VA Secretary Robert McDonald Admits Lying To Homeless Veteran About Serving In Special Forces

Robert McDonald, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, has admitted to lying when he told a homeless veteran that he served in the Army Special Forces.

McDonald made the claim in January that he served in an elite special operations division during an exchange with the homeless veteran in Los Angeles. When the veteran stated he had served in special ops, the VA Secretary responded, “Special Forces? What years? I was in Special Forces.” CBS cameras captured his comment as the network was developing a story on the Veterans Administration’s effort in finding housing for homeless vets, reports CNN. The segment aired January 30 on CBS Evening News.

When contacted in regards to the comment, McDonald admitted he lied, telling The Huffington Post, “I have no excuse. I was not in special forces.”

The VA Secretary issued a statement Monday in which he admitted his mistake and apologized.

“While I was in Los Angeles, engaging a homeless individual 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. I incorrectly stated that I had been in special forces. That was inaccurate and I apologize to anyone that was offended by my misstatement.”

While McDonald did complete Army Ranger training, he spent most of his military service in the 82nd Airborne Division, according to The Huffington Post. He earned a Ranger tab designating him as a graduate of Ranger School; however, he never served in any special operations unit.

Robert McDonald’s comment came into question by retired military officers who noticed his remark on the CBS tape days after NBC suspended Brian Williams for fabricating stories during his reporting of Iraq in 2003.

The White House released a statement Monday accepting McDonald’s explanation of his false statement.

“Secretary McDonald has apologized for the misstatement and noted that he never intended to misrepresent his military service. We take him at his word and expect that this will not impact the important work he’s doing to promote the health and well-being of our nation’s veterans.”

President Obama chose Robert McDonald, former Proctor & Gamble CEO, as the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs in July 2014 after former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned amidst allegations of corruption and cover-ups related to long VA wait times and the deaths of veterans who were awaiting care at a VA facility.

[Image by Win McNamee/Getty Images]