Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has asserted that immigrants in the country illegally get better care than U.S. military veterans. He made the comments during the Rolling Thunder rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
On May 29, several thousand bikers gathered in Washington, D.C., to celebrate Rolling Thunder, an event dedicated to U.S. military veterans, particularly those who remain prisoners of war or missing in action. Trump addressed the crowd, pledging that his potential administration would prioritize aiding veterans.
“In many cases, illegal immigrants are taken much better care of by this country than our veterans,” Trump said, according to Yahoo News. “We’re not going to allow that to happen any longer.”
Trump has made the treatment of veterans a focal point of his presidential campaign appearances, often describing how badly he thinks they are treated.
“We’re gonna rebuild our military,” Trump told the Rolling Thunder crowd. “And we’re gonna take care of our veterans. Our veterans have been treated so badly in this country.”
Regarding his statement that immigrants in the country illegally receive better treatment than veterans, or are somehow responsible for the poor health care treatment of veterans, Trump did not cite any concrete evidence.
The plight of veterans in the U.S. was given renewed interest after the April 2014 revelations that the Veterans Health Administration of the Department of Veterans Affairs had been falsifying records to obscure long waiting lines that resulted in the deaths of veterans who didn't get timely care, USA Today reports.
The VA scandal has been characterized as a failure of bureaucracy and corruption. It is unclear how immigrants play into that equation.
“The VA has made some improvements on transparency, such as posting of wait times at each VA facility online,” said Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona. “But the VA has lost all credibility on maintaining accurate wait-time records after the wait-time scandal where veterans died awaiting care.”
McCain was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam from 1967 through 1973, surviving years of torture. In July 2015, Trump waved off the perception that McCain was a war hero, saying, “I like people that weren’t captured, OK?”
The business mogul’s assertion that those in the country illegally are receiving a better deal in modern America also hinges on the idea that they are leeching off the country’s health care resources. Trump appears to believe this.
“Providing healthcare to illegal immigrants costs us some $11 billion annually,” the Trump campaign website states. “If we were to simply enforce the current immigration laws and restrict the unbridled granting of visas to this country, we could relieve healthcare cost pressures on state and local governments.”
Research scientist Dr. Leah Zallman of the Institute for Community Health takes issue with this stance, countering that immigrants are what keep Medicare running.
“Each year, immigrants pay about $11 billion more in Medicare taxes than Medicare pays for their care,” Zallman wrote in The Huffington Post. “And undocumented immigrants contribute the lion’s share of this subsidy.”
Adding that those in the country illegally contribute an additional $11 billion in sales taxes, Zallman asserted that they “use shockingly little health care.”