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Veterans Affairs Secretary Visits Wilmington VA Medical Center

By Cleve Bryan

WILMINGTON, Del., (CBS) -- Tapped last year to fix systemic mismanagement at the Department of Veterans Affairs, Secretary Robert McDonald's latest action is back peddling after falsely telling a homeless vet he is former Special Forces.

 The comment was caught on CBS camera in Los Angeles.

McDonald has since apologized but Monday after a visit to the Wilmington VA Hospital he was reluctant to say if vets are accepting his apology.

"I've been to jungle warfare school, arctic warfare school, desert warfare school and I'm working on taking care of veterans," replied McDonald to Eyewitness News' question about how vets are receiving his apology.

Senator Tom Carper (D-Delaware) was at McDonald's side during a Q & A with the press and twice stepped in to call the Special Forces comment a "non-issue."

As for helping vets receive benefit claims and schedule doctor appointments in timely manners – McDonald sees improvements.

"We are holding people accountable, we are taking action and the organization is changing and the culture is changing," says McDonald.

McDonald had a closed-door meeting with hospital staff and patients as well as a dozen veterans' organizations.

"Processing of the claims has gone down – the wait time, but they can do better," says Joseph Houghton from the State of Delaware American Legion.

Houghton says he's been encouraged by Secretary McDonald's leadership over the last year, and he for one isn't going to hold the false Special Forces claim against him.

"It was just a statement. It didn't hurt anybody so in my opinion let's forget about it," says Houghton.

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