Donald Trump has a very low opinion of the Veterans Administration. He made the claim at the third debate, as he has many times in past speeches, that illegal immigrants are treated better than America’s military veterans.
“We have a depleted military. It has to be helped. It has to be fixed,” Trump said in his impromptu closing statement at the third debate. “We have the greatest people on Earth in our military. We don’t take care of our veterans. We take care of illegal immigrants, people that come into our country illegally better than we take care of our vets. That can’t happen.”
Trump has made this claim occasionally since the beginning of his campaign, but he has never really elaborated on what he means. In a campaign email, the Trump camp stated that there is a comprehensive immigration bill proposed in the first 100 days of Clinton Presidency, but not a veteran’s rights bill.
Trump pointed to a case where an undocumented person was convicted of a DUI but released without any immigration consequences “but members of the military who receive DUIs are subject punishment from their commanding officers and court martial.” This anecdote doesn’t really mean anything from a systemic point of view, as anecdotes similar to these could be found within any two groups of people. That is really a commentary on the arbitrary nature of our criminal justice system rather than the state of our Veterans Administration.
As far as health care is concerned, the federal government spends vastly more on the VA than on emergency care for illegal immigrants. In 2014 the federal government paid $2.2 billion in emergency care for illegal immigrants. That last year Congress passed a massive $171 billion budget for the VA.
It isn’t really reasonable to compare these two groups, as they really have nothing to do with one another. Trump uses a lot of “weasel words” like “many cases,” “worse” and “people say” in reference to this subject, without producing any evidence or even explaining what it means.