings to light another issue that most seem to be overlooking and that is the poor transition of Veterans with TBI's and debilitating PTSD. If one is a SEAL, SF, Infantry, Armor, Engineer, Artillery, EOD, etc, he/she likely has a mild TBI, and possible cognitive issues.  The stateside training  with explosives is widely known to develop mild TBI in some service members.  Train as you fight. Yes?  I bet my bottom dollar he suffers too, and is likely not thinking properly, hence the separation at 15 years. Perhaps he needs guidance from an advocate like a LCSW?

I, and many in my mild-TBI cohort, had absolutely no social work case management during our transition from active service and continue to have no social work case management with the VA.  For a Veteran with a mild TBI it can be a very daunting task to secure all the various information, forms, contacts and processes necessary to fully transition, and yes it is very true that civilian transition personnel regularly "pencil whip" transitioning service members documents for their own benefit.  My transition was a 15 minute video, nothing more. 

During this time, and at the VA, forgetting one block on a form, or missing a line of very small print can result in endless delays and issues that a social worker would not miss.  It is clear the VA is failing to appropriately conduct outreach to these Veterans and in its failure leaves them with little recourse other than reliance on other social service entities like SSDI, welfare, non-profits and gracious family.  

I don't know about you, but I envision injured Veterans who can resume productive lives in our society rather than the inappropriate, or unnecessary, use of social services. These strains on civilian social service entities would be dramatically lessened if Veterans were aware of their benefits and given the chance to participate in society again through outreach programs that highlight VocRehab and other programs.  But that requires leadership and accountability, which are words that are unknown to most at the VA and DOD Wounded Warrior care initiatives.  To be succinct, one way or another these young men and women will find a way to support their families.  Hopefully someone can find a way to guide them, educate them, train them and employ them.  Until then, we will all continue to see increased use of very expensive social safety nets that could have been avoided if someone had appropriately tracked, guided and advocated for these cognitively challenged Veterans.  I am deliberately avoiding the suicide issues that may result from inappropriate oversight of this population. 

On a personal note, I have been attempting to gain a SVDI (service disabled veteran life insurance) policy for 18 months.  My VA primary care team acts as though they are incapable of filling out the form ( it is needlessly difficult ).  The VBA places the burden on my local VHA hospital.  Where am I?  Caught in the middle between two agencies of the VA, who refuse to work together for what I would charge is sheer apathy and laziness.  My statute of limitations to gain the policy is approaching rapidly leaving me with the distinct possibility of never gaining life insurance coverage for my family, when I fully understand my life span will be shortened.  I guess I too will go waste resources inappropriately and use my local Congressman to solve this problem.  How sad that I must use Congressional casework to get a VA physician to fill out a VBA form! 

"All I want for Christmas is a LCSW!"    

DHMazur
DHMazur

We should focus on the most important part of this sad story: an experienced NCO made an impetuous decision to walk away, seemingly with little thought for the future.  He claimed not to understand how the military retirement and veterans' care systems work, although he surely knows better.  He may have had options for completing a 20-year career (as an instructor, for example), but did not pursue them.  He is clearly angry and resentful, but is not taking advantage of the support the nation is prepared to give him.  Why?  This is an occasion for reaching out, not fanning false flames of resentment about how we treat veterans.

A former Air Force officer and author of "A More Perfect Military: How the Constitution Can Make Our Military Stronger"

BruceS78
BruceS78

I worked for the Federal Government for 35 years.  The old Civil Service Retirement System worked the same way the military one works.  You had to work a minimum number of years before you got any retirement benefits and you couldn't take the benefits with you if you quit before completing the minimum number of years..  It works great if you stay in, not so good if you get out before the minimum number of years.  I don't understand how anyone in the military for 16 years could not know the basics of their retirement system.  A SEAL is suppose to be the cream of the Navy.  Why didn't he stay in the extra 4 years, even if he had to fly desk? 

danastabenow
danastabenow

Did his recruiter explain to him that the pension kicks in after twenty years, not sixteen? Did he, perhaps, forget that?

JohnZimmermann
JohnZimmermann

To receive a military pension you have to do 20 years ,if you are injured( more then 10%) while in service you receive a tax free VA pension it's that simple.The interviewed of the esquire story was on FOX and stated that this guy did not want to fly a deck after being a SEAL.To me that means he made a decision so why is he whining. For the record I did 20+ and it cost me my marriage      

lorenzothegringo
lorenzothegringo

There's more to this story than meets the eye.  Why did he resign with only 3-4 years to go?  Was he forced to resign or face the power of the government wreaking havoc upon his body???  Or did he just say, "I've had enough" and leave voluntarily?  Sounds like a setup for a book and movie deal to me.

falcon269
falcon269

Cry me a river.

Vietnam '72-73

lomtevas
lomtevas

The military's rank and yank policy helps filter out too many retirees who would draw too much retirement pay and benefits. It's unusual though that the ST-6 shooter, who reflects great credit upon the service, would be canned after 16 years, not 20. Domestic violence "victims" under VAWA get better treatment than a military celebrity. Imagine what the rest of us unknowns get.

wenchypoo
wenchypoo

My husband met the same fate, even though he didn't kill anyone--he was pushed down a "ladder" (flight of ship stairs) in the dark while underway, and wound up breaking his leg in 3 places, and separating his ankle--losing the cartilage permanently.  He won a settlement, and was out on his ass in 18 months.  We have no lingering benefits whatsoever from the Navy, but thank god the VA came through.  Now he's a civil servant, and we have health insurance we pay for.


As for the TSP being portable, I haven't found that to be the case--several times I've tried to move our money to Vanguard funds, and have been denied.  Maybe I'm doing something wrong.

DoctorWhat
DoctorWhat

"Beyond that, anyone who has spent more than a day in uniform knows there is no pension for anyone who leaves the service short of 20 years. That’s one reason some experts have argued for a portable 401(k)-like investment plan for troops that they could fund while in uniform – perhaps with matches from the government – and take with them whenever they leave." There is a 401(k)-like investment plan for the troops - it is called the TSP and is portable. The government has begun to offer matching funds for new recruits' contributions, but military members have long had the option to make unmatched contributions to TSP accounts.

DarkMatterBurrito
DarkMatterBurrito

Well, he didn't end up murdered in a transport helicopter like the rest of the team. I guess he is still a loose end?

sacredh
sacredh

“No one ever told him that this is available,” Bronstein said.

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 is entitled.

“That’s a different story,” Bronstein said in a phone interview with Stars and Stripes about what he omitted from the article.

.

That's just plain sloppy journalism and misleading. Bronstein is making excuses for his own misrepresentation of the facts. There wasn't "room" in the article for the truth? Please. Re-write the article and make room for another sentence.



 

xoleraslol
xoleraslol

I'm having great difficulty with this story. As a preface, I've served an enlistment as a Navy Corpsman serving with several Marine Corps units, and have done two deployments in Afghanistan before separating. I have nothing but respect for the anonymous shooter in question -- he served his country honorably for 16 years and for that I say, thank you for your service.

HOWEVER, with that being said: I have great difficulty with any veteran trying to generate sympathy; he separated upon his EAOS voluntary at the 16 year mark knowing that he would not get a retirement pension. He was not thrown under the bus, every military member enters with the knowledge that a twenty year mark is required for retirement - as long as you can meet the required rank for 20 year service under high year tenure rules. (Last I heard, E-6 or First class PO was the HYT requirement for 20 years of service - not everyone can achieve it)

Furthermore, every service member has the GI bill, tuition assistance, 5 years of medical care through the VA following honorable discharge, preference for employment at federal government agencies, and preference for law enforcement employment. The resources to thrive are out there following exit from the military, I would be very interested in hearing how he prepared for his post-military life - maybe i'm judging him harshly but It doesn't sound he planned very well.

TeeRandel
TeeRandel

Is Bin Laden dead - why is there no photo evidence of this fact like that of Sadaam Hussien ?

gysgt213
gysgt213

"No one ever told him that this is available,” Bronstein said.

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 is entitled.

“That’s a different story,” Bronstein said in a phone interview with Stars and Stripes about what he omitted from the article."


Just for the record.  When you leave the military you have to check out even if you are just moving to a new duty station and especially, if you are leaving or retiring from the military.  You don't get to just jump in your car in leave.  During the checking out process which can take up to 2 weeks to complete, your file is reviewed to determine what benefits if any,  you qualify for upon separating from the service.  If you qualify for VA benefits you have to sign acknowledging that fact.   While its possible for someone to fall through the cracks the military branches are inspected by higher headquarters in this area.

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

Really, 401k and similar systems should be required by all companies for all employees.  Pension plans are prone to looting and underfunding causing long term problems and eventually being lost.  Further, as fewer and fewer people make a career out of a single job, the entire concept of a single company being expected to provide your pension becomes more and more dated.  At least with a proper 401k or equivalent program, every job you work will actually contribute to your retirement.

gferrachi
gferrachi

I think the bounty on Bin Laden life was 100mil US.......  You would think the US Government Would treat the man who executed the kill would be treated much better figuring he saved US tax payers a hell of a lot of money.......But I guess the saved bounty was pocketed by an insider

ArxFerrum
ArxFerrum

Prior to the fall of the Roman empire, borderland security was filled by foreign mercenaries. The ranks of the once might Roman legions were reduced and the moral on the rocks. The reason? basically because the government reneged on promises to care for its former service personnel and cut back on costs so they couldn't afford to keep the standing army they needed to begin with. Eventually, the mercenary army turned on their employer and marched on Rome, sacking the city and getting what they felt was due.


DavidPun
DavidPun

We don't have a conscripted military. These are people who select the military as their profession and choose to do what they do. There are rules and these guys know the rules. There are many other soldiers who engage in equally dangerous or more dangerous activity. Some have even lost their lives. It is completely crazy to start dishing out special privileges to a soldier just because he performed a job which was high profile and got media attention. If he deserves special treatment what about all the other ex-soldiers in a similar benefits situation.

Frankly, whether people like to hear it or not, the days of pensions and health benefits  for Government employees are quickly running out. Just keep saying to yourself 17 trillion dollars and at some point you will wake up to the idea that the US simply doesn't have enough money to pay special benefits like this. Most of the rest of the US has to get by on Social Security and savings. Join the crowd.

dogpilot747
dogpilot747

When I separated from the US Navy, as a pilot, I received no benfit briefing. I signed put for my VA benefits immediately, but it took the VA almost 9 months to acknowledge I was even a veteran, so there went a chunk of my 5 year plan.  One would have to be an utter fool to not know there was no pension before 20 years. What profession has one in that short of a timeframe, only one I know of is Miami firefighters. The only entity that benefits from a 401k is the stockbrokers.  My plan, which is now 20 years old is worth exactly... what I put in it.

cristo52
cristo52

The V.A. always splits hairs. That's how it operates. You had a heart condition diagnosed while in uniform in 1972 in an Army hospital in Germany and 30 years later you want that heart condition to be taken care of by the V.A. and you cannot show a trail of treatment for those 30 years - buzz, buzz, you're a loser. Claim denied. And it's been reported the V.A. gives bonuses based on claims denials. The V.A. was formed to take care of Veterans and all too often it sets up obstacles. The V.A.'s first obligation should be to helping Veterans, not making them jump through hoops; and the U.S. Government needs to understand the treatment of veterans is just as much a vital part of its war machine as bullets, tanks and planes. The V.A. should not be run by a former general or a political hack. The V.A. should be run by the wife of a service member who is disabled, someone who has slogged through the process and understands it from the point of view of the veteran seeking assistance. Generals have folks to shine their boots, open doors and drive cars, they are out of touch with the men and women sitting in V.A. facility waiting rooms as the TV mounted on the wall drones on and on and on. Veterans need a friend in Congress and they aren't getting any help from the monied elites who pay lip service every two and six years, promising all and delivering little.

Marrion
Marrion

What I don't like is when people spout lies about things that they heard.  Congressmen and  Senators do not get perks that out military don't get.  I was active duty for 12 years (I am not a Congressmen or Senator) and work for the Army, so I know what I am talking about.  If you believe that they get healthcare and large retirement pensions for the rest of their lives you need to go do some research.  Congressmen and  Senators are government employees and get the same pension as all government employees.  Members who participated in the congressional pension system are vested after five (5) years of service. A full pension is available to Members 62 years of age with 5 years of service; 50 years or older with 20 years of service; or 25 years of service at any age. A reduced pension is available depending upon which of several different age/service options is chosen.  If they leave before reaching one of these milestones they get nothing.  Their pension is based on their highest pay for 3 years and in 2002 the average was $50000.  I am not saying that our military personnel deserves any less, but we all knew what we were getting into when we signed up.  Remember that this is an all volunteer force. 

jeebuzz
jeebuzz

This esquire article is starting to sound like BS.  The military goes out of its way to make sure that everyone is aware of their benefits upon discharge which includes the requirement to attend mandatory classes on it.  Also, I have a hard time believing that a 16 year veteran would be ignorant of these VA benefits.

Also, Mark Thompson, "deconstruction" does not mean analysis.

lj2190
lj2190

The man who shot Bin Laden is no more special than the man who fed him that morning, or issued his team the ammunition, or the airmen who flew them in, the intel member who secured the location, or, or.... on and on!  HE PULLED A TRIGGER!  He did his duty.  He is not a star member of the military.  I'm tired of these SPEC OPS babies acting like the country owes them something more than the rank and file of the military.  Ignoring NDA's to write books, now this bull crap story.  Why with three years left to receiving a full pension did he get out?  If his body is so scarred and in bad shape why is he not receiving disability compensation.  Something about this smacks of bad journalism.  The ONLY thing that may be warranted is some type of security for him, but anything too overt will be a detriment to his safety instead of an aid.  Ruck up and drive on! 

WildbillfromnycP
WildbillfromnycP

The real truth is if he followed the McCain route he would have been rewarded,,,,,one can not cry for the road not taken,,,,,,we all make choices

he chose a career in the Military,,,,,a career that does not pay well under most circumstances.....but most people know that....he could write a book about his adventure,,,such as the guy who did the Survivor  series ,,,but went to jail for income tax evasion,,,,,,so although I feel more for him getting something way more than your congressman ......the way of the law...etc ....is what it is....rewards are not given to Military people for the job they are/were paid to do

AZBuckeye
AZBuckeye

So,once again, we have the liberal media involving themselves in something they know nothing about, don't understand, but they talk about it with the right amount of authority and get people to be live they DO know all about it. Just enough information to inflame others who know nothing about it, but think they now do, simply because they read this article, is typical, nowadays. Don't worry about the facts, folks... We have Time Magazine!

DoctorWhat
DoctorWhat

A “uniformed services” TSP account would be “portable” after leaving service, and the funds could be withdrawn and rolled-over into an IRA or a new employer’s 401(k).However if the “uniformed services” TSP account was instead combined with a subsequently established “federal civilian” TSP account – then the funds would have to remain in the TSP and would not be portable until after leaving federal civilian service.https://www.tsp.gov/PDF/formspubs/tspbk02.pdf

lj2190
lj2190

@DarkMatterBurrito 

None of the ST6 members who perished in that horrible accident even went on the raid to kill Bin Laden.   Nice try. 

PatCody
PatCody

@sacredh There is a stench about this.  Somebody is  being disingenuous.

There are VA benefits; there is such a thing as a medical retirement.

austin87j
austin87j

@TeeRandel Because it was a top secret mission executed almost perfectly - except for the whole crashed helicopter thing.  In Sadaam Hussein's case it was a bunch of leather jacket-clad goons who hanged him while one of them recorded it with a cell phone.  You didn't see Hussein's body because our government wanted you to, but because our government lost control of the situation.

ToddAlband
ToddAlband

@forgottenlord not all companies can afford to setup and administer a 401(k). That's why we have traditional and Roth IRAs.

TeeRandel
TeeRandel

@gferrachi 

Rumour has it, one of Bin Laden's wife's lead the US to him through various channels, the stuff about following Bin Laden's staff to him may not be accurate.   

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

@ArxFerrum 

Other interesting parallels about Rome and other Vestigial Empires:  Vestigial Empires tend to focus more and more on military spending as they feel an unparallel need to protect themselves from threats with more and more questionable ability to actually destroy them.  They also tend to turn more heavily towards religion

TomPiper
TomPiper

@DavidPun Have you ever had a home mortgage? If so, how much did it exceed your net available income.

 I think if you look at the nations debt in that perspective maybe you won't be so scared.

jmacdougall
jmacdougall

@DavidPun giving ones life to the service of ones nation is no longer honored. People like you have an attitude that it's just another job. What you call "special treatment" others regard as earned in blood sweat and tears. If the greedy of the nation even paid a little more in taxes like they used to the debt could be wiped out. 

S_Deemer
S_Deemer

@jeebuzz It certainly is puzzling, and doesn't seem like we have been given the entire story. Given the secrecy involved, is it reasonable to assume that whoever does discharge interviews/counselling knew that this guy was the shooter? It's very difficult for me to imagine that someone who has been in the Navy for more than 16 years would not know that he was throwing so much away by resigning before hitting his 20 years of service. If nothing else, he would have known short timers counting down the days until they hit 20. This guy clearly has some issues both physical and mental, so perhaps he refused counseling/assistance because he didn't want a medical discharge. In any case, based on what little we know, it appears that he screwed himself, and not the other way around. Perhaps, in hindsight, he realizes what a mistake he made.

DaveFoley
DaveFoley

@AZBuckeye Care to elaborate, or are you just spouting off without any actual facts in your opinion, but with enough authority that some poor fool may believe you know what you are talking about?  Where are your contradictions? Where are the statements you care to refute, and where are your sources to back up everything you say?

I just see a vague slam against the "liberal media" that refutes nothing, proves nothing, and adds nothing to the conversation.

sacredh
sacredh

PatCody, I work for the federal government and work with mostly ex-military. Several of them only served 4 years but still go to VA hospitals and a couple get partial disability. I don't understand how this guy isn't getting the same. You have to actually apply for the benefits to get them though. They're not automatic. We talked about this on another thread yesterday and wondered if the guy had PTSD. He seemed like he would have been a prime candidate for medical retirement.

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

@ToddAlband 

You clearly misunderstood my post.  If a company were setting up and administering the 401k, then the company is beholden to someone just like they'd be beholden to them if it were a standard pension program - not to mention, the 401k would be lootable by the company.

The issue isn't "is it a 401k or an IRA or whatever", it's "is it in the hands of the individual or the company".  Every person should have their personal pension plan, separated from the company, and each company you work for should contribute it as their share of the pension plan.  There shouldn't be a future commitments thing or any long-term liability sharing between the two sides - especially when chances are that in 10 years, I will not be working for the same guy.

mstrdiver
mstrdiver

Wholeheartedly agree.  I signed a contract with the US Army, a legally binding contract between two parties that BOTH sides must honor or it is worthless.  I signed up for 20 plus years, all of them honorable with zero bad days, and so far the VA and Army are living up to our agreements.  When the public [DavidPun] for example decides that the cost is too high to continue funding, he is apparently ingnorant of contract law and probably not stood a post in uniform.  Contract law basically states that no contract can be modified, abridged or rescinded without ALL parties to the contract agreeing to the actions.  I don't know why this service member got out before the 20 year mark but there must be a reason.

JamesMcAllister
JamesMcAllister

Yes, it is very puzzling and something is not right here.  When I separated from the military in 2007 a "TAPS" class was mandatory.  This was a three-day seminar in which many topics were discussed, including post-discharge medical and dental benefits, social security, re-employment, job interviewing, converting your military life insurance, etc.  It is inconceivable to me that someone could have served 16 years without knowing that full retirement benefits come only with a minimum of 20 years of service.  That's the "gold ring" for everyone in uniform.  What I haven't heard anybody mention yet is that, assuming this guy served honorably and with no complicating factors, there shouldn't be anything keeping him from re-enlisting and serving four more years to reach 20 years and collecting full retirement benefits.  His specialty should place him in high demand with military recruiters.

sacredh
sacredh

I'm a career civilian employee and we have almost zero turnover. I've worked with most of the same people for at least 20-25 years, some even longer. We're a close knit group and know each other very well. If somebody has a problem, we all know about it and try to help. We take care of each other. I hate to think that this guy didn't have the support of those he served with or didn't feel that he could turn to somebody for help. Hopefully, he can apply for benefits. It may take a while to go through the bureacracy, but the help is there.

PatCody
PatCody

@sacredh Amen, sir.  I was a DAC for a while, working with mostly former military.  As I said, someone is not telling the whole truth in that story.  He'd have had to decline, in writing, the VA evaluation when he outprocessed, unless things have changed since I left in '88, but with Eric at DVA, I believe that would not be so.  His choice of hats for the Army may be suspect, but he does sincerely care for vets..

DaveFoley
DaveFoley

@mstrdiver You just said the whole thing is based on a signed contract and both sides keeping up with the deal. DavidPun is saying the exact same thing. You signed that contract, correct? Are you now expecting more than the contract granted you? Try to reread his post without emotion, and then rethink it. He said the soldiers know the contract they are signing, and no special treatment above and beyond that contract should be dealt out.

611Juniper
611Juniper

@JamesMcAllister My cousin did 12 years in the Air Force and he didn't get any pension either.  But at least when he went to a public sector job, he could use that military service to boost his pension with the public sector employer.  So this is another fact worth knowing.  Also the Post Office used to be the place for veterans to find employment ...

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,107 other followers