In the fall of 1968, Donald Trump received a timely diagnosis of bone spurs in his heels that led to his medical exemption from the military during Vietnam.
For 50 years, the details of how the exemption came about, and who made the diagnosis, have remained a mystery, with Trump himself saying during the presidential campaign that he could not recall who had signed off on the medical documentation.
Now a possible explanation has emerged about the documentation. It involves a foot doctor in Queens, New York, who rented his office from Trump’s father, Fred Trump, and a suggestion that the diagnosis was granted as a courtesy to the elder Trump.
The podiatrist, Dr. Larry Braunstein, died in 2007. But his daughters say their father often told the story of coming to the aid of a young Trump during the Vietnam War as a favor to his father.
“I know it was a favor,” said one daughter, Dr. Elysa Braunstein, 56, who along with her sister, Sharon Kessel, 53, shared the family’s account for the first time publicly when contacted by The New York Times.
Elysa Braunstein said the implication from her father was that Donald Trump did not have a disqualifying foot ailment. “But did he examine him? I don’t know,” she said.
For decades, Larry Braunstein saw patients in a congested ground-floor office below Edgerton Apartments in Jamaica, Queens, one of dozens of buildings owned by the Trumps in the 1960s. The family sold the building in 2004, records show.
“What he got was access to Fred Trump,” Elysa Braunstein said. “If there was anything wrong in the building, my dad would call and Trump would take care of it immediately. That was the small favor that he got.”
No paper evidence has been found to help corroborate the version of events described by the Braunstein family, who also suggested there was some involvement by a second podiatrist, Dr. Manny Weinstein. Weinstein, who died in 1995, lived in two apartments in Brooklyn owned by Fred Trump; city directories show he moved into the first during the year Donald Trump received his exemption.
Braunstein’s daughters said their father left no medical records with the family, and a doctor who purchased his practice said he was unaware of any documents related to Trump. Most detailed government medical records related to the draft no longer exist, according to the National Archives.
In an interview with The Times in 2016, Trump said that a doctor provided “a very strong letter” about the bone spurs in his heels, which he then presented to draft officials. He said he could not remember the doctor’s name. “You are talking a lot of years,” Trump said.
But he suggested he still had some paperwork related to the exemption, which he did not provide.
Trump did not mention in that interview any connection between his father and the doctor. The White House did not make Trump available for a follow-up interview and did not respond to written questions about his service record.
An investigation by The Times in October showed the extent to which Fred Trump had assisted his son over the years, despite Donald Trump’s insistence to the contrary. The investigation revealed that Donald Trump received the equivalent today of at least $413 million from his father’s real estate empire, including the equivalent of $200,000 a year by age 3.