US military soldiers march during the Veterans Day Parade in New York on November 11, 2014. Veterans day is celebrated across the country to honor those who...
JEWEL SAMAD

Reality gets in the way of Mike Pence’s Veterans Day pitch

“The debt our Nation owes those who have worn the uniform is a debt we will never be able to fully repay,” Vice President Mike Pence wrote yesterday in a tweet recognizing Veterans Day. “But just as those courageous men and women have fought for us, [Donald] Trump & our administration have fought for them.”

That second sentence suggested it wasn’t enough for the vice president to honor the service and sacrifices of America’s veterans; Pence decided it’d also be a good idea to add a political element to his message. Recognizing those who served on Veterans Day is important, but for the vice president, recognizing Donald Trump matters, too.

Pence’s tweet directed people to a Fox News op-ed, ostensibly written by the vice president himself, with a headline that read, “Veterans have no better friend than President Trump.”

This president and our administration understand that veterans’ benefits are not entitlements – they’re earned. They are the ongoing compensation for services rendered in the uniform of the United States. And since the outset of our administration, we’ve taken decisive action to make good on our promise to the heroes who’ve served.

There’s a degree of unseemliness to attaching a political public-relations angle to a message recognizing veterans. Mike Pence’s pitch, in effect, was, “Happy Veterans Day. But enough about you; now let me tell you how awesome Donald Trump is.”

Even if we put this aside, is the administration’s actual record on veterans’ issues as impressive as the vice president wants the public to believe?

It was Donald Trump, for example, who showed his deep concern for veterans by nominating someone to lead the VA whom the president later admitted “might not have been qualified.”

It was a couple of months earlier when we learned about “the Mar-a-Lago Crowd” that helped oversee Trump’s Department of Veterans Affairs. Pro Publica uncovered a dynamic in which three wealthy members of Trump’s Florida resort effectively helped run the VA for months, despite having no relevant experience, and despite no oversight or accountability of any kind, basically because they’re pals with the president through the club he still owns and profits from.

The triumvirate of Bruce Moskowitz, Ike Perlmutter, and Marc Sherman oversaw everything from the VA’s digital records system to personnel decisions, occasionally using their influence in ways that may have benefited their private financial interests.

Around the same time these revelations came to light, the Trump administration also took steps to suspend audits of lenders for violations of the Military Lending Act, which had the practical effect of making military families more susceptible to “financial fraud, predatory loans and credit card gouging.” (The move “surprised advocates for military families,” the New York Times reported in August.)

We can keep going. Under Trump, veterans have struggled to receive their benefits under the G.I. Bill. The president has misled the public about the VA Accountability Act. The veterans’ hotline the Republican promised to create during his 2016 campaign has turned into a bust. Trump has politicized the Board of Veterans’ Appeals in unprecedented ways. This morning, the Republican went so far as to inadvertently make the case for disenfranchising some veterans who cast votes while serving abroad.

Veterans “have no better friend” than Donald Trump? This White House has a curious definition of “friend.”