VA chief apologizes for lying about service record

VA chief Robert McDonald apologizes again for falsely claiming he had served in U.S. special forces

Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald apologized again Tuesday for falsely claiming to a homeless vet in Los Angeles last month that he had served in the military's special forces.

“I incorrectly stated that I had been in special forces,” McDonald told reporters outside the VA office in Washington. "I apologize for that. I have no excuse for it."

McDonald, a West Point graduate, served five years with the Army's 82nd Airborne Division. He qualified as an Army Ranger but did not serve in a Ranger regiment or other special forces unit. He left the Army in 1980 with the rank of captain.

He has been criticized by some veterans' groups and lawmakers since the Huffington Post reported his erroneous claim Monday. But the White House said it accepted his apology, and he faced no serious demands for his resignation.

In a statement, Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said he was disappointed with McDonald and urged him to "redouble his efforts to ensure his statements -- and those of all VA officials -- are completely accurate.”

McDonald made his false claim to a homeless military veteran in West Los Angeles last month that later was broadcast on CBS. The secretary met the man during an annual overnight count of homeless vets.

The vet said he had once served in special forces, which includes the Navy SEALs, Army Rangers and Air Force Pararescue jumpers.

“What years?” McDonald asked. “I was in special forces.”

He told reporters Tuesday that he was trying to "find a way to connect with that veteran. And as I said, I made a misstatement. I apologize for that.”

The false claim came soon after NBC News anchor Brian Williams was put on six months' unpaid leave for making false statements on the air about his war reporting record.

This month, McDonald caused a mini-stir after he told NBC's “Meet the Press” that 60 people had been fired for misconduct since he took over last summer.

The Tampa Bay Times’ fact-checking Politifact website said fewer than 20 people had been dismissed, while others had received reprimands.

McDonald, a former chief executive of Procter & Gamble Co., took over the VA last June after reports that some veterans endured long waits for medical care. Eric K. Shinseki had been forced to resign from the post.

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