Statement from VA Secretary Bob McDonald


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Earlier today, Sec. Bob McDonald spoke with reporters and answered several questions. Here is his statement to Veterans:

“While I was in Los Angeles engaging a homeless man to determine his Veteran status, I asked the man where he had served in the military.

He responded that he had served in Special Forces. In an attempt to connect with that Veteran to make him feel comfortable, I incorrectly stated that I, too, had been in Special Forces. That was wrong. I have no excuse.

I have great respect for those who have served our nation in Special Forces. They, and all Veterans, deserve a Department of Veterans Affairs that provides them the care and benefits they have earned.

We at VA are working to restore trust. Again, I apologize to those who may have been offended by my misstatement. We remain very focused on continuing our progress to better serve Veterans.”

Photo by Reynaldo Leal/VA.

Photo by Reynaldo Leal/VA.

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The Office of Media Relations serves as the interface with news media representatives from newspapers and electronic media for the Department. OMR arranges interviews, provides press releases and answers media queries.

Comments

  1. Juan B. Gonzalez Charon    

    It looks to me that Secretary McDonald is trying to do a good job for the VA. This is a vet that would need to explain to whoever is sending this email, that not everybody has the luck in not having their records screwed up as mines. Why does the V.A. mail these Vet Choice Card, when what this program may have is “that no” has investigated who’s records are so screwed up that the agency that receives the phone calls for eligibility says that they have no such records of individuals as myself that are not close to the 30 day appointment schedule as me ( 30 to 90 days) wait time but the V.A. hospital does not have their records up to date and would cause them to stay waiting for appointments that they may never see or died before schedule as people have with the same decease I have. So instead of maybe wasting money emailing these incorrect messages time should be use in really knowing who is being put in life jeopardy because of screwed up records.
    To Who it May Concerned.
    Army/Navy 77- 87

  2. Larry D    

    Secretary McDonald seems to be doing a good job improving the VA. I am a Vietnam Vet and very interested and grateful to see the VA finally get the support it needs. It would be too bad to remove a talent the VA needs if not necessary. I think Mr. McDonald really did misspeak at the moment for no personal gain, but to make conversation. The difference between Training for Special Forces and Serving in Special Forces is a huge difference to anyone that served, but are similar when talked about. I’m sure he regrets the statement and will work even harder if he stays.

  3. Larry    

    It looks to me that Secretary McDonald is trying to do a good job for the VA and a lot is getting done right now. I am a Vietnam Vet and very glad to see the progress at the VA. I do think he misspoke unintentionally at the moment for no personal gain. The distinction between being trained Special Forces and having served Special Forces is a huge difference to the ones that have served but there is a connection and I think he just, at the moment, messed up. I think he has some very high level skills that can help make the VA better all around and I would hate to through that away for a mistake.

  4. bruce a. nye    

    I have read all the above comments. I am a Veteran of the “Forgotten War”, Korean Conflict, Police Action, or what ever you wish to call it. I enlisted in the US Air Force on 1-5-51 and served until 8-11-54. I could leave this comment at this present point, and anyone reading it could interpret it In any way they wanted to. I however feel compelled to go a little further. I NEVER was sent to Korea, I was instead sent to small RAF Base in England (RAF Station Brize Norton) where I stayed for 3 years and 1 month. The base was eventually turned over to the USAF. Had I been asked to go to Korea for any reason, I would have gladly gone, however I wasn’t, so there I was. As a result of my station assignment, I was never shot at, and I never shot at anyone. I always inform those who I talk to about my service that was in England not Korea. I do not feel that it is appropriate for anyone to let others believe they are something or someone other than what they really were. Because I was assigned to the Air Police Squadron as a administrative Clerk (70230) I was placed in the position of having to be part of the group that had to “defend” the perminetr of the base in case we were attacked. In this capacity, I had to learn how to fire (many times at targets) all of the small arms, 45’s to 50 Cal. machine guns, and to learn Combat and advanced Combat training. Why I never figured out, the old saying is” its not for me to reason why, just do o die”. I am now 60% disabled because of hearing loss, service connected. I guess I can see why Bob did what he did, and I think I can forgive him, I just hope he never does it again. however I do feel that it will probably happen again and would never be revealed. On the plus side, I can see a marked improvement in my Audio, and physical care. I go to the Myrtle Beach Medical Clinic Myrtle Beach SC, and the Ralph Johnson VA Medical Hospital in Charleston SC. My care is of the best, and has improved over the last year. I just hope Bob can continue in his quest for the best, and not try to be someone or pretend he did something that he really didn’t do. In my case, I can look myself in the mirror each morning and know that “yesterday I was very honest, and that today will be the same.

  5. Jon    

    Why is everyone so quick to cut this liar a brake. If anyone else went around claiming to be SF, Ranger, SEAL, etc. and was found out he would catch hell in a hot second. He deserves a place on the wall of shame. He did not need to lie about his military background to make a connection with a veteran. One has to wonder how much of what comes out of his mouth are lies. Another question is why can’t he say “I lied” instead of I misspoke? This type of whitewash is getting worse as time goes by with government officials. This makes me ill!

  6. Charles    

    You have 110% of my support!

  7. Steven K Tallman    

    Secretary Bob has restored the trust of myself and many other veterans. He is out there making a difference for those that have served their Country. He is a great leader and I give him my full support. I am grateful for what V.A. has done for my family and I. Thank you Bob for your hard work and dedication and keep up the great work.

  8. SPE 5 Ron Hooker    

    No sweat !
    If you didn’t make mistakes you would be doing anything !
    No ones perfect.
    Took guts to stand up
    Thank You for having our six !
    I’m 100% disabled VNV service connected

  9. Toms.    

    I am a Marine Viet Nam vet – NO Apology Not accepted Bob !! Just more of the Obama administration LIARS. There is no excuse for taking credit for doing something in the military that you did not do. Why In the world would you lie about something like that ??

  10. Brian    

    It’s brave to make a public statement, but how many media and politicians have been outed for saying they were in specific combat situations they weren’t.

    Still proud of our military, just wish they got more credit and less restrictions.

  11. SFC(R) Jeremy Ellis    

    Lying about what you were in the Army to “connect” with a homeless Vet is still not correct. As the Head of the VA and West Point grad along with being a former Officer, he knows better. He is paid to know the difference…

  12. David Devaney    

    So The Secretary and Brian Williams should both be executed? Come on people. Let’s look at our lives for a minute. That’s how long it would take to find where we have made a mistake.

  13. David Devaney    

    So him and Brian Williams should both be executed?. Come on people. Look at the good that both of these people have done. Then we should look at our lives. How many mistakes have we made? We need to give people a chance.

  14. Gary Hicks    

    DoD lists about 16 career fields as US Special Forces which include: Navy Seals, Air Force PJs, Marine CSO and …. yes, Army Rangers.

    Bob may have not been in a Ranger unit, but he was still a Ranger –he earned the tab.

    If a Navy SEAL is not currently on a team, is he no longer a SEAL? If a Green Beret takes a desk job at the Pentagon, is he no longer US Army Special Forces? If Bob was a Ranger, but not in a unit, does that take away his Ranger status too?

    A friend of mine served three years in a Special Operations group at Ft. Bragg and deployed at least twice with them. He never earned a tab and never went to jump school. Was he U.S. Army Special Forces? Afraid not.

    It seems to me that my fellow Army Veterans only recognize U.S. Army Special Forces as Special Forces, when in fact the Department of Defense lists numerous Special Operations identifiers. In my opinion, these men earned the right to be called Special Forces. They completed training that many could not and I think that outweighs which unit Personnel assigned them to.

  15. Pam B    

    Bob, it was obvious you were trying to engage a man that until you spoke to him was thought of as invisible. You kept him engage by relating to him in one of the last few things the homeless man remembered, he was proud of his service duty to his country in the special forces. This interaction should not have been deem a gotcha moment, it should have been presented as a moment to connect with a veteran that somehow lost his way now being engaged in conversation. Conversation leads to change and change leads to hope. The hope he needs to bringing him out of his darkness onto the road again to light. Ask any medical professional the first task when helping a wayward patient is to engage the patient as you did. You should be commended not ridiculed. Bob your first 6 months on the job moving this agency in the direction it needs has already produced ripple effects far and wide at the Department of Veterans Affairs. I could not be happier with the early results. Although we its going to be a long hard road to bringing the Department to the operational high standard any Veteran nation wide would deserve, I see hope and I am excited about our future at the Department of Veterans Affairs. And it is due to you Mr. McDonald. I know you have let us know you want to be called Bob, I can’t help but to address you with the proper respect due an Officer and a Gentleman as you have displayed. I am looking forward to working with you and forging the agency into the future glory all veterans and americans expect from an agency called The Department of Veterans Affairs. I hope I get to meet you soon when you visit my campus, sir I would love to have a picture taken with you to display in my office. Until then God bless and continue your outstanding job and ignore the haters (we all have them) and know there are alot of employees at your agency that care. Respectfully, Pam B. PS: Go get em”.

    1. Toms.    

      Oh my God – You drank the liberal Kool-Aid didn’t you !! Engaged him or not – Bobbie LIED !!!

  16. msGeek2000    

    As a military veteran himself, Sec McDonald knows better than to steal the honors from the special services veteran. How can he possibly rebuild faith in the VA when he has shown such disrespect for his fellow veterans? This transgression is so egregious that Sec. McDonald should step down immediately. Of course this is only my opinion.

  17. Dave Thomas    

    I hope my judgment is not premature, but I DID NOT serve in the Special Forces, and have no trouble remembering not only that, but remember exactly where I did serve, with whom and when.

    Sec McDonald is just one more in a long line of people who say they care about us, and then readily lie about matters that are of utmost importance to us.

    Since I have waited five years for a determination of a disability rating, I seriously doubt if anyone cares. Talk sounds good, but doesn’t accomplish much. Lies accomplish even less.

    Sec. McDonald should resign immediately. He is a disgrace to the uniform that I proudly wore.

  18. Richard stuber    

    I sent a certified letter to VA secretary got no response. Disappointed. I guess I waisted my time. Also left voice mail.

  19. Jon Macintosh    

    Dear Secretary McDonald,

    You sound exactly like a typical DC politicker: lies lies and more lies, backed by a sincere face and tone that works to disarm some ignorant souls.

    Please read my open letter to you, as it poses some more pressing questions:
    http://vadisabilityclaimbook.com/jon-macintoshs-open-letter-va-secretary-robert-mcdonald/

    You’re off to a rocky start, Mr. Secretary. I would wish you well, but I wouldn’t be sincere in doing so.

    RLTW,

    JonMac

  20. Roger vandeburg    

    Nothing makes me feel more revulsion than a military veteran who embellishes their military service. Based on what I read you have jerked a knot in the VA establishment and are now building a compassionate, responsive VA. Kudos to you!

  21. Ralph Castle    

    There is no such unit as the 82nd Airborne Rangers. The 82nd has members that attended Ranger School, but no Ranger units. There is not one single Active Duty 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Bragg or in the 82nd AB Division.

  22. Stan    

    He needs to get the same treatment that Brian Williams received. I don’t know if he should be head of the VA any longer. He knows better. He may be good at straightening out the VA however, his conduct does not reflect this.

  23. Vaughn Jelenic    

    I have served under the articles of the servicemens’ act; during the post Viet Nam war in 1974(prior & after). As a supplier of needed materials for refugees of the Isreal/Arab conflict and the raid on the air base of Entebbe, Isreal by the Arab nationalists. Supplies were to defend the citizens against any & all threats posed on civilians of their nation. USA stepped in once again to defend against a major threat to the USA.

  24. bob    

    I don’t trust the Dr’s at the va. 1st they act like they want to help you and take care of your health, then before they give you medication for whatever, they make you sign a contract then you have to take a urine test once a mo. It makes a 65 year old husband and father and grandfather feel like a federal prisoner. I don’t trust the Dr’s there.and they don’t respect your privacy either. so I’m doin what I can to stop going there for anything. I fought in A war for a year and I meet so many people that say their vets and their not.i think that the va exploits vets, and the people that work there for the va dont care. They just make fun or patronize you and that includes the doctors.

  25. Calvin J Washispack    

    I know I have no legal rights in these cases I about to describe, because I was only someone trying to help Veterans in submitting their claims to the VA , but maybe my comments will help someone else in the same situation. I want to start out by saying that the VA is a great organization and doing the best they can to help and provide the care so deserving to our Veterans. The situation – Certain areas of Fort Chaffee, Arkansas were used to test Agent Orange during the 1970s. Many Guardsmen and Reservist conducted their Annual Training at Fort Chaffee during that period of time and are now suffering with related deceases (i.e., prostate cancer). In a few cases the VA has approved claims, however, in many cases the local Parish VA (LA)/County VA (AR and MS), have denied claims because the claimant is a Guardsman/Reservist. If some VA Parishes/Counties can approve claims, why is it that others deny claims? It seems to me that approval/denial should be across the board for all for all like cases. A Guardsman/Reservist should only have to prove that they were performing duty at Ft Chaffee during the 1970’s and prove their medical condition.

  26. K-Dog    

    Give the guy a break, and don’t hound him over this simple mistake. He was out doing good, and let’s hope he continues doing good for our Veterans! He apologized and that’s good enough for me. Can we move forward now?

    1. Toms.    

      Doin’ Good ??? No – HE LIED. Lying is NEVER good !!! Another Obama simpleton trying to look good

  27. Calvin J Washispack    

    I know I have no legal rights in the case I about to describe, because I was only a brother-in-law to the now deceased Korean War Veteran, but maybe my comments will help someone else in the same situation. I want to start out by saying that the VA is a great organization and doing the best they can to help and provide the care so deserving to our Veterans. I was helping my brother-in-law in filing his claim with the VA. Below is the events/time line:
    1. April 2012 – submitted initial claim to VA
    2. June 2013 – received notice that claim had been approved.
    3. July & Aug 2013 – received 2 annuity payments
    4. September 2013 – Claimant died (VA owed 15 months of annuity back pay – over $12,000 to spouse)
    5. September 2013 – Spouse submitted request for back pay annuity payments and unpaid medical bills.
    6. September 2014 – Spouse of Veteran Died.
    7. January 2015 – Deceased Spouse receives notice that VA will pay some $17,000 for annunity back pay and unpaid medical bills.
    8. January 2015 – Son of deceased spouse contacts VA and now VA says they will not pay any benefits to the Estate.
    The sad parts about that story:
    1. While the Veterans was still living from April 2012 to April 2013 (12 months, he could have used
    those annuity payments to improve his quality of life during his last few months on this earth.
    2. While the spouse of the VA was in dire need of money during her last year on this earth, she could
    have used that money. However, it took 15 months for the VA to approved the initial claim for the Veteran and plus an additional 17 months for the spouse to be notified that she would receive the annuity back pay and unpaid medical bills.

  28. Paul Tenenbaum    

    Honorable Secretary Robert (Bob) McDonald,
    It is very easy to make mistakes when your mind is going at an increased speed and over many weeks and now months. You have been doing great strides in so short a time, mais ne faites pas trop a la fois. I believe you will understand since you were in Bruxelles for a while. Please stay on course, your accomplishments in this short period as Secretary of the V.A. are almost incredible. I know: you have been of immense help to me. All I can say is: THANK YOU.

  29. Robert L Wall Sr    

    At least he told the truth and didn’t let a LIE just linger.

  30. johnnie godbold    

    apology excepted, any one can make up a war story, there are a thousand stories to be told. I love talking to veterans because those conversations make my day and make me feel better. Then after that its right back to survival mode.
    head up Mr. McDonald all the men and woman are proud of you, I’m proud of the work you do, you hit the ground running, putting out fires and saving the day now that is impressive . Ask that veteran what he thinks and I guarantee you, you made his day.
    I was in the army for 30 years, I got punished and court martial for spitting on the ground. as far as I am concern you are special forces.

    1. Toms.    

      …. and you Sir are Cuckoo

  31. Tim Gang    

    Bob,
    I am still waiting for “Debbie ” your assisstent to contact me as you texted back . I had hoped you would follow through with my concerns with the Indy veterans hospital and hiring of veterans in the substance abuse unit?

  32. Tim Hooey    

    Only time will tell,The VA must get the wording right on what a vet is! There are many kinds of vets.Who should get more respect ? I have seen this time and time again,everyone would love to be looked up to be a war hero . I hope he will turn out to be a better person..

    THANK YOU” HOOT”

  33. Wilson Cruz-Saldana    

    Bob, you have my back on this. You’re doing a great job. Just keep on trucking, put it behind you. I too could had mad the same mistake when you’re trying to make the connection and let the wall of communication come down, to be able to have the veteran open up and let his feelings known to you and the nation. God bless you! Wilson

  34. Dan    

    Once a LIAR always a LIAR

  35. Ed BALUNAS    

    Mr McDonald is doing a Good Job I Support Him,This is No big Deal ! And a waste of his Time, He Apologized Move on. Thank You .

  36. Bill Hixson    

    He was just trying to make the Vet feel at ease. Give me a break!

  37. eugene gabrielli    

    he should take considerate care of all the veterans from the Vietnam War did aren’t being compensated for Agent Orange pathetic situation and I don’t think he or anybody else from the Veterans Administration cares about any of us they just wait for us to die so they don’t have to pay as I put my life on the line for my country look what I get in return nothing my heart aches I had a claim in for aging orange for 11 years and all I do is get the runaround everyone including the collector

  38. Frank McGorry    

    Give the guy a break. He is out on the street talking to homeless vets. Not sitting in an office. I do see it as a stealing valor issue. As he said, just trying to make the individual comfortable. How many of us have done this in our life time. Frank McGorry 1LT USA Pleiku RVN 1966

    1. Brad    

      I agree with you. Most politicians would have only talked with homeless vets if it was a photo op.

  39. Bill Hixson    

    No body cares! He just trying to connect with us. Give him a break!

  40. Paul Worsham    

    Your service as a West Point graduate and Airborne soldier is “special” enough for me. You have nothing to apologize for.

    1. Bob Taylor    

      Yes he does. He misrepresented himself to one of the people he is charged with helping.

      What if he said he was a doctor, but was really a medical assistant? I mean they both know something about medicine right?

  41. 1SG (RET) McNichol    

    I’m a big fan of Sec. Bob McDonald, however in the past month Sec. McDonald has misspoke twice, once on Meet the Press with Chuck Todd mentioning inaccurate VA employee numbers who have been “fired” under his tenure and again when exchanging greetings with a homeless man in LA. I have witnessed firsthand the changes and gains he has implemented and I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I’m pulling for you sir. You’re a member of “The Long Gray Line”. Please tighten up your shot group!
    V/R, 1SG (RET) McNichol (1992-2013)

  42. Frank McGorry    

    First of all, what was the secretary doing, he was meeting with a homeless vet. Not sitting in his office. He was speaking to that particular vet and, as he said, trying to make him feel comfortable. I think a lot of us have done that in our lifetime. Give the guy a break. He’s smart and is trying to do his best for vets…meeting them on the streets to talk with them. He did not steal any valor in my mind. (Who overheard the conversation and made the big news item out of it?)
    Frank McGorry 1LT USA 1966 Pleiku RVN

      1. Former Spec 5    

        You owe no apology sir. You are a vet and one of us. After seeing the news last night I would be more inclined to research the guy he was talking to instead of being called on the carpet as you have been. The homeless vets that you see are by and far homeless through their own choosing. Nuff said …carry on
        Spec 5 1967-73

  43. Dan Russo    

    What else has he lied about. He should resign. I don’t trust liars. Haven’t veterans been lied to enough???

  44. Don Preskitt    

    enough said, apologie accepted. this man has done more to fix and repair the va than anyone in his position has done in 20 years. keep up the good work mr. secretary.

    1. Gene Newton    

      I agree with Frank and Dan should be ashamed of himself. As if he had never told a little white lie. I pulled 2 tours in Vietnam. I had never went to the VA until about a year ago. I got my glasses and my hearing aids. When I put my hearing aids on it was like I can’t explain it but for the 1st time in about 40 years I could hear.
      I went to the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta Ga. I received excellent service in both the Hearing Aide Section. A special thanks to Amy Johnson who fitted my Hearing Aides. Also where I got my VA glasses. Great customer service also. So there are some of us the has received appointments in a reasonable time. VA in Augusta Ga is great especially Amy Johnson in Audiology
      Come on people in Augusta Ga tell everyone how good your service was.

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