To combat the COVID-19 delta variant, U.S. President Joe Biden on Sept. 9, 2021, announced expansive vaccine and testing requirements that would impact tens of millions of Americans — including all federal workers and some private-sector and health care employees.
The directive sparked questions among Snopes readers. Some questioned how, or to what extent, the president’s plan would impact veterans who receive financial assistance from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to cover medical expenses.
Those inquiries, in particular, appeared to stem from an article on Delaware Ohio News that claimed the president instructed the VA to stop providing healthcare benefits to unvaccinated veterans as part of his push to encourage inoculations. That web page read:
President Joe Biden has ordered the Department of Veterans Affairs to withhold healthcare benefits from unvaccinated veterans as part of an aggressive new initiative to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Beginning November 1st, any veteran seeking medical care at a VA facility must have had at least one shot of the vaccine to receive services under their medical benefits package.
The executive order is one of several new rules to combat the Delta variant, including vaccine requirements for federal workers, large employers, and health care staff.
Additionally, the article claimed Biden made these comments in a televised speech on Sept. 9:
“We promised to take care of you in return for your service to this country. You promised us your life,” the president allegedly said. “[Sit] down and get the dang shot. Do what we tell you to do and continue your service to this great country. Or go without your healthcare benefits. The choice is yours.”
However, the article was not a factual recounting of events.
While it was true Biden outlined sweeping vaccine requirements in a speech on Sept. 9, those remarks did not include the above-written alleged quote nor any other reference to veterans’ benefits, according to C-SPAN’s recording of the event and the official White House transcript.
Additionally, we found no evidence for the claim in his Sept. 9 presidential order requiring vaccinations for all federal workers. No federal document substantiated the theory that the White House directed the VA to change its system for awarding healthcare benefits based on recipients’ vaccination status.
Also, while the assertion would be eminently newsworthy if it was factual, no reputable news outlet had reported on the alleged provision affecting veterans.
In sum, the article supposedly reporting the change was not genuine. Its source, the Delaware Ohio News, describes its output as being fake or satirical in nature, as follows:
“All stories herein are parodies (satire, fiction, fake, not real) of people and/or actual events. All names are made up (unless used in a parody of public figures) and any similarity is purely coincidental.”
For background, here is why we sometimes write about satire/humor.
As for Biden’s vaccine push, few details about the new requirements were known as of this writing. (See The Associated Press’ summary of the requirements, and who they could impact, based on Biden’s Sept. 9 remarks here.) Jeffrey Zients, the White House’ coronavirus response coordinator, told that news outlet that the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration would draft specifics “over the coming weeks.”
Meanwhile, Biden critics claimed his announcement violated individuals’ or businesses’ rights and were supposedly preparing lawsuits to try to block the new requirements. For example, see the below-displayed email from the Republican National Committee to solicit donations from supporters supposedly to help fund the anti-vaccination effort.
“Stop the vaccine mandate,” read the email, obtained by Snopes. “We will sue Biden to end his authoritarian vaccine mandate.”
“Biden Announces Sweeping New Vaccine Mandates for Businesses, Federal Workers.” Washington Post. www.washingtonpost.com, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/vaccine-mandate-federal-employees/2021/09/09/1c1ce9dc-116b-11ec-882f-2dd15a067dc4_story.html. Accessed 13 Sept. 2021.
“Sweeping New Vaccine Mandates for 100 Million Americans.” AP NEWS, 9 Sept. 2021, https://apnews.com/article/joe-biden-business-health-coronavirus-pandemic-executive-branch-18fb12993f05be13bf760946a6fb89be. Accessed 13 Sept. 2021.
Paye, Ricardo. “Biden Orders VA To Withhold Health Benefits From Unvaccinated Veterans.” Delaware Ohio News, 10 Sept. 2021, https://www.delawareohionews.com/national-news/biden-orders-va-to-withhold-health-benefits-from-unvaccinated-veterans/. Accessed 13 Sept. 2021.
“Remarks by President Biden on Fighting the COVID-19 Pandemic.” The White House, 10 Sept. 2021, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/09/09/remarks-by-president-biden-on-fighting-the-covid-19-pandemic-3/. Accessed 13 Sept. 2021.
“Executive Order on Requiring Coronavirus Disease 2019 Vaccination for Federal Employees.” The White House, 9 Sept. 2021, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/09/09/executive-order-on-requiring-coronavirus-disease-2019-vaccination-for-federal-employees/. Accessed 13 Sept. 2021.
President Biden Outlines Plan on Delta Variant and Vaccinations | C-SPAN.Org. https://www.c-span.org/video/?514532-1/president-biden-expresses-frustration-pandemic-politics-mandates-vaccines-federal-workers. Accessed 13 Sept. 2021.
“Biden’s Vaccine Rules to Set off Barrage of Legal Challenges.” AP NEWS, 10 Sept. 2021, https://apnews.com/article/joe-biden-health-lawsuits-business-coronavirus-pandemic-0f668373b0a2f0f6af6e5b39e2ceaae9. Accessed 13 Sept. 2021.
“Key Parts of Biden’s Plan to Confront Delta Variant Surge.” AP NEWS, 9 Sept. 2021, https://apnews.com/article/joe-biden-business-health-coronavirus-pandemic-26bace6485d88ad1ae3ef2aea60fbb65. Accessed 13 Sept. 2021.