Donald Trump’s daily outbursts create a lot of smoke and fog, distracting from the policy and process damage he is doing under the radar. His protestations of love for the military and veterans cover up the human toll he is exacting with his destructive incompetence.

The best that can be said for his expressions of amour for people in uniform is that they are nice thoughts. Too bad there is little follow-up action. Or, when there is action, such as exploiting the military and wasting oodles of taxpayer money in order to advance Trump’s political and/or personal agenda, it is appalling action. Viz. sending troops to the southern border in order to play-act at stopping the caravan of “MS-13,” “ISIS” and “very bad people,” most under four years old, intent on wreaking havoc should they enter the U.S.

Forget Trump’s hollow statements and self-promoting bombasts about things military. The reality, in contrast, is not a pretty picture:

Trump’s Department of Veterans Affairs, responsible for the healthcare and other benefits earned by the men and women who served, is an absolute shambles. David Shulkin, Trump’s first VA chief, lasted only a short time before, like so many Trump appointees, he was discovered to have had his hand deeply mired in the cookie jar. Also, there has been a mass exodus of close to 40 senior career VA officials, many disgusted by Trump’s politicization of the agency and its ensuing chaos, as well as by how he manipulates it to serve his purposes rather than its mission, so eloquently expressed by Abraham Lincoln:

“To care for him who has borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.”

These words are etched prominently on the side of the VA headquarters building.

Then there was Trump’s nomination of Dr. Ronny Jackson to head the VA. Jackson is the White House physician who claimed that his patient could live to be 200 and whose sole qualification for the job was bootlicking his boss. When that blew up in Trump’s face, he installed a figurehead as Acting Secretary, but the real powers running the VA don’t live or work in Washington, DC.

Earlier this year, a Pro Publica investigation revealed that three Trump cronies with no ties to or knowledge of the agency and its mission are the actual shadow rulers of the VA, determining policy and directing personnel actions from the Mar-a-Lago dining room. Emails obtained by Pro Publica via the Freedom of Information Act tell a shocking story of outside manipulation of government by these wealthy individuals who, like their pal Trump, are chicken-hawks with no prior military service. It is even possible that they might have used their power over the agency for personal gain.

Meanwhile, veterans suffer. GI Bill education and housing benefits are increasingly delayed or never arrive at all due to an obsolete IT system generations behind state-of-the-art. Hundreds of thousands of benefit payments have been delayed. More than 82,000 vets have received no payments at all. Some have become homeless as a result. The benefit claims backlog has skyrocketed since Trump’s inauguration and now numbers almost 250,000. In addition to being evicted from their residences, many vets have been kicked out of school because they cannot pay their tuition. To stay in school, others are taking on loan or credit card debt that they will be paying off for years.

Trump’s congressional Republican allies are no help. Oversight committees comprised largely of non-veterans are reluctant to perform their constitutional duty for fear of angering Trump.

Trump has also left unfilled 45,000 vacant VA jobs, including the most critical one: Chief Information Officer.

Trump cons the public with words while avoiding contact with vets. In Europe for the 100th anniversary of the World War I armistice, he skipped the cemetery ceremony honoring the fallen because of a little rain, then the next day complained that his hair was getting wet. On his return home, he was AWOL from Arlington Cemetery for the traditional wreath-laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

Meanwhile, he bestows money on the military the likes of which it has not wallowed in since World War II, when it really needed all it could get to fight a two-front global war. The armed services don’t know what to do with all the bucks. Beltway Bandit defense contractors stay up nights conjuring up new and unnecessary toys for the Pentagon to buy.

Trump’s frequent expressions of love for the military ring especially hollow. Vets don’t want or need love. How about some respect instead?

Canandaigua Academy graduate Richard Hermann is a law professor, legal blogger, author of seven books and part-time resident of the Finger Lakes.