Off-Ramp®

A weekly look at SoCal life covering news, arts and culture, and more. Hosted by John Rabe

UPDATED: The night VA chief McDonald made his now infamous 'special forces' claim

by John Rabe | Off-Ramp®

Bob McDonald, new Secretary of the US Dept of Veterans Affairs, has vowed to end veterans homelessness, and walked Skid Row for the homeless census Thursday night to drive the point home. John Rabe

UPDATE 2/24/2015:

VA Secy Bob McDonald has come under fire for claiming to be a member of US Special Forces as he was walking through Skid Row, talking with a homeless man who claimed  to be a Special Forces veteran.

WATCH the CBS report. KPCC's Rabe appears in black, with umbrella in pocket

I elected not to use that exchange because there was no way to prove whether the homeless man was a veteran (McDonald himself doubted the claim), and the homeless man seemed highly uncomfortable; he obviously felt ambushed by the media hoarde. 

15 seconds into the audio for this Off-Ramp segment, as we talk about flashlights, McDonald does say, "I was a Ranger." According to a VA spokesperson: "As a graduate of the US Army Ranger school, Secretary McDonald was entitled to wear the Ranger tab on his uniform throughout his career." 

-- John Rabe

The day after vowing to end veterans homelessness in a landmark settlement, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald sought to underline his commitment to the issue by taking part in L.A.'s annual homeless count.

McDonald walked the streets of L.A.'s Skid Row for a couple of hours, looking for homeless people, and Off-Ramp went with him.

One of the most poignant and symbolic moments came as we passed a homeless encampment, and McDonald was learning the rules for the survey: Count each individual you see. If you only see a tent, put down "tent." But if there are people outside of it, don't count the tent and the person, and if "there's a foot sticking out, that's one person."

That brings it home, McDonald said, "Particularly when you think that that person could have been in Iraq or Afghanistan, sleeping on the ground. Vietnam. Korea. Waking up and going out to fight."

McDonald didn't find any confirmed vets for sure during his walk around Skid Row. The volunteers are told specifically not to poke into tents and ask invasive questions of the homeless during the census, and McDonald abided by those guidelines.

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