The Department of Veterans Affairs press secretary denied circulating allegations that President Joe Biden withheld benefits from veterans who choose not to take the vaccine.
The allegations surfaced in an article on what appears to be a news website DelawareOhioNews.com: “Biden Orders VA To Withhold Health Benefits From Unvaccinated Veterans”.
Given the current climate and administrative changes regarding federal employment and vaccine mandates, the article, and especially its title, has raised many concerns.
The article started:
President Joe Biden has directed the Department of Veterans Affairs to withhold health services from unvaccinated veterans as part of an aggressive new initiative to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of November 1, every veteran seeking medical assistance at a VA facility must have received at least one vaccination in order to receive benefits under their medical benefits package.
The executive order is one of several new rules to combat the Delta variant, including vaccine requirements for federal employees, large employers, and healthcare workers.
The first commenter on the article wrote, “This is the most incompetent and outrageous thing a US president has ever done. President Joe Biden had proven he was proven insane. “
Others questioned the validity of the message: “I read the transcript of that speech on Thursday evening. I also listened to it live. I don’t think that’s true. A good friend of mine is a homeless veterinarian consultant and she hasn’t heard from it. Except that the health care workers have to be vaccinated. “
Question about the fact check
So what’s the truth?
While the website purports to be a parody website buried in the website’s terms and conditions, the information in the article has been considered truth by many. To clear up the confusion, I asked the agency for an official response.
Here is what I asked VA Public Affairs: “Has President Joe Biden or the White House ordered the Department of Veterans Affairs to withhold health care or health benefits from veterans who have not received a COVID-19 vaccine?”
The agency reacted quickly.
Agency rejects allegations
“The President has not and will not withhold benefits from veterans who choose not to be vaccinated,” said VA spokesman Terrence Hayes in a written response to my question.
“The spread of this misinformation is extremely harmful to our veterans and their families and should be stopped immediately.”
For those unfamiliar, qualified veterans receive benefits from VA in the form of disability cash benefits, home loans, and education payments. Many veterans also receive health benefits in the form of medical care.
VA’s statement seems to apply to all benefits, not just health benefits. Taken at face value, the press secretary’s disapproval suggests that the president does not conditionally receive benefits for veterans based on vaccine status.
That is good news.
The Delaware Ohio news website
An initial scan of the website and article led many new readers to believe it was a legitimate news source.
That is, until some readers find the disclaimer at the bottom of the website: “After all of this, everything on this website is made up. Do not rely on what is said here. “
Unfortunately, the “made up” nature of the parody site was not specifically reflected in the content of the article. This can be a significant problem as many readers fail to read past the heading or the first few paragraphs, creating the wrong impression.
This gave the wrong impression whether veterans would have access to health care regardless of their decision to take a COVID-19 vaccine.
And I can tell you that at least some veterans have been alarmed by the claim that President Biden will begin limiting the health benefits of unvaccinated veterans from November 1, 2021.
Due to the large number of comments, the article was circulating on the Internet over the weekend.
Many commentators on the article were unaware that the information on the website was incorrect or otherwise intended as a “parody”.
Those who realized the information was fake found the article tasteless.
Mel wrote, “If you want to write satire, keep rocking. But under no circumstances is it appropriate to speak so disrespectfully to our veterans – even if it is satirical. Our veterans deserve much better than what you wrote here. “
America Watch wrote, “If this is satire, you won’t laugh when someone sued you for the suicide of loved ones. You have to make this clearer if it really is satire or insert links to the implementing regulation. “
Wendy Wills wrote, “It’s a satirical website, that’s what it says at the bottom of this page. However, this is nonsense. So scare a lot of veterans, uncool. That is ethically wrong and immoral. “
In my review of the article, the language within the article seemed lazy:
“We no longer wage wars abroad. We are waging a war here at home against the stupidity of the American people, ”the spokesman said. “People die from myriad causes every day, but dying from COVID-19 when a vaccine is available is unacceptable. Suicide, drug overdose, murders, fatal accidents – these are all tragedies, too, but we can deal with them – we will not tolerate COVID-19 deaths. Government out. “
This and a few other fake quotes got me red flags and led me to a search for information about whether the site was parody or satire.
Can you spot a red flag?
Yes, the publication is completely bogus, but it has got the necks of a cackle for many readers who have overlooked the fine print or red flags in the text of the article.
But there is a silver lining.
The parody article led VA to affirm what America hopes to be true regardless of the circumstances.
President Biden has not and will not limit the receipt of benefits based on the vaccination status of veterans.