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Commander denies SEAL's claim made in Esquire article

The commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command denies allegations made in an Esquire feature article that the SEAL team member who claims he first shot Osama bin Laden was left in the dark about what benefits were available to him after he left the service.


"This former SEAL made a deliberate and informed decision to leave the Navy several years short of retirement status," Rear Adm. Sean Pybus, commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, wrote in a statement. "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."

Pybus said he is "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."


However, he said the Navy will help the former SEAL "address health or transition issues, as we would for other former members."

"Naval Special Warfare has bright and motivated people engaged in difficult, but satisfying work. They are very familiar with their compensation and options," he wrote.

On Wednesday, during his final press conference, outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta also spoke out about the Esquire article -- which he acknowledged he did not read -- by saying there are service members engaged in acts of bravery every day. 

Panetta cited former Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha, the newest recipient of the Medal of Honor. "This kid is out there in the middle of nowhere with 300 Taliban charging him, and he's tremendously courageous and tremendously brave in taking them on and saving not only his fellow soldiers, but ultimately saving that base. Acts of that kind of bravery and courage go on often every day in a war zone."

Panetta said it's "difficult to think" that everybody "who performs in that kind of fashion" ought to get a "separate fund to try to assist them." He added that "the reality is, men and women in uniform put their lives on the line every day to sacrifice for this country." 

The SEAL in question, identified as "The Shooter" in the Esquire article, said he feels abandoned by the military.

In the article, titled "The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden ... Is Screwed," he described the killing of bin Laden by SEAL Team 6 in detail and also talked about his struggles to find work and protect his family since retiring in September, four years short of pension eligibility. 

Related: SEAL who shot bin Laden living 'like a mafia snitch,' reporter says 

TODAY.com's Scott Stump contributed to this report.