robert mcdonald
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald delivers an apology, for recent misstatements about his military record, to reporters outside VA headquarters in Washington, February 24, 2015. Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

Robert McDonald, secretary of U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), apologized on Tuesday for falsely embellishing his military record. McDonald had claimed that he was part of an elite special forces unit in a videotaped comment.

While speaking to a homeless veteran for a segment on CBS News, one of the veterans told McDonald he had served as part of the special forces. McDonald replied: “Special Forces? What years? I was in Special Forces,” CBS reported.

However, McDonald had only served with the 82nd Airborne Division during the 1970s, making his assertion false, The Huffington Post reported.

In a statement from the VA, McDonald apologized for the misstatement: “While I was in Los Angeles, engaging a homeless individual to determine his veteran status, I asked the man where he had served in the military. He responded that he had served in special forces. I incorrectly stated that I had been in special forces. That was inaccurate and I apologize to anyone that was offended by my misstatement,” The Washington Post reported.

The White House, in a response, said it believed the incident would not affect McDonald’s work. "We take him at his word and expect that this will not impact the important work he's doing to promote the health and well-being of our nation's veterans," a spokesperson told Reuters.

McDonald also apologized during an interview with The Huffington Post, adding that his comment had been an impulsive decision. “I reacted spontaneously and I reacted wrongly, [with] no intent in any way to describe my record any different than it is,” he said.