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Biden is not withholding benefits from unvaccinated veterans

September 15, 2021 GMT

CLAIM: President Joe Biden has ordered the Department of Veterans Affairs to withhold health care benefits from unvaccinated veterans.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. President Biden has not directed the Department of Veterans Affairs to cut off benefits to unvaccinated veterans, and Biden’s existing coronavirus-related executive order does not mandate such actions. The erroneous claims were outlined in a satirical article published by a parody blog that some readers mistakenly spread as fact.

THE FACTS: Dozens of people took to social media to voice their disapproval for what they believed was a new executive order from Biden. Social posts suggested that this supposed order would keep veterans who receive assistance from the Department of Veterans Affairs from accessing health care benefits unless they received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Nov. 1.

But the worries proved to be unfounded as no such directive or executive order exists. ​​In a statement to The Associated Press, the Department of Veterans Affairs confirmed the claims were untrue.

“The President has not and will not withhold benefits to Veterans who choose not to be vaccinated,” Veterans Affairs Press Secretary Terrence L. Hayes said. “The spread of this misinformation is extremely detrimental to our Veterans and their families and should cease immediately.”

The claims were spread through an article on a website that describes its stories as “parodies, satire, fiction, fake, not real.” The blog includes a disclaimer explaining that “everything on this website is made up” and warning readers not to “rely on anything said here.”

U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, a Republican from Iowa, was among those who tweeted a link to the satirical article. She wrote in her tweet: “If true, this is insane!”

While Biden did issue an executive order Sept. 9 introducing sweeping new federal vaccine requirements for as many as 100 million Americans in an effort to curb the surging COVID-19 delta variant, that order makes no specific mention of veterans and does not extend to individual veterans’ government health care benefits or to people who receive assistance from the Department of Veterans Affairs to cover medical expenses.

The rules apply to private-sector employees, health care workers and federal contractors. The order mandates that all employers with more than 100 workers require them to be vaccinated or test for the virus weekly. It also requires workers at health facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid funding to be fully vaccinated.

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced in July that all of its health care personnel who work in Veterans Health Administration facilities, visit VHA facilities or provide direct care to those the VA serves would need to get vaccinated. However, that rule does not extend to non-employees who may utilize the department’s services.

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.