February 15th, 2013
07:12 PM ET

Navy SEAL commander rebuts 'Shooter' claim

By Barbara Starr

The commander of all Navy SEALS is sharply critical of claims attributed to a man called "The Shooter," identified in a published report to have been the SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden but felt mistreated by the military when he left the service.

Esquire magazine's riveting account of the 2011 bin Laden raid in Pakistan was based on an interview with the former SEAL, who was not named but complained about losing his health care coverage when he left the Navy last year.

He was short of the full 20-year career required to receive such benefits.

"Concerning recent writing and reporting on 'The Shooter' and his alleged situation, this former SEAL made a deliberate and informed decision to leave the Navy several years short of retirement status," said Rear Admiral Sean Pybus, commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command.

"Months ahead of his separation, he was counseled on status and benefits and provided with options to continue his career until retirement eligible. Claims to the contrary in these matters are false. That said, Naval Special Warfare and the Navy are prepared to help this former service member address health or transition issues, as we would with other former members," Pybus said.

The statement was made available to CNN by a military official who declined to be identified because it was not intended for public distribution.

The official said Pybus wrote it for members of the active duty and retired SEAL community after the Esquire article made headlines.

Pybus reiterated growing concerns by the most senior active duty SEALs that younger members are speaking out publicly about their experiences, which breaks with a tradition of silence about the secretive nature of their work.

Former Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette also was criticized by his former commanders when he wrote the book "No Easy Day" about his involvement in the bin Laden mission in Pakistan.

"I am very disappointed with the few people who use their SEAL cachet for self-serving purposes, particularly through falsehoods and certainly when the safety and security of themselves and their active-duty teammates and families are put at risk," Pybus said.

"Most of our former or retired NSW members find a suitable second career without compromising the ideals of their active service-honor, courage and commitment. Most of our veterans with physical or mental health issues get some degree of health care, and we are actively pursuing even better options in this realm. I think we're doing the things that you would expect from a dedicated, disciplined and trusted force."

He also noted that the Naval Special Warfare unit has "bright and motivated people engaged in difficult, but satisfying, work."

They are very familiar with their compensation and options, he said, adding that SEAL and Coxswain operators draw hazard and danger pay and receive bonuses to re-enlist.

If they leave the service, he said, there are a number of programs aimed at easing transition or address health issues.

The Department of Veterans Affairs also disputed the claim that "The Shooter" had no health care access from the moment he left active duty.

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