A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center
FactCheck.org is celebrating 15 years of holding politicians accountable.

Would Obama Have Soldiers Pay for Own War Injuries?


Q: Did Obama accuse veterans of "selfishness" and whining? Would he have forced them to "pay for their war injuries"?

A: This chain e-mail contains fabricated quotes and misrepresents a budget idea that the White House scrapped. The quotes were intended as satire.

FULL QUESTION

This e-mail is circulating. What is the truth about this one?

I don’t care what your political views are…you must read this. Another look at our president, unbelieveable!!!!

*******************

[EET ]

HERE IS HIS RESPONSE WHEN HE BACKED OFF FROM HIS DECISION TO LET THE MILITARY PAY FOR THEIR WAR INJURIES……..WHAT A EMPTY HEADED PERSON HE MUST BE….SEND THIS TO EVERYONE TO SHOW JUST WHAT HE THINKS OF OUR MILITARY WHO FIGHT FOR OUR COUNTRY AND GET HURT PROTECTING OUR FREEDOM!!!

I HAVE ANOTHER NAME FOR THIS CREATURE BUT AM TRYING TO STOP USING THAT WORD FOR HIM….IT IS NOT NICE……

Bad press, including major mockery of the plan by comedian Jon Stewart, led to President Obama abandoning his proposal to require veterans carry private health insurance to cover the estimated $540 million annual cost to the federal government of treatment for injuries to military personnel received during their tours on active duty.

The President admitted that he was puzzled by the magnitude of the opposition to his proposal. "Look, it’s an all volunteer force," Obama complained. "Nobody made these guys go to war. They had to have known and accepted the risks. Now they whine about bearing the costs of their choice? It doesn’t compute.."

"I thought these were people who were proud to sacrifice for their
country," Obama continued. "I wasn’t asking for blood (oh but you did), just money.  With the country facing the worst financial crisis in its history, I’d have thought that the patriotic thing to do (Let’s talk patriotic for a moment here…kids getting their ass shot at, of which there has been a loss there has been shoty supplies of appropriate protection – Parents are paying for it out of their own pocket, and you Sir, want to turn your back…Mr. Commander in Chief, is it??) would be to try to help reduce the nation’s deficit. I guess I underestimated the selfishness of some of my fellow Americans."

WITH THIS THINKING IT WOULD SEEM THAT ALL POLITICAL OFFICES, FEDERAL, STATE, COUNTY & CITY EMPLOYEES WOULD FALL INTO THAT CATEGORY… THUS THEY SHOULD PAY FOR ALL THEIR HEALTH CARE AND THE PERKS THEY NOW RECEIVE SHOULD BE REMOVED AS THESE COSTS ARE PART OF THE JOB… THEY CAN ALWAYS FIND ANOTHER JOB…

SINCE THEY ALL ARE ALL SO VERY PATROIC, THE PRESIDENT SHOULD LEAD BY EXAMPLE AND START PAYING FOR HIS HEALTH INSURANCE AND ALL THE TRIPS HE MAKES ON AIRFORCE ONE…

LETS SEE HOW UNSELFISH HIS ADMININSTRATION IS…

Who the hell does this guy think he is? The volunteers for the military are the reason he’s where he is, they’re keeping him and family safe. He’s got to be from another planet![/EET]

 FULL ANSWER

We’ve received many copies and variations of this e-mail in the past few weeks.

Made-up Quotes

To start, the e-mail’s anonymous author offers no evidence to substantiate the disparaging remarks about veterans that he or she attributes to President Obama. White House spokesman Tommy Vietor told us that "these quotes are fabricated."

Our own research backs that up. We searched news databases and turned up no news organization that has ever quoted Obama this way. We conclude that these quotes are simply made-up, and perhaps intended as satire.

Update, Sept. 25: Long after we posted this article, we discovered that the quotes were indeed intended as satire. They are the product of conservative humorist John Semmens, who posted them originally March 21, 2009. They appeared in Semmens’ column, "Semi-News — A Satirical Look at Recent News," at the online publication The Arizona Conservative.

We might have figured that out sooner had we recalled that Semmens was the source of an earlier fake Obama quote that was widely circulated during the 2008 campaign. That time, Semmens poked fun at Obama’s reluctance to wear an American flag pin on his lapel, and spun a tale in which Obama supposedly said the "war-like message" of the National Anthem should be replaced with something like "I Want to Teach the World to Sing." That was the subject of an earlier Ask FactCheck article posted April 22, 2008. Then as now, the bogus quotes became part of a chain e-mail that many passed off as true.

Garbled Budget Proposal

Furthermore, the author incorrectly describes a budget proposal that the White House discarded after veterans groups protested loudly. The message describes the idea as a "decision to let the military pay for their war injuries" and to "require veterans [to] carry private health insurance." That gives a false picture of what was actually under discussion.

As reported by the Washington Post and others including Fox News, the Obama administration met with several veterans groups on March 16 and floated the idea of saving taxpayers $540 million by billing veterans’ private insurance companies for treatment of conditions connected to their military service, including war injuries. The Department of Veterans Affairs currently bills these insurance companies for treatment of non-service-related conditions.

But as administration officials made clear at the time, there was no proposal to force veterans to pay for treatment for their own injuries, or to make them buy private insurance if they did not already have it. In fact, administration officials told FactCheck.org at the time that their proposal would have no financial impact on veterans at all.

"The idea … would result in no additional out-of-pocket costs to veterans even when their private insurance plans require deductibles before benefits are paid," one official told us in an exchange of e-mails.

Nevertheless, veterans organizations protested. An American Legion news release carried the headline: "The American Legion Strongly Opposed to President’s Plan to Charge Wounded Heroes for Treatment." It complained that the idea could under some circumstances result in added costs to veterans despite administration officials’ assurances. For example, the Legion said, a veteran’s treatment might cost enough to reach maximum insurance coverage limits, leaving the rest of the veteran’s family without health care benefits.

Two days after its meeting with veterans groups, the White House released a formal announcement saying that "the President has instructed that [the idea’s] consideration be dropped."

–Justin Bank and Brooks Jackson

Sources

Rucker, Phillip. "Obama’s Turnabout on Vets Highlights Budget Nuances." Washington Post, 21 March 2009.

"Veterans Groups Blast Obama Plan for Private Insurance to Pay for Service-Related Health Care." Foxnews.com, 17 March 2009.