Trump takes credit for McCain-Sanders veterans bill signed by Obama: “One of my greatest honors”

Trump falsely claims leaders "tried for decades" to pass the bill but "failed." Obama signed it into law in 2014

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published January 2, 2020 3:31PM (EST)

US President Donald Trump (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

President Donald Trump falsely claimed that one of his "greatest honors" was helping pass a veterans health bill, which was actually authored by the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and signed into law by former President Barack Obama.

"One of my greatest honors was to have gotten CHOICE approved for our great Veterans," Trump incorrectly claimed in New Year's Eve tweet. "Others have tried for decades, and failed!"

It is a lie which has been repeated in the past by Trump.

"We just passed Choice," Trump falsely claimed in 2018. "That was 44 years, they've been trying to pass Choice… They've been trying to pass that one for many, many decades. They couldn't do it. We got it passed. We're good at passing things, right?"

Trump even used the lie to attack McCain months before his death.

"I disagree with John McCain on the way he handled the vets, because I said you got to get Choice. He was never able to get Choice. I got Choice," Trump falsely claimed to reporters in May of last year.

This would certainly come as a surprise to McCain's family given that he and Sanders wrote the bill, which was signed by Obama in August of 2014.

This lie has been repeated by Robert Wilkie, the secretary of Veterans Affairs, who touted Obama-era numbers on improved wait times while blasting previous "bad leadership" and seemingly taking credit for the trend, The Associated Press reported last year.

Trump did expand eligibility for the program, the AP noted, allowing veterans the option for a private doctor if their VA wait is more than 20 days (28 days for specialists) instead of the 30 days under the bill, or if they drive more than 30 minutes instead of the 40 miles prescribed under the bill.

Dr. Richard Stone, the top health official at the VA, said the beginning of the expanded program was almost a "non-event," in part because private doctor wait times are typically longer than those at the VA, according to the AP.

The bill is just one of many examples in which Trump has attempted to revise history to claim credit for things that happened before he even took office. He has frequently claimed credit for economic gains under Obama and touted Obama-era manufacturing gains as his own.

CNN counted more than 2,700 false claims made by Trump in 2019, many of which were "whoppers: deliberate, significant attempts to deceive and manipulate."

"Trump was inaccurate this year about every conceivable topic," wrote CNN fact-checker Daniel Dale, listing Trump's lies about his Ukraine pressure effort, the size of his rally crowds, and "literally, the time of day."

Among Trump's biggest and most-repeated lies last year were his frequent claim that there were a "million fraudulent votes" in California in the 2016 election, his claim that windmills cause cancer, his false smears of Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and, of course, his attempt to use a Sharpie to extend the forecast map of Hurricane Dorian to prove he was right about Alabama being at risk of getting hit by the storm.

Dale pointed out on Twitter that Trump told his lie about the Veteran's Choice bill at least 56 times last year and at least 109 times since taking office.

"I think he's given us reason to doubt literally everything he's saying," Dale wrote in November. "I think what one of the things that distinguishes Trump as a liar is that he lies about even the most trivial stuff, even the most obvious stuff. So it's not just the typical political lying to defend oneself against a scandal went back into a corner. He is proactively lying about tiny stuff all the time."

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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