In a lengthy article in March’s Esquire “reported in cooperation with” the leftist-advised Center for Investigative Reporting, CIR Executive Chairman Philip Bronstein told readers that the unnamed Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden on May 1, 2011 was a year ago “wondering how he was going to feed his wife and kids or pay for their medical care.” According to Bronstein, the answer is (read these words carefully): “[A]fter sixteen 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.”
The “no health care” portion of that statement is inarguably false. Yet Bronstein, as will be seen shortly, stands by it. On Monday, Megan McCloskey at Stars & Stripes explained something which would be known to any journalist genuinely interested in finding out how the military’s pay and benefits arrangements work (links are in original; bolds are mine):
Esquire article wrongly claims SEAL who killed bin Laden is denied healthcare
… the claim about health care is wrong. And no servicemember who does less than 20 years gets a pension, unless he has to medically retire.
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.
But the story doesn’t mention that.
The writer, Phil Bronstein, who heads up the Center for Investigative Reporting, stands by the story. He said the assertion that the government gave the SEAL “nothing” in terms of health care is both fair and accurate, because the SEAL didn’t know the VA benefits existed.
“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.
O … M … G.
Uh, Phil, your story weighs in at about 15,000 words — yet you’re claiming there was no room to write: “The man is getting no health care because he didn’t know that he’s entitled to it.” Horse manure.
Space, schmace, Phil. I say it’s far more likely that you’re fibbing, that you took the unfortunately ignorant man at his word, and, despite your occupation as an alleged “investigative reporter,” you didn’t even bother to check out what this his benefits really were. I’d rather believe that than think that you deliberately withheld this information from readers (and perhaps even the soldier himself, allowing him to continue to go without healthcare to which he is entitled for his service), even though that happens to be the excuse you’re using.
If the VA really never “told” the man about his benefits eligibility, shame on them. But the guess here is that a service member’s branch and/or the VA sends information packets to soldiers who are about to leave to inform them of their benefits, and that the man didn’t adequately review his package.
CIR has published a follow-up at its own site claiming, probably correctly, that many vets who could be getting VA healthcare don’t apply for it, and contending that the military does a poor job of communicating veterans’ benefits. It claims that “the Shooter told Bronstein that none of the counselors who came to SEAL Command told him that.” It also lobbies for healthcare coverage for vets’ families — a totally separate issue from whether or not the soldier “gets” (i.e., is entitled to) healthcare. It also muddies the narrative by including the soldier’s pending attempt to receive disability benefits, a too long and time-consuming process, but again a separate issue from the five-year entitlement to health care.
What I want to know is whether the conversation Bronstein claims to have had with the Navy SEAL about the availbility of healthcare benefits occurred before or after the Esquire story was published. As already noted, either possible answer is damning.
Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.