Fact check: Claim that Biden is withholding benefits from unvaccinated veterans originated as satire

·3 min read

The claim: President Joe Biden is withholding health benefits from unvaccinated veterans

President Joe Biden recently announced vaccination requirements for federal workers and companies with more than 100 employees, as COVID-19 cases continue to surge due to the highly contagious delta variant.

As Republican governors and commentators criticized the new vaccine mandate, some took to social media to claim Biden also ordered the Department of Veterans Affairs to withhold health benefits from veterans who are unvaccinated.

"Biden Orders VA to withhold Health Benefits From Unvaccinated Veterans," reads the headline of an article that was shared to Facebook on Sept. 13 in a post with more than 300 interactions in three days.

Another user shared the same screenshot to Instagram and claimed Biden said, "As with so many other things in our country, veterans are part of the problem when they should be part of the solution."

But Biden never said this, and he is not withholding health benefits from unvaccinated veterans. The claim started as satire and was shared to social media as if it were factual.

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The posters did not return a request for comment.

Claim originated as satire

The headline seen in the social media posts was captured from an article from DelawareOhioNews.com, which says all of its stories "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," reads a disclaimer on the website. A message located at the bottom of the webpage states "everything on this website is made up" and "do not rely on anything said here."

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While the original article includes a disclaimer that the story is satirical, the social media posts do not.

It's an example of what could be called "stolen satire," where stories written as satire and presented that way originally are captured via screenshot and reposted in a way that makes them appear to be legitimate news. As a result, readers of the second-generation post are misled, as was the case here.

Meanwhile on Twitter, some users shared the link to the DelawareOhioNews.com article as if it were an authentic report and did not notice the disclaimer.

"If true, this is insane," one user tweeted.

"Is anyone going to address the POTUS withholding healthcare to people that actually put their lives in the line so the citizens could make their own choices?" wrote another user.

Biden's executive order on requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for federal employees makes no mention of health benefits or unvaccinated veterans. Biden also did not bring up veterans during a Sept. 9 speech about the mandatory vaccine rules for large companies.

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Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that Biden is withholding health benefits from unvaccinated veterans. The claim was first posted on a parody website, but users on social media shared it without identifying it as satire, leading people to believe it was an authentic news article.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Biden is not withholding health benefits from unvaccinated

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