Speaking at a Monday conference for U.S. military veterans in Virginia, Donald Trump suggested those who suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder when they return from war are not as “strong” as those who are able to “handle it.”
“When you talk about the mental health problems, when people come back from war and combat, and they see things that maybe a lot of the folks in this room have seen many times over — and you’re strong and you can handle it — but a lot of people can’t handle it,” the Republican nominee said while taking questions at the Retired American Warriors event in Herndon, Va.
“And they see horror stories. They see events that you couldn’t see in a movie; nobody would believe it,” he continued.
His comments were widely criticized on social media, where users panned the notion that “strong” people can simply overcome PTSD.
The Trump campaign issued a statement Monday afternoon accusing the media of taking his remarks out of context:
Chad Robichaux, a Marine veteran who asked Trump the question about PTSD, also released a statement defending the candidate’s response.
“I think it’s sickening that anyone would twist Mr. Trump’s comments to me in order to pursue a political agenda,” Robichaux’s statement said. “I took his comments to be thoughtful and understanding of the struggles many veterans have, and I believe he is committed to helping them.”
In July, Trump unveiled a 10-point plan to help U.S. military veterans. Topping the list was a pledge to improve their mental health services, in part, to “put the unnecessary stigma surrounding mental health behind them and instead encourage acceptance and treatment.”
According to a study by the Department of Veterans Affairs, an average of 20 veterans committed suicide each day in 2014, down from 22 in 2010.
During a July speech in Virginia Beach, Va., announcing the plan, Trump cited the updated statistic.
“A shocking 20 veterans are committing suicide each and every day, especially our older veterans,” Trump said. “This is a national tragedy.”
But at NBC’s Commander-in-Chief Forum last month, Trump wrongly corrected a female Marine vet who asked him what he planned to do to help stop 20 servicemen and -women from committing suicide every day.
“Actually, it’s 22,” Trump replied before elaborating on his plan.
“A lot of it is, they’re killing themselves over the fact that they can’t — they’re under tremendous pain and they can’t see a doctor,” he said. “We’re going to speed up the process. We’re going to create a big mental health division. They need help. They need help. They need tremendous help, and we’re doing nothing for them. The VA is really, almost, you could say, a corrupt enterprise.”