AP FACT CHECK: Trump exaggerates his gains for veterans


WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump claimed to receive a 2016 award from military veterans that didn’t exist and falsely denigrated the record of the late Republican Sen. John McCain on veterans affairs, whose widow endorsed Democratic rival Joe Biden for president.

A look at some of Trump’s claims Wednesday:

TRUMP: “I was honored to receive the endorsement of the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association in 2016, and they gave me a beautiful award. And I have it very proudly on a wall of great importance to me.” — White House ceremony honoring veterans of the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.

THE FACTS: There is no official award.

Trump did get an endorsement from the association in 2016, the first ever from the group of Florida-based veterans who fought in the United States’ failed attempt to overthrow the Cuban government in 1961. But no award came with it.

In a news release this month — four years after the fact and after Trump repeatedly claimed he received an award — Juan López de la Cruz, president of the association, sought to recast the endorsement as a “recognition award” from the group in 2016. The group endorsed Trump for a second term.


TRUMP: “I hardly know Cindy McCain … Joe Biden was John McCain’s lapdog. So many BAD decisions on Endless Wars & the V.A., which I brought from a horror show to HIGH APPROVAL.” — tweet.

THE FACTS: Trump is ignoring accomplishments at the Department of Veterans Affairs that began during the Obama-Biden administration, which included McCain’s singular successes on behalf of fellow veterans.

McCain was a leading force in the Senate behind the law that gave veterans an option to go outside the VA’s health care system and get private care at public expense under certain conditions. President Barack Obama signed the VA Choice legislation into law. Ignoring that reality, Trump persistently claims that he brought Choice into law when no one else could.

Trump signed a law in 2018 that expanded the options for using the Choice program established by Obama and McCain and other lawmakers.

The 2018 law is named after three lawmakers who were veterans of war. All now are dead. They are Rep. Samuel R. Johnson, R-Texas; Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, D-Hawaii; and McCain, R-Ariz.

Trump frequently points to VA accomplishments such as improved wait times and the offering of same-day mental health services. But those same-day services at VA were started during the Obama administration. Major veterans’ organizations in fact urged Trump when he became president to reappoint Obama’s VA secretary, Bob McDonald, so he could continue the VA gains. Trump ultimately settled on one of McDonald’s deputies, David Shulkin, to be VA secretary.

A 2019 study by the Journal of the American Medical Association later found improved wait times at VA from 2014 to 2017, a period largely covering the Obama administration, with VA patient satisfaction also on the rise.

While the VA has shown good ratings during the Trump administration, Trump’s claim of deserving all credit for turning the VA from a “horror show” to “HIGH APPROVAL” is sorely misplaced.

Cindy McCain endorsed Biden for president Tuesday in a rebuke of Trump by the widow of the GOP’s 2008 nominee.


EDITOR’S NOTE — A look at the veracity of claims by political figures.


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