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Florida lawmakers weigh in on VA secretary’s false special forces claim

@CAdamsMcClatchy

The Florida lawmakers who lead the U.S. House Veterans’ Affairs Committee weighed in Tuesday on the nation’s top veterans’ official for his statement inflating his military service.

The Republican who chairs the committee, Jeff Miller of the Pensacola area, said he was “disappointed” in the claim by Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald that he served in the special forces.

The top Democrat on the committee, Corrine Brown, whose district runs from Orlando to Jacksonville, said, “I am confident that his statement was not intended to mislead.”

The two top veterans committee officials were responding to a statement by McDonald, who took over the scandal-ridden VA last year, that he had served in the special forces, among the most elite and prestigious military units.

McDonald’s comment to a man in Los Angeles was captured by CBS News for a story on the VA’s efforts to eradicate veteran homelessness. “Special forces? What years? I was in special forces!” McDonald said. The comment was originally flagged by The Huffington Post.

McDonald, a former chief executive of Procter & Gamble, is an Army veteran and a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He was not, however, a member of special forces units, which he has since acknowledged.

He has apologized for his comment and was scheduled to speak with reporters Tuesday afternoon.

Miller, the Republican veterans committee chair, said in a statement: “I’m disappointed in Secretary McDonald’s comments. After a rough couple of weeks that also included inflated claims of accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs, I hope Secretary McDonald will redouble his efforts to ensure his statements – and those of all VA officials – are completely accurate.”

Brown, the Democrat, said: “The secretary gave an appropriate apology following his misstatement, which demonstrates his commitment to accountability. I am confident that his statement was not intended to mislead… Clearly, Secretary McDonald’s military service and dedication to our nation should not be ignored.”

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