Trump Tells Veterans He Will Fix Troubled VA Medical System

Sep 1, 2016

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump stood before several thousand American Legion members at Duke Energy Convention Center Thursday morning and promised that he, as president, would reform the VA medical system.

"We will have a total reform of the VA medical system,'' Trump said to applause from the veterans. "It's a terrible situation."

He said he would appoint a commission to investigate "all the wrongdoing in the VA and there is plenty."

"Never again will veterans suffer and wait for care,'' Trump said. "They will be able to see VA doctors or go seek the private care they need. The veteran will be in control."

And, the GOP contender, fresh from a visit Wednesday with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and a speech Wednesday night in Arizona where he continued his tough talk about deporting illegal immigrants, told the veterans he had a good discussion with the Mexican president.

"We can work together to accomplish great things for both countries,'' Trump said of Mexico.

On the subject of Syrian refugees flowing into the U.S., Trump repeated his call for "safe zones" for the refugees in the Middle East

"We are going to change the screening of people coming into this country,'' Trump said. "We are going to stop the influx of Syrian refugees. We do not want to allow anyone in our country who does not share our values."

He took a few pot shots at his opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, who spoke to the convention Wednesday.

He referred to the recent revelation that there were another 33,000 e-mails on a private e-mail server maintained by Clinton when she was secretary of state.

"33,000 e-mails bleached through a very expensive process,'' Trump said. "You have to ask why."

Trump said that if he is elected, "we will have an honest State Department, not pay-for-play."

Janet Wilson, an American Legion member from Antioch, Calif., said Trump "gave the usual responses to veterans - more defense, more money to VA, the things that we expect. Will there be follow through - we won't know until one candidate or the other is elected."

Members of Ohio's delegation at the American Legion national convention in Cincinnati.
Credit Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Trump has not spent a lot of time thus far campaigning in southwest Ohio, spending most of his time in the Buckeye State in central Ohio and the Mahoning Valley – the latter considered fertile ground for Trump's critical view of international trade agreements.

On July 6, well after he had sown up the GOP nomination, Trump appeared before a full house of boisterous supporters at the Sharonville Convention Center. In the spring, during the Ohio primary campaign, Trump held a rally in West Chester.

This was his first visit to the city of Cincinnati – although, since the audience was made up entirely of thousands of American Legion members and their families – it could have been held anywhere. He followed up his morning address to the veterans' group with a public rally in Clinton County, just outside Wilmington.

Real Clear Politics, a website that tracks state and national polling, has Trump trailing Clinton by four percentage points in Ohio in an average of several independent polls. Clinton leads Trump in polls of voters in most of the key battleground states.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) didn't even wait until Trump had delivered his remarks to the American Legion before hitting back.

Several hours before Trump was slated to speak at Duke Energy Convention Center, the DNC released a one minute, nine second video full of video clips of Trump talking about the military.

Among the quotes was Trump saying the U.S. military "is a disaster" and "I know more about ISIS than the generals, believe me." It also included a clip from earlier this year when Trump talked about Sen. John McCain, a prisoner of war during Vietnam, saying "I like people who aren't captured."

The video ends with a graphic that says, "If you disrespect the men and women of our military, you are unfit to lead them."

Vietnam era veteran Kendall Mays of Deerfield Township, an American Legion member, was inside the hall for Trump's speech, as was former state representative Connie Pillich, an Air Force veteran and American Legion member.

The two of them went outside the hall for a press conference arranged by the Clinton campaign. 

Trump, Mays said, "says we veterans are so good, but when he's not talking to us, he says the American military is a disaster. He doesn't make any sense." 

Wednesday, when Clinton addressed the veterans' convention, she took aim at Trump for his criticism of U.S. alliances abroad, particularly NATO. She said, "You don't build a coalition by insulting our friends and being a loose cannon." 

Tana Weingartner contributed to this report.