By Steve Holland
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Reuters) – Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump sought to turn a scandal involving the Veterans Administration to his political advantage on Tuesday, pledging to war veterans that he would clean up a mess he blamed on Washington politicians.
“Our debt to you is eternal,” Trump told a gathering of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Yet our politicians have totally failed you.”
The 2014 VA scandal revolved around long wait times for patients and other negligent activities. Trump spoke shortly after the crowd heard from Bob McDonald, President Barack Obama’s secretary of Veterans Affairs.
The scandal fits in with Trump’s effort to portray himself as a political outsider dedicated to fixing the problems left by Washington special interests.
“The VA scandals that have occurred are widespread and totally inexcusable,” he said.
Trump is on his first campaign swing with his vice presidential running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, after they were nominated last week at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
They made two stops in North Carolina, a state that could be crucial to their chances in the Nov. 8 election.
The New York real estate developer pledged to set up a White House hot line for a ranking official to keep track of reform efforts in the VA to ensure they are carried out.
If a problem cannot get solved, he said, “I will pick up the phone personally and get it completed and get it taken care of.”
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)