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 1, 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.
In a televised speech Thursday evening, the president called upon veterans to continue their service to the United States, saying their debt to the country must be paid in perpetuity.
“As with so many other things in our country, veterans are part of the problem when they should be part of the solution. We promised to take care of you in return for your service to this country. You promised us your life. Now it’s time to help us protect you before we let you die some other way because you failed to avoid dying a way we didn’t want you to. If this doesn’t make sense to you, have a little faith. There is great honor in doing what you’re told,” Biden said.
“You are willing to fight and die for your country. You are willing to take a bullet in the head for next to nothing. Get blown to bits over in Afghanistan. But you won’t let us pump some mRNA molecules into your arm?” the president continued. “It’s time to get real. Some of you are behaving like some real wise guys here, some real dummies. Wiseguy dumb-dumb boys, as my father used to say. Enough is enough. So 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.”
There are around 19 million U.S. veterans that will be affected by the order. VA officials have said that roughly 10% of veterans have indicated they are “not interested” in getting the shots. Nearly 50% remained unvaccinated as of July when the department’s most recent data was released.
Asked how strict the VA would be in applying the rules with veterans facing more acute health crises, the president said it would be a zero-tolerance policy.
“There will be no exceptions to this policy,” Biden said. “If you walk into a VA hospital for cancer treatment and aren’t vaccinated, the shot will go up your behind before you start chemo. It’s that simple. Protect yourself and others from COVID-19, or we’ll stop protecting you from everything else. Comprende, negranos?”
Veterans blasted the president’s decision.
“It should go without saying that this order makes no sense whatsoever,” said VFW spokesperson Tommy Fitzhugh. “This administration is jeopardizing the health of American veterans by claiming to have an interest in their health and wellbeing. Joe Biden is out of his mind.”
“I just don’t trust the government, especially after my experience in the service and watching how they handle business and care for the people they’re supposed to represent,” said U.S. Army veteran and Ohio resident John Bigolballs. “We just witnessed a complete debacle in Afghanistan where 13 American service members died because of our incompetent and hasty withdrawal. Why did I even fight over there again? Nothing is what it seems. They’ll let me drink myself to death, drive myself crazy with PTSD, live on the street, but COVID-19 is the end of the world all of a sudden? Things never quite add up. It doesn’t seem fair not to have a choice under the circumstances.”
Some were ready for it to all be over.
“I am homeless and do not care whether I live or die,” said former Marine Tony Franks, aka Tony Who Gives a Fuck About Any Of This Shit. “The only shot I want is one to the head.”
Asked to respond to veterans’ concerns, a White House spokesperson echoed the president’s views.
“We are no longer fighting wars overseas. We are fighting a war right here at home against the stupidity of the American people,” the spokesperson said. “People die every day from myriad causes, but dying of COVID-19 when there is a vaccine available is unacceptable. Suicide, drug overdoses, homicides, fatal accidents — these are all tragedies, too, but we can deal with them — COVID-19 deaths aren’t something we will tolerate. Government out.”
Image courtesy of the Milwaukee VA Medical Center on Flickr