But the Shooter will discover soon enough that when he leaves after 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.
. . . .
“I left SEALs on Friday,” he said the next time I saw him. It was a little more than thirty-six months before the official retirement requirement of twenty years of service. “My health care for me and my family stopped at midnight Friday night. I asked if there was some transition from my Tricare to Blue Cross Blue Shield. They said no. You’re out of the service, your coverage is over. Thanks for your sixteen years. Go fuck yourself.”
It’s a neat piece, and I recommend it.
Now I am going to get us all bogged down in what might seem like a side issue, but is actually pretty central to the piece’s theme: are the claims of no health insurance accurate?
I can’t tell.
If you keep reading, it is clear that the claims of “nothing” are not completely accurate, even according to the piece itself:
The government does provide 180 days of transitional health-care benefits, but the Shooter is eligible only if he agrees to remain on active duty “in a support role,” or become a reservist. Either way, his life would not be his own. Instead, he’ll buy private insurance for $486 a month, but some treatments that relieve his wartime pains, like $120 for weekly chiropractic care, are out-of-pocket. Like many vets, he will have to wait at least eight months to have his disability claims adjudicated. Or even longer. The average wait time nationally is more than nine months, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting.
It’s a great story, right? As Allahpundit said at the end of his post on the matter:
Exit question: How can the guy who shot Bin Laden not be eligible for military health insurance?
It appears that, as a returning veteran from one of our wars, he is eligible for five years of VA health care:
The 5-year enrollment period begins on the discharge or separation date of the service member from active duty military service, or in the case of multiple call-ups, the most recent discharge date.
The scope of that health care isn’t clear, so I have been reading further, trying to figure it out.
The detail about the five years of free coverage was pointed out at a blog at Stars and Stripes, who confronted the author about the omission. He defended it — wait for it — on the ground that there wasn’t space to explain this:
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.
“That’s a different story,” Bronstein said in a phone interview with Stars and Stripes about what he omitted from the article.
Well, if that quote is accurate, it is distressing. It reminds me of when the L.A. Times printed an article claiming a guy was innocent of murder — and omitted the facts showing his guilt for space reasons. Journalists love to omit (or bury) facts that make their stories less sensational. It’s an unfortunate but common occurrence in Big Media.
Esquire printed a long defense of their piece and made the following claim:
Now granted, “The Shooter” is a long story, lots of words to sort through, but McCloskey is wrong here. We refer her to this paragraph deeper in the piece: “There is a Transition Assistance Program in the military, but it’s largely remedial level, rote advice of marginal value: Wear a tie to interviews, not your Corfam (black shiny service) shoes. Try not to sneeze in anyone’s coffee. There is also a program at MacDill Air Force Base designed to help Special Ops vets navigate various bureaucracies. And the VA does offer five years of benefits for specific service-related claims—but it’s not comprehensive and it offers nothing for the Shooter’s
Well, that certainly puts the Stars and Stripes blogger in her place!
Except . . .
Except that the claim does not appear to be true. That part in bold? It’s not in the piece.
I went to pull up the piece to see how they put this information in context, and (at least in the online version) it ain’t there. Here is the relevant passage in context:
There is a Transition Assistance Program in the military, but it’s largely remedial level, rote advice of marginal value: Wear a tie to interviews, not your Corfam (black shiny service) shoes. Try not to sneeze in anyone’s coffee.
“It’s criminal to me that these guys walk out the door naked,” says retired Marine major general Mike Myatt. “They’re the greatest of their generation; they know how to get things done. If I were a Fortune 500 company, I’d try to get my hands on any one of them.” General Myatt, standing in the mezzanine of the Marines Memorial building he runs in San Francisco, is surrounded by so many Marine memorial plaques he’s had to expand the memorial around the corner due to so many deaths over the past eleven years of war.
The Esquire response makes other points about the scope of the coverage, but it’s tough to know whether to trust them, since they defend omitting information that is clearly critical for space reasons — and don’t even seem to know what’s in their own piece.
I’d still like to know the answer to this question.
All that said, the piece is pretty good overall, and I recommend it.