GOP hopeful takes flak on PTSD issue
Dems, vets accuse Trump of insensitivity
Democrats on Tuesday seized on comments Donald Trump made suggesting that military members and veterans with mental health issues are not “strong” and “can’t handle it,” remarks they said render him out of touch and unfit to be commander in chief.
The GOP presidential nominee, speaking to a group of veterans Monday in Virginia, said that some troops see things in combat that “a lot of folks in the room” have seen many times.
“And you’re strong and you can handle it, but a lot of people can’t handle it,” Trump said.
The backlash to his remarks was swift and harsh, with Democrats and veterans groups assailing him as insensitive to an issue that mental health advocates have spent decades working to destigmatize and raise awareness of among veterans.
“This is an ignorant man,” Vice President Joe Biden said of Trump on CNN on Tuesday.
An angry Biden recounted going to Iraq and pinning a Silver Star on a young soldier. The soldier told Biden that he didn’t want the Silver Star because the fellow soldier he had pulled out of a burning Humvee had died.
“That kid probably goes to sleep every night with a nightmare, and this guy doesn’t understand any of that?” said Biden, whose late son served in the military.
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton said on Twitter that veterans who experience post-traumatic stress disorder are “stronger than we’ll ever understand” and that they are owed “nothing short” of the best care.
Her campaign also pushed out an ad that questions Trump’s respect for veterans.
Trump’s campaign pushed back against the criticism of his PTSD comments, saying that the media took his words out of context “in order to deceive voters and veterans” about what he said.
Trump’s website said the candidate wants to increase the number of mental health professionals at the Department of Veterans Affairs and allow veterans to access mental health care outside the agency.
Trump’s comments Monday are the latest in a line of questionable remarks about the military that Democrats said show the nominee is not fit to serve as president. In July, Trump got into a feud with the Muslim-American parents of a soldier killed in Iraq after they spoke at the Democratic National Convention.
Days later, a service member gave Trump a Purple Heart at a campaign stop in Virginia. The real estate mogul said that it was something he “always wanted” and that having one gifted to him was “much easier” than participating in combat.
When asked what he had sacrificed, referring to military parents’ sacrifices, Trump pointed to his busi- ness successes.
And last year, Trump said he doesn’t consider Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, to be a war hero. “He’s a war hero because he was captured,” Trump said. “I like people that weren’t captured.”
In January, Trump held a fundraiser for veterans where he said he raised about $6 million, including $1 million of his own money. Trump’s campaign said later that Trump had given his own $1 million, but that wasn’t true. Trump only donated the money later, after news reports brought the issue to light. He also waited months to give away over $1 million that other donors had entrusted to his Donald J. Trump Foundation.
In a statement put out by Trump’s campaign, the man who asked Trump the question in Virginia that prompted Trump’s remarks on PTSD said he took Trump to mean that the health care system for veterans is broken.
Marine Staff Sgt. Chad Robichaux, president and founder of Mighty Oaks Warrior Programs in Temecula, Calif., said he has struggled with PTSD and has helped nearly 1,100 veterans who also suffer from the disorder.
“I think it’s sickening that anyone would twist Mr. Trump’s comments to me in order to pursue a political agenda,” he said. “I took his comments to be thoughtful and understanding of the struggles many veterans have, and I believe he is committed to helping them.”
According to the VA, from 11 percent to 20 percent of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan after 2002 suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder in a given year. Of those who served in the first Gulf War, 12 percent suffer from PTSD in a given year, as do 15 percent of Vietnam War veterans.
“PTSD can happen to anyone. It is not a sign of weakness,” the department’s website reads.
GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump rallies supporters Tuesday in Prescott Valley, Ariz.