Do Navy SEALs Deserve To Retire Early?


Somehow SEAL years are not the same as human years. When it comes to the physical toll, Navy SEAL years damage the body, age the body, risk the body far more than other kinds of military service.  So maybe SEALs (and other Special Operations forces) should be eligible for an earlier retirement?

That might prevent the situation that is causing so much speculation in Esquire magazine about the Navy SEAL who killed Osama Bin Laden.  “The Shooter” is leaving the military with 16 years of service and hardly any benefits.  Author Phil Bronstein noted,

“What is much harder to understand is that a man with hundreds of successful war missions, one of the most decorated combat veterans of our age, who capped his career by terminating bin Laden, has no landing pad in civilian life.”

That doesn’t seem quite fair to me either. I know I know 80 percent of military members leave the service before retirement.  I know that none of them have much of a landing pad. I know studies have shown that those who have combat specialties have the hardest time getting jobs on the outside.  Even though I know what retirements cost the military, none of that seems fair to me.

But changing the way retirement works in the military doesn’t seem feasible either. When we questioned our users about whether retirement pay should differ depending on combat, hundreds of readers weighed in.  The majority acknowledged the risk and cost of combat, but they thought defining “combat” would be a nightmare.

Maybe when it comes to Special Operations it would be helpful to look at how military retirement actually functions in the military.  While Bronstein seems to think of military retirement pay as a reward, it actually is a retention tool.

Holding off on retirement pay until the 20 year mark incentivizes experienced servicemembers to stay in the military during the years that the civilian world is most interested in them as employees.

Servicemembers will agree to deploy again and again, or work high stress/low joy jobs, or fight the beltway traffic for a few more years in order to advance and get that retirement pay.  Retirement pay keeps people working when other incentives are in play.

The thing is, I don’t see how that 20-year retirement pay would serve to retain people in any of the Special Operations communities.  We need young SEALs and young Army Rangers and young Delta Force guys to do the kinds of feats so few people are capable of performing.  We still really need those older more experienced Special Forces members to provide that irreplaceable knowledge young people don’t have.  Isn’t experience sometimes the only thing that keeps people alive?

So would an earlier retirement pay work as a tool to keep them in the service when private security firms would lure them away?  Is it really more money what they are looking for?  Or is the work so dangerous and so marked by chance that no amount of money in the world would be worth it?

I just don’t know. I think SEALs are probably the only ones who can accurately predict SEAL behavior.  But I want us to be fair to them.  I want to be part of a country that treats warriors and their families in a just way. I just don’t know what that would look like, do you?

Take our poll and check out the results below.



About the Author

Jacey Eckhart
Jacey Eckhart is the former Director of Spouse and Family Programs for Since 1996, Eckhart’s take on military families has been featured in her syndicated column, her book The Homefront Club, and her award winning CDs These Boots and I Married a Spartan?? Most recently she has been featured as a military family subject matter expert on NBC Dateline, CBS morning news, CNN, NPR and the New York Times. Eckhart is an Air Force brat, a Navy wife and an Army mom. Find her at

125 Comments on "Do Navy SEALs Deserve To Retire Early?"

  1. As always, Jacey, extremely thought provoking. My first thought when I saw the story of "the shooter's" grumblings was "well you knew the rules when you signed up." But, it doesn't seem right. Here he has an extremely physical job and obviously felt the need to get out just short of his 20 years. Over 50% of the homeless on our streets are military veterans. Something needs to change. Our volunteer Congressional public servants meanwhile under the FERS "are eligible for a pension when they are 50 years old if they have completed 20 years of service and are eligible at any age after completing 25 years of service or after they reach 62." HOWEVER they have to serve at least 5 years to receive any pension. It seems that our military service members should also have the option to be eligible for a partial pension.

    • Carolyn you are kind of misrepresenting Congress retirement. FERS for Congress you can only withdraw at age 50. IF you have completed 20 years. In the military you can start withdrawing at 37 if that is when you reach your 20. If you have not completed 20 years you can not withdraw any pension until you reach age 62. The military earns their retirement rate at 2.5% a year with a cap at 75%. Congress has the cap but they only earn 1.7% a year for the first 20 years and only 1% a year after that meaning while the military reaches their cap at 30 years it takes a Congressman 67 years to reach theirs. Yes they receive a partial amount but honestly it would be a loss to military members to model their plan after FERs. Not to mention members can always participate in TSP so they have some sort of retirement if they don't make 20.

    • IF this guy is a SEAL he took a gamble by getting out early so he could capitalize on his celebrity, if you will. I am sure he wanted book rights, movie rights, and things he couldn't do while on acitve duty, etc. He gambled and may have lost. He would have been better off staying in at four more years.

    • Military members should have the same benefits as our Senators and Representatives. What us the cost of our govt. Senators, Reps. Their staff, their lawyers, the executive department and the legion of services provided to them. Our military PAY at the commissary and it is a small reward for their services.
      The bottom line is that our military defends our freedoms, what does our Congress etc. do for us?

    • Yes, absolutely yes, be able to retire early and increase combat pay for Navy Seals! I would propose that pay increase as the length of service increases as long as the skills are still there (you don't want someone hanging on for JUST the pay, which I don't think would be the case for most of these motivated warriors).

      Replying as a gust only because I have too many accounts now and can't remember my login info!.

  2. No, after 10 years there are other segments of they job they can apply to do like BUD/S trainer and other assignments. Why is he leaving? His choice? medical reasons? Did he meet his high tenure and not make promotion (SEALs are like anything else less slots in higher ranks)? There could be a million and one reasons for him leaving, none of which would change whether or not he should get retirement. Yes SOME combat position have hard time getting jobs but Navy SEALs are a bad example of that though, many special ops but particularly SEALs are practically guaranteed positions with companies like Blackwater and other contractors starting at 250K a year (more then likely why he is leaving). Not to mention he could do reserves for 4 more qualifying years and be eligible for his retirement (of course it would be reduced but he would get it.

    • now retired | March 3, 2013 at 7:23 pm |

      you can apply for other postings, but often the military will put you where they need you..

      in the last 4 years of my service I was home for about two months, and in line for an over due shore rotation, but as the "only" qualified operator on the east coast I was sent back to sea, on an already deployed unit. after another year I was able to get a lawyer and get the involuntary illegal extension challenged and was "allowed" to retire..

      let those who serve in the worst duties retire with a reduced pension at least

  3. Does not seem quite true to me. Has anyone verified this story? Is he who he says he is??

  4. No. The rules say 20 years for 50% retirement and other benefits. These people have my total respect for the great ability and effort it takes to 'make the grade.' But. These are voluntary positions. There are other military jobs that takes its toll on people. When a special forces member is burned out, physically/mentally unable or decides it is time for a change of job there is the opportunity to go to his/her basic MOS or change jobs in order to complete 20 years. Moving from special forces to another job 'is not' a step down. All jobs are necessary and all of us are a spoke in the wheel.

  5. Since the military is voluntary and all jobs are also, they chose their life and have to suffer for it. They get extra pay, perks and other stuff that the rest of themilitary doesn't get. Best gear,weapons vehicles and the honor of being the best of their service. They do the 20 like everyone else! That is the deal and is fair. Everyone cannot qualify to be a SEAL or a SF soldier. Those who get burned out in SPECOPS can go to training positions so not to lose their expierences. If not,they join the regular military and do police call!!

  6. No…absolutely not! This is a very slippery slope to start down. Where do you draw the line? Who qualifies? This SEAL had other options available to him and after 16 yrs he knew them, but he chose to get out short of retirement. While I appreciate his service and all he did, being a SEAL was his career choice, just like the Army Ranger, Air Force TACS, or Coast Guard rescue personnel. He has the GI bill and can get a degree and be paid while in school through the VA disability.

  7. Yes. Give them an early retirement option at 15 years or better and quietly thank them for their exceptional service. Yes, it's a slippery slop;, yes, they volunteered; and yes, they are more deserving of an early retirment option simply because of their unique skill set(s). We don't train every service member to the same level of expertise nor to absorb the emotional cost of routine killing; these personnel are unique. Treat their retirement options uniquely also. We want them to do the "up close and personal" work for our country and then throw out the "well, they volunteered" BS when it comes to treating their benefits differently. They are different and should be treated as such.

    • Mr. M. Arnold. The Navy SEAL that you are defending simply failed to follow a basic rule that is only followed by those of us that manages to do the twenty with pride and silence "Never fall for a carrott on a stick". He fell for it, now he must suffer the consequences. I'm sure that any Army long range recon team, not to mention any five RANGERS, could have accomplished the same mission without all the hype, and whoopdedo we got from the SEALS. The SEALS should zip it up and move on because we never know when the next FRAG Order will come accross our desk.

    • We don't train every service member to the same level of expertise nor to absorb the emotional cost of routine killing; these personnel are unique. Treat their retirement options uniquely also. We want them to do the "up close and personal" work for our country and then throw out the "well, they volunteered" BS when it comes to treating their benefits differently. They are different and should be treated as such."

      Completely agree with you!!

  8. Served 21 years | February 14, 2013 at 9:16 am |

    I'm pretty sure I speak for all retirees. I earned my retirement after 21 years. It is not a reward as Author Phil Bronstein noted.

    • You are correct. It is not a reward it is compensation for the years of service. I guess someone needs to either serve 20 plus years of service to our country, or read a dictionary and identify the differance between reward, and benefit..

  9. yup and soon cook and clerks will have to do thirty, tanker, infantry, artillery etc 25. BS, the rusle are what they are, they get rank faster, they get LARGE re-nelistment bonuses special skills pay etc… On top of that it has become more and more apparent the thier egos mostly wont fit in a standard size barracks room. the chose this path, perhaps they should be sidelined into another specialty if thier bodies cant take it anymore but no no early retirement.

  10. I entered the service in 1968 and retired 20 years later. I was commissioned as an armor officer after 4 years of enlisted service, I because of the management of my career was an Airborne and Ranger school graduate. I retired on my 44th birthday, I was at the physical end of the ability to do my job. I presently draw 70% VA disability in addition to retirement.
    This idea of allowing service members who are in the combat arm to receive additional "points" that will go toward retirement was being proposed very early in my career. Is it necessary, will it work, I have my reservations. To me the whole retirement system in the military is out of sink just like the disability system. I personally like to see a 401K or some type of retirement system that will allow all SM to leave the service with some type of retirement that can be taken at age 60 or later but is allowed to grow. As for the people who reach 20 or more years they would be give additional retirement that could be added to the 401K or taken as income. The problem with the disability system is that the military will label you a candy "butt" if you complain about injuries or illness that you suffer while on active duty so most of the disabilities for SM are never documented. I am in a fight now with the VA about the back pay for the training or combat injuries compensation back pay. In my case my knees (both have been replaced), my back and my hearing are all connected to being a tanker and jumping out of airplanes but alas the system makes it impossible to verify. I have strayed. The idea that SOF forces should be singled out for early retirement credits should, if adopted, be to all combat arms. I not with some interest that 1/3 of the army has never been deployed over seas, but that is the nature of war today.

    • CHUCK

      FYI: Ffor more than a decade now the military have been able to participate in the federal governements "Thrift Savings Program" (TSP) which is essentialy a 401K program.

  11. It seems to me a more equitable solution rather than make a specail class of veterans would be to automatically ALL veterans in the VA healthcare system. This would ensure healthcare for every veteran and would be inline with the goals of ObamaCare. It would also allow veterans to get in right away for services such as counseling.

  12. They could have a system where at the 15yr point they could be assigned to recruiter or trainer duty to continue to serve and impart their knowledge to younger members. Or a 401k system could be introduced to allow for retirement that can be taken before retirement to another job.

  13. SEALs can reclass just like other Service Members who get injured enough and can do their current job but can do other jobs.

  14. The SEALs have an incredibly difficult mission and DEVGRU is even more grueling than "normal" SOF operations. That being said, they receive preventive care, wellness programs, physical conditioning, physical therapy and post injury care not available to conventional forces. After 16 years of being told how special he is it is time for "the shooter" to come back to reality, "Big Navy" and the VA don't care what you did on active duty. After 16 years most SEALs should be in a less operational billet anyway.

  15. Most Reserve Force members serve 20 good years with 45 and 50 years of age and No benifits,like dental, medical or pension til age 60 years and some die before they get a pension check,how about them!

  16. Yeah, BS. The Navy Seals freely signed the dotted line to volunter for Active Duty Service, they also voluntered to try out for and make the Seal team. No one forced them to do any of this. If the duties they are currently assigned to are wearing them out, then they have the option of leaving the service when their term of service is up, 2; retrain to a new career field, 3; return to the career filed they left to become a Navy Seal. IF, I say IF early retirment is granted to SEALs it should be offered to only at a pro-rated retirment rate. No bonus, no way 50%.

    • Derek, you're a clueless moron! You have no idea how many thousands of American lives these people have saved by thwarting terrorists attacks on U.S. soil! If if weren't for them you might well be breathing in anthrax spores, or dying from cancer from the fallout of a dirty nuclear bomb! If we can pay 100% for life to some idiotic congressman who only did 4 years in office and thinks the island of Guam could "Flip Over" if we move 8k marines there, I think we could afford to give the top 1% of our militaries best 100% after 10 years of duty!

      • Dallas you are just as "clueless" do a search on FERS it is the retirement system congress has been under for decades. After 4 years you qualify for NOTHING you must have at least 5 years and you don't get it until no earlier than age 50 and no member unless they serves like 50 years gets anywhere close to 100% the 5 year member actuillay gets, when he gets it next to nothing.

  17. I agree with 95% of the others. These guys volunteered for the duty, get FAT bonuses and special pays and could go into dozens of other jobs that are not physically demanding when they can no longer cut the mustard.

  18. How can you judge what you dont know… You have no idea what they have been through. Retirement at 15 years is good for me and should be for most AMERICANS they protect! SOMEONE has to volunteer!

    • Negative. 20 is the rule (30 for max pay benefits) that many of us have lived with for decades (and as long as I can remember since my Grandad retired in '73 at 30 years). I served 8 years in the Corps. I left recovering from a torn MCL in one knee and constant ringing in my ears because I didn't want to look like a pussy for going to sick call, just like everyone else I knew. And when I left I knew I wasn't getting shit except a keg party and a K-Bar from my platoon…and I was ok with that because it was my choice. A decade later and I'm doing ok without being a SEAL from Team Six with all the hookups. And to be clear, there ain't a shortage of volunteers these days.

      • I guess some of my choice words got my prior attempt cut so I'll clean it up for decent folks…

        Negative. 20 is the rule that we've all lived with for decades. I served 8 years in the Corps. I left recovering from a torn MCL and constant ringing in my ears because just like everyone I knew I didn't want to be sick call commando. I knew all I was getting was a keg party and a K-Bar from my platoon but I was ok with it and it was my choice. We serve our commitment, we draw our pay and benefits while doing so. If we want the pay and benefits to continue beyond, we serve 20 or more plain and simple. Money don't grow on trees and the Federal budget ain't a fairy tale.

    • Thank you, common sense is alive and well due to people like you that see the big picture

  19. Do 20 and retire quit crying a Seal is no more important than a navy corpsman serving with the marines or a foot soldier in the army or a fighter pilot than flies cover for them all in the military are important and lots of jobs that are stressful it goes with the program do 20 and dont complain

  20. One size fits all in the military. No special retirement for anyone.






  22. tired old man | February 17, 2013 at 3:25 am |

    He probably got tempted by seeing the money contractors made/make and it didn't cut to his personal spec. I saw that happen more frequently than I liked while I was in. Navy ROV operators lured away by oil companies. The rules say 20. Everyone who signs does 20; that's the way it has been and should be. If he had stayed for twenty I'm sure his awards for valor would have added even more money to his retirement (yes they do, look it up) probably to the point that he would have gotten retirement as if he did 24-26 years, for only doing twenty.

  23. RetiredMarine | February 17, 2013 at 4:06 am |

    I do not agree that Seals or any other Special Forces group should be able to retire any earlier then the required 20 years, unless it is because of medical reason. However I would say, that not only Seals all military services members combat record should be accounted for when retiring. I would say that combat should depending on where, when and what you did should be looked at when figuring the dollar figure attached to retirement. A point system of some sort should be established for combat while on active duty and extra retirement points would equate to extra money in your retirement check. I mean look at it this way, the military primary mission for all members is combat. Everybody that enters the United States Military like it or not, agree with it or not enlisted in the military to fight for their country. Now some members of the military may go their entire career and are never shot at or enter a combat zone. Whether or not your combat is being attached to the ground side of the house or the wing side of the house makes no differents. And if during your time in the military at retirement showed that you were in combat somewhere, some place then you should receive extra points towards extra money in your monthly retirement check. If while in the military, you decided that you wanted to live/work a bit more on the edge and decided to sign up for one of the many Special Forces groups, then yes at the end of your career your combat time, actual combat time is translated into points and those points are tallied and translated into extra money in your retired check. But I do not agree that Seals or any other Special Service groups should be able to retire any earlier then the required 20 years.

  24. Here is the thing, it's not popular…among military circles to point out…no not all MOSs are created equal. No not all deployments are combat related…and therefore…no not all deployments take the same toll on bodies, minds or spirits. Those are the facts. Period. My husband is not a SEAL, but he has done 5 combat tours…those tours are a different beast then say a cook, or a PAC clerk, that's not being unfair…it's stating a reality.
    We can't be so blinded by political correctness, or so full or of our own red, white and blue b.s. that we can't stop for a moment and reflect on this with logic…and more importantly compassion.
    These are human beings. Not robots, not the Terminator. 15 years as a SEAL is likely equal to 40 as a cook or PAC clerk….combat tours take a much greater toll on a person, and their family. Those things should definitely be considered when restructuring the retirement.

  25. Seals have all underwent "Hell Week" and have 6 months of additional training after basic Navy sailor training.. Surely they should have more retirement than the average dogface..

  26. What ever happened to that deal that allowed "special" dudes to include all pay and allowances to calculate there retirement check? Did that ever actually take effect? If it did I would say that is there "special" benefit for volunteering.

  27. I certainly respect every Spec Ops person for their commitment. They did volunteer. They do get extra pay. for jumping, being in hazardous duty areas, etc. They choose their life and their duty. There have been many, many spec ops over the years. They all made their choices and experienced the positives and the negatives of their work. Unless we are getting a softer breed of man (NOT) most would not want any more special rewards that those that served during WWI, WWII, Korea, Viet Nam, and earlier Middle East actions. No they should not get early out without medical reasons. No they should not get special retirement pay. If they are tired of doing what they do, they can resign or not reenlist. As has already been said, most have a much higher salary after their military experience working for private firms.

  28. If Congresspersons and Senators get full retirement after only a few years, maybe Special Ops (who train to a much higher level) deserve some extra consideration.

  29. The more "hostile environment " a person sees, the closer to retirement they should get. To be in hostile situations for twenty years while others see1 or 2 or 3 maybe 4 or 5 tours. What about those who never see a combat zone? Why is everyone treated the same ? The teams see more than anyone…….

  30. 15 years as Seals or special ops then the option to take a less rigirious job or retire.

  31. They already get to retire early. Remember, the rest of us retire after 65 or 70. These guys are generally retiring before they are 40. That means for working 20 years, they will continue to be paid another 25-30 years for doing nothing – while they catch up to the rest of us.
    Also, how stupid is it that you want to create new incentives for our most highly trained men to leave the service. Give these guys opportunities to contribute, increase their pay, and add value thru service. We should be looking for ways to incent them to stay – not leave. Perhaps we also need to relax the medical requirements and allow some medical disabilities in exchange for the vast benefit we would gain for their years of experience.

  32. The incentives and money should be on the front end. Increased proficiency pay for more technical trained and special forces as well as increased hazardous duty pay for more dangerous jobs. Also increase the re-up incentives for improved retention. Although I volunteered back when everyone who was physically able was being drafted, I wouldn't take anything for my time. But since we now no longer have a draft. Let the ones who are living in the home of the free and the brave who DIDN'T WANT OR BELIEVE IN THE DRAFT, let them be taxed more to pay those who do serve and protect. Then their liberal asses can feel justified for not serving their country.

  33. Funny….If all of you would say and fight for the same thing about your Congressmen and Congresswomen and Senators, just imagine how much money we could help knock off of the USG debt every year. Hell, these elected officials only have to do 4 years, I think. I do agree that they could be given alternate positions to make their 20 though.

  34. Hell yes they should get to retire early. US Representatives and Senators need a full five (5) years in congress to retire with full benefits. So get this, some inept deadbeat who got elected to the 111 Congress in 209 was in session 163 days and another 128 days in 2010 for a total of 291 days out while you were on duty around 670 days for those two years. Then this same powder puff got reelected to the 112 Congress and was in session aan entire 330 days while you, again, were on duty another 670 days. Mr. Powder Puff just got reelected to the 113 Congress and if he makes it thru this year, he gets a full retirement for being in session 770 total days. The only hazards they have are not getting a free drink at lunch, being caught with a page (either sex) in a mad embrace, or not scoring on a free trip somewhere.

  35. Yes they do,time severed plus age and type of M.O.

  36. Yes. You have to consider the M.O. Time ,age ,and any VA disability .

  37. When America goes to war they never count on medical after the war. The Seals know what they signed up for. Added compensation yes. I served 4 years active 2 years reserve. On a ship my farther help to build in 1941. My (M. O. ) Include, Brooklyn, Grate Lakes,5 Navy and 2 Marine bases in California ,,1 in Yuma,AZ ,Jacksonville, Fl, all stations, VA beach VA ,all bases. O-yes the Aleutian Islands, Japan,Korea, Hong Kong,Macao, Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club . Saudis over Cambodia,Laos,and I forgot everything after. O know Mr Bill – Iceland,never forget that. Back to the Medical, some of us have no Agent Orange Health Care because of President Bush. Blue Water Navy Veterans 1964 to 1975.Korea (DMZ) 1968 to 1971. Korea Dates took effect Feb 24,2011. All 48 to 50th years later,most of us are dead . Thing of the after consequent s, you can pay for the conflicts and the war, but after,who comes home a person . I did 12 months boot camp,20 months top gun school. A 3rd class P.O. ( that's a long story ), a green shirt ,then a brown shirt plane captain.(turtle neck). Thank You All That Serve ,and God Bless. M.A.G.

  38. Absolutely! I asked an AF PJ friend of mine how in Gods name he managed to keep up the pace of training to what amounts to the level of a world class athelete for 20 years, he said, "We Lie to the Doc's", During our annual physicals and interim checkups whenever a dr. asks how I'm doing I tell him I'm fine, I don't mention the unending pain from a compressed spine, or how bad my knees, shoulder, hips, etc. hurt, I live on 800 mg motrins (which the dr's happily provide in 1,000 pack bottles).

  39. I know and have known many of the guys in the special operations community, green berets, AF PJ's, Seals, Marine Force Recon, AF Combat Controllers, and others, and the one overlying common factor they all have is a fierce desire to succeed in their assigned missions, these guys are truly the best this nation has to offer, they litterally would rather die than quit, and they will willingly lay their lives on the line and give them up if necessary so that others may live. This is not just a motto, this is an absolute fact and not something most people understand!

  40. Comparatively speaking the average NFL career is something less than 6 months, Spec Ops personnel are required to maintain a world class fitness level in running, swimming, and strength training for 20 years in order to obtain a retirement, the same retirement as for example, an office clerk! Yes, they have lots of incentive pay, but not many of them make it to retirement due to the physical and mental stress of the job. In my opinion the retirement age for spec ops warriors should be halved to 10 years and upped to 100% of their gross pay! I mean, after all, congressmen get elected for one term and they receive 100% of their pay for "Life". The best of the best in our military should receive no less! Either that or make congressmen and women work for 20 years for a retirement that equates to less than 50% of their base pay!

  41. For all of you unpatriotic, clueless, non-hacker scumbags who insist on making ignorant comments about something you know little to nothing about, please feel free to take your sorry butts across the border! Yes, they're volunteers! And they're volunteering to defend "YOU"! You sorry jackasses!

  42. Perhaps you should put this question to SMG (Retired) Billy Waugh…

  43. What's the source for your opening statement? I'm in the regular old, un-sexy infantry. I'd argue that many times the SOF personnel have things easier than many others.

  44. As a Special Forces retiree, that's the stupidest article I've ever read,

  45. mineisbigger | February 20, 2013 at 8:05 pm |

    We are all prisoners of the moment…next week this won't be an issue. Long story short…no…they should not get early retirement. Besides…once women join their ranks…rigorous physical requirements will inevitably become less demanding…significantly reducing wear & tear on their bodies.

  46. NO. Like any other specialty by this time they are a wealth of knowledge and experience. There must be plenty of other training and support positions. After Bengahzi it seems we need to dress them up and put them in embassies.

  47. SF's are such a small percentage of the entire military, They got to where they ate by applying himself, verses a desk jockey who may suffer a paper cut, these SF guys are the cream of the crop and deserve the perks

  48. Someone with 15 years or more of service are the ones training their replacements. If their careers are managed well they should be the trainers until they make the 20 year retirement target. It's not a garantee but after 18 years of Active service most COs will carry those military members who still show up for work even with medical conditions that would usually force them into an early separation prior to 20 years of active service.

  49. Gunfighter26 | February 20, 2013 at 9:57 pm |

    No. They can stay on as the "elder" SEAL and pass on their crucial corporate knowledge to the up and coming younger generation of SOF operators and finish out their 20 or even 30 years. I was an enlisted infantryman for nearly 10 years including six and half years as a Dual Qualified Force Recon Marine, they're right, the rugged demanding lifestyle definitely wears you down, plus now I had a family. So I moved on, got commissioned, and became a Naval Aviator and served another 25 years before retiring with nearly 35 years of active duty. Suck it up, pay your dues, but in another capacity.

  50. George N. Roll, Ltc. (ret.) USAF | February 20, 2013 at 10:20 pm |
  51. George N. Roll, Ltc. (ret.) USAF | February 20, 2013 at 11:21 pm |

    I served over 30 years on active duty many of those years in Specia Ops, CCT, TACP JCU Combat Comm,etc. I have worked with all US and many foreign Spec Ops Units. my body took a beating as did the bodies of most other Spec Ops personnel. My point is I have some knowledge of the situation so my opinion may be of some value. I am not in favor of any blanket early retirement for SOF guys. thare is medical retirement for those who are disabled. When an operator becomes too beat up for operational missions he can move into other areas where his expertise are invaluable training, intel. Ops Planning recuiting. In any of these his experience and decoration will make him stand out and facilitate rapid promotions. Therefore it is advisable to serve out his full career, not quit because he is tired and having a tough time keeping up with the young kids. I led unit PT at an age when I had been in service longer than my younger troops had been alive.

  52. I was a human test subject for ejection seats in the Navy. I got $85 a month hazardous duty pay after taxes. I worked my regular job as an aircraft engine mechanic when I didn't have a test. It was a volunteer position. I knew the dangers and I did get injured. I got the same pay when I worked the flight deck. I have never asked for anything special and I don't think the majority of SF are either.

  53. I did my 20, that's the law. I loved it and would have stayed 30, but for my late wife. I totaly agree with the comments it's vountary, but consider that a senitor or rep. can do one tour and retire with full bennies.Is it the verbal battles? Laws can be changed.

  54. In the Navy they say "Choose your Rate…Choose your Fate" for a reason…no one is ever forced to become a SEAL….if they choose to make that choice, they need to follow the same rules as everyone else when it comes to retirement!

  55. Terry Menville | February 21, 2013 at 11:04 am |

    The SEALS' bodies do take a beating much more than the average sailor, but when you consider other branches such as the Marines, do you let all Marines retire early as well? They bodies take a real beating. I have a 27 year old son who was a Marine and he has a lot of damage to his body than the average person his age due to the demands put on it in combat. If SEALS are allowed to retire early with full retirement benefits than so should other combat forces. Who decides who is eligible? That would become a complex issue. Do I believe they should be allowed to retire early? Yes, but you have so many variables to consider. Let them retire with partial benefits and give that option to other close combat forces as well.

  56. No. They can stay on as the "elder" SEAL and pass on their crucial corporate knowledge to the up and coming younger generation of SOF operators and finish out their 20 or even 30 years. I was an enlisted infantryman for nearly 10 years including six and half years as a Dual Qualified Force Recon Marine, they're right, the rugged lifestyle definitely wears you down, plus now I had a family. So I moved on and got commissioned and became a Naval Aviator and served another 25 years before retiring with nearly 35 years of continuous active duty. Suck it up, pay your dues, but in another capacity with the Navy.

  57. Active combat forces should be given time and a half credit toward retirement. Anyone working in civilian life receives time and a half pay for all overtime completed. The combat forces are working around the clock in most cases. Our special ops personnel spend an inordinate amount of time preparing for combat and perform their mission without fail. They are constantly moving in and out or combat situations, and should be compensated for it at least in the form of extra time credit toward retirement. I was a volunteer and spent 23 years active duty and served 42 months in a combat zone, and I dont see anything wrong for compensating the people that you constantly rely on to put their lives on constantly.

  58. The military has a savings program but it is not a 401k type program where the amount you deposit is matched or exceeded. I like the idea of a 401k type program where you can take it with you if you leave the service early. Most branches have an early retirement program at 15 years, with reduced benefits. It is true that most special operations folks can make big money being a civilian, so they leave early. Since our retirement benefits are being eroded all the time, maybe a 401k program is the next option, then you can stay in as long as the military needs you. Just an opinion mind you.

  59. Obviously, SEALs and related combat troops cannot perform at the levels required when they get in their late 30s, 40s, or so, even if their worst is better than my best! I concur that they should get early retirement. However, if it's absolutely necessary to complete their 20, they COULD be assigned to less stressful and strenuous posts later in life, such as training FUTURE SEALs, and CIA operatives in our embassies, work in their specialty qualification skills, or even security guard jobs, if that's not too much of a step-down?

  60. Take the word fair out. Life is not fair. You signed the contract now deal with it. What about the Grunt, he has no special training but he goes into combat and puts his body through the same stuff a seal does.

  61. No, I was a submariner volunteer for 22 years and I new and understood that when I volunteered.

  62. What happen to all the money he made from his book??? I thought that was his new career move. Maybe he thought he would get so much money he would never have to work again. I guess we will never know the truth unless he writes another book. Is he tired of his 10 minutes of fame??

  63. ParaFrog Devil Dog | February 23, 2013 at 1:34 am |

    No! They can stay on as the "elder" SEAL and pass on their crucial corporate knowledge to the up and coming younger generation of SOF operators and finish out their 20 or even 30 years. I was an enlisted infantryman for nearly 10 years including six and half years as a Para Frog Qualified Force Recon Marine, they're right, the rugged lifestyle definitely wears you down, plus now I had a family. So I moved on and got commissioned and became a Naval Aviator and served another 25 years before retiring with nearly 35 years of continuous active duty. Suck it up, pay your dues, but in another capacity with the Navy.

  64. Needless to say I strongly disagree, I WAS IN THE SF IN VIETNAM, but it is not for that reason that I speak-up. I had a best friend who was a SEAL, in fact he is enshrined in the SEAL Hall of Fame. He jumped in front of some of Neurigia 's body guards that were going to kill another Seal. He saved this SEAL's life but in the process he was shot and hacked with machetes, to the point it took 1,600 stitches and staples to put him together. He stayed in and went in on Dessert Storm where he was shot again and received lung damage from breathing the fumes of all the oil wells on fire. They released him from service with 3 Purple Hearts, the Silver Star, and a chest full of other medals, but he had no complaint. He stayed in his SEAL shape physically but last December he dropped dead with a heart attack at the age of 40. You can't tell me his service in the SEAL's didn't greatly shorten his life.

  65. There can be no argument concerning the extra rigors and combat experience they possess due to the numerous combat assignments and training they have endured. But that is just it. Do we give a SEAL who has been lucky enough to endure 5-6 assignments the same retirement benefit as a SEAL who has experienced 15-20 combat assignments. Should each combat assignment give you a certain amount of points and when you have amassed a certain amount of points you are entitled to special benefits. And how do you measure the amount of comat involved in each assignment? That is what is going to happen. It's going to get ridiculous.

    When you volunteer for Spec Ops you knew that you would still have to put in 20 years. Plus nothing stops youj from transferring out of Spc. Ops.

    I, for one, damn near idolize Spec Ops. Lately they have been seeing a lot of praise and media coverage and they deserve it. But I sincerely believe that is where it ends. Sorry guys. God bless you all.

  66. Knowing that our President likes to create jobs, he has the best trained soilders in the world. It should be easy to build a platform for these men to land on at retirement. Just think of the possibitles!

  67. As a former Airborne Infantryman, may I make a suggestion? After 10 or 15 years of SEAL/Ranger?Green Beret duty, one can transfer into Military Intelligence (as I did) , Public Affairs, etc., for their remaining service time. By so doing, they'd earn (and experience) a skill they can use once they retire. Police Departments utilize crime annalist who are often civilian members of the police department (ie. Kansas City MO PD) and newspaper, TV, Radio stations are full of ex-military Public Affairs journalist, photographers, broadcasters. I know, it's difficult to remain Special Operations for one's entire 20 years of military service.

  68. I do know that when our government co-opts a foreign agent they go out of their way to compensate these turncoats but our folks are left to rot on the beach for the most part….some of these folks have performed above the call for many missions and they deserve a good look..

  69. G. Wesselhoft | February 24, 2013 at 10:01 pm |

    The air controllers have early retirement as well as members of the CIA under the heading of "Arduous
    Duty" After reading "No Easy Day" I would say that their work comes under the heading of "ADuty". How many other agencies of the federal government have early retirement under those auspices? I suspect the FBI, Marshalls et al also have the option. /wes/

  70. My immediate answer is NO. Saying a SEAL's service is more important than another member's service is crazy. Anyone who signs their name to the dotted line should get equal rewards when they retire. I am a big fan of the Seals, but this is a volunteer military. If the DoD starts playing favorites, it will never stop!

    Just my thoughts.


  71. Being at SEAL team 6 he would have bee eligible for "shore duty" Most shore tours at teh SNCO ;evel are around 3 years and at 19 he would have left where he was rather than be transfered with less than a year to 20

    There are plenty of jobs the Navy could have found this guy, being some sort of instrutor at BUDS or just an "advisor" they have pistol/rifle ranges he could have been a range master, base security is not TOTALLY "privatised" he could have been a recruiter or pushed boots in Great Lakes, taught firefighting or damage control school or some other "generic" school any number of things maybe not as high speed low drag as ST6 but he was the one that did want to or could not do that anymore.

  72. How about the guy I work with every day who was blown up by 3 separate IEDs and lost his arm? Is he not special enough to be considered because he doesn't fall under socom? Yet some 20 year old who makes it through buds is considered to be the ultimate warrior after less than 2 years of service and no combat? Absurd! Besides, if you had any idea how much scamming of the system to get extra pay happens in the seals then people would quit feeling sorry for these guys fast. Seals are the best self marketers the military has ever seen, screaming about their victories and keeping the gun smuggling, assaults, graft, and general douchebaggery under wraps as much as possible. What kind of group claims to be silent professionals and then makes movies about themselves along with tons of books? Wake up people. We are still getting our butts kicked by a bunch of guys wearing flip flops and man dresses after 11 years of war. If seals really were so badass, then why is that the case? It will be funny to watch as the American public slowly realizes that some of these guys are using their notoriety to get even more special privileges.

  73. It absolutely is about money IF the decision is made to grant the Seals benefits who don't serve for 20 years. If we are going to give retirement and health benefits to Seals who want to retire at 16 years instead of 20, who do you think is going to pay for it? How about we take a chunk of money out of the retirement pay for all the service members who DID stay in for 20+ years and we'll use that money to pay for it? Does that seem fair? I agree with everything else you said … every word!!! But if we suddenly decide to give this guy (and all the Seals) retirement benefits if they get out before serving 20, then we have to pay for it. I don't think he should get benefits, but if Congress were to suddenly decide that he should, the money has to come from somewhere.

  74. Well said. Not to mention that this guy COULD have received a MASSIVE re-enlistment bonus at 19 years, if he were to re-up for another 4-6 years…I'm talking nearly $120,000. At that point, he could request to go to a training or support command for the remainder of his service time and collect his money. Additionally I fully support that you say, "most guys in Special Operations feel like him". These guys are there doing what they love and they know that at ANY ANY ANY ANY time they want, they can leave the ALL VOLUNTARY Special Forces. Will he still be a SEAL, sure he will, just not a deploying combat fighting SEAL.

  75. Well put Sarah!

  76. elizaquesama | February 22, 2013 at 3:56 pm |

    "I think an operator who asks for an early out has never made the full commitment and is only concerned with what he can get for himself."

    You sound bitter.

  77. Justathought | February 16, 2013 at 9:20 am |

    Isn't that exactly what he is doing by going to congress? Fighting for what he thinks he deserves? I'm sorry about your husband and hope for the best in your future endeavors. Is it fair that the CEO of GM gets more in retirement benefits then the plant worker who drives the forklift? Yes because he decided to go to school and receive additional education to allow him to occupy a CEO position. If you want the best of the best in these positions you have to pay them! If your going to pay them more which the military currently does that means they value them more then your average solider / sailor / marine. So purely from a numbers standpoint We pay them more, we ask more of them, they take more risk, pay a high price physically and mentally and yet we want them to take the forklift retirement? How will you continue to get the same caliber of individual in these positions if that is the case? I'm sure this will stir emotions but bottom line is if all things are equal why didn't they send the Marines after Bin Laden?

  78. IIRC, 0% can be expanded later. It means they acknowledge there's an issue.

    At the same time, given they're retaining people with missing limbs, there should be a way to retain willing troops capable of doing some form of support, training, etc.

    And I thought that after 13 years the Army was required to treat you as career and provide at least partial pension on a discharge. A medical pension is usually 100% of current pay grade.

    OTOH, the way they've cut things of late, this may all have changed.

  79. i guess my response to you is , we give our 1 term congress men/women thier retirement for life after one 2 year term,why not stop that and save millions each year.

  80. Not sure I understand what makes Seals special for retirement. I know plenty of infantrymen who have seen much more action than Seals, their problem is they didn't fly in a helicopter supported by half the DOD and shoot Bin Laden

  81. Try putting your FEET in a SEAL's or SPECIAL FORCES boots then make that statement.

  82. John RaspanteMSgtRet | February 23, 2013 at 5:14 pm |

    Well, I'm USAF retired but I have served with several Navy deployment activities. As I understand it, the Navy has a special retirement plan whereby sea time counts twice I think for retirement. That is, three years at sea allows for retirement at seventeen years instead of the normal twenty.. I think they go into fleet reserve, and are eligible for re-activation if needed. Sea time is easily measured, SpecOps would be somewhat harder .

  83. Like she said rules are rules. Special Ops people knew the story from day 1 and if they want out early thats their choice and they know they are not going to get any thing but a hand shake and a reminder that their security agreement is still in force. Even if the damage to their bodies has taken it's toll these men are still needed to teach, plan, conduct research & development of new equipment and carry out many other duties that could, at a minimum, carry them to at least 20 years of service if not more.

  84. NSW Operator | February 26, 2013 at 7:45 pm |

    MilSpouse, I agree with what you say across the board, but, Don't forget that Navy SEALs put their bodies through a tremendous amount of physical stress like no other. As a SEAL becomes older and the body is in the clear path of breaking down, you have no choice but to keep pushing the limits to accomplish the mission. Yes a SPECWAR / SPECOPS warrior should retire early. Unlike the rest you've mentioned. Yes all of the occupations you've mentioned are dangerous. Lets just focus on the the wear and tear on the bodies of these brave men. The TEAMs


  86. We all know the Congress and the Senate are overcompensated. The issue is whether Seals should be given special treatment when it comes to retirement or should they be treated like any other servicemember who does their job for 20 years. When we make a group special, there can be negative affects because some will think they should get more. Some may think they can do whatever they want because they are so special that they will be forgiven for things that the others would get in trouble for. Sometimes, those special people can create morale issues and can have a negative impact on "good discipline and good order". Doesn't the military instill the idea of team instead of "I"? It seems to me that each person has their contribution to make and if all those parts are missing or don't work properly, the mission will fail. The Seals knew the rules for obtaining retirement benefits and they also made the choice to become Seals so I really don't understand why this has become an issue.

  87. Well said. Thank you!!!

  88. It is ridiculous to even think about giving service members a pension at less than twenty years regardless of MOS. This guy interviewed in Esquire sounds like a fake, wanna be SEAL. Is there a SEAL on earth that stupid to think he can get out at 16 and expect the same benefits as someone getting out at 20 or more years?

  89. Wrong! You should do some more research.

  90. We're not Russia.

  91. You may be right (I don't know everything), but in my 24 years Naval service I have never heard of this, nor been offered it or qualified for it. All retired Navy sailors "serve" in the Fleet Reserve, in a drilling or in an inactive status (and eligible for re-activation), until their combined active and reserve time totals at least 30 years. But to earn retirement before 20 years active service is a fabrication of facts. Sailors and officers normally serve about half of their first 16 years in a sea duty command. After that, specialties and service needs dictate assignments. Isolated duty assignments also do NOT earn extra time toward retirement even though the hardships and family separation that come with those jobs might justify "double counting."

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