President Donald Trump abruptly ended his news conference at his Bedminster, New Jersey golf club Saturday after a CBS News reporter asked him why he frequently claims he passed the Veterans Choice Program. The program was created in 2014, under President Barack Obama. But on Saturday, Trump once again took credit for it.
Before the conference began, Trump said he signed bills related to veterans' health into law, the Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act of 2019, the Ryan Kules and Paul Benne Specially Adaptive Housing Improvement Act of 2019 and the Department of Veteran Affairs Contracting Preference Consistency Act of 2020. "Our vets are very special," Trump continued. "We passed choice, as you know... Veterans' Choice and Veterans' Accountability. And they've been trying to get that passed for decades and decades and no president's been able to do it and we got it done so veterans have choice."
Trump begins his August 8 Bedminster news conference with some casual xenophobia, and takes credit for Veterans Choice legislation that was actually signed into law by President Obama in 2014 pic.twitter.com/NPjNdhDHQ2— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 8, 2020
At the end of the conference, CBS News reporter Paula Reid asked, "Why do you keep saying you passed Veterans' Choice? It was passed in 2014." The audience of Trump National Golf Club members tried to drown her out with boos and applause. Trump did not answer the question. "Thank you very much, everybody," he said as he abruptly ended the conference, and "YMCA" began playing.
Trump gets frustrated when @PaulaReidCBS won't stop trying to ask him a question about why he keeps lying about Veterans Choice, then abruptly ends the news conference as "YMCA" plays pic.twitter.com/Z3uVxebKGH— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 8, 2020
"Veterans' Choice" refers to the Veterans Choice Program, which was established in 2014, following the hidden waitlist scandal at the Department of Veterans' Affairs. The program allows veterans who do not live with a department hospital within 40 miles of their home or have wait times over 30 days for care to go to get private health care funded by the federal government, reports The New York Times. In 2018, Trump did sign a new law that moved Veterans Choice and other programs under a single Veterans Community Care Program umbrella. The law added $5.2 billion in funding to keep Veterans Choice going until the new Veterans Community Care Program was up and running. It was estimated this would take a year, and it launched in June 2019.
As for the new bills Trump signed Saturday, the Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act of 2019 calls for the Justice Department and VA to create a Veterans Treatment Court Program. The Specially Adaptive Housing Improvement Act made changes to VA authorities on adapted hosing, education benefits, work-study, and home loan programs. The Contracting Preference Consistency Act of 2020 created an exception or VA businesses' contracting requirements.