Report: VA Spent Millions on Costly Art as Veterans Waited for Care
Over $1 million was spent for a courtyard and sculpture at a Palo Alto facility.
The expenditures included more than $1 million for a courtyard with a large sculpture at a Palo Alto veterans facility; $330,000 for a glass-art installation; and $21,000 for an artificial Christmas tree, according to the report.
Open The Books, a nonprofit that claims to be the world’s largest private database of government spending, in conjunction with Cox Media used government data to examine the Veterans Affairs Department's (VA) spending on art for their facilities in the decade ending in 2014.
Much of the spending occurred at a time when veterans were experiencing lengthy waits for treatment at VA facilities. After as many as 40 veterans died while seeking care at the VA's Phoenix Healthcare System, the federal agency's inspector general found in 2014 that lengthy waits for treatment might have contributed to the deaths but did not definitively cause them.
The Veterans Affairs agency admitted publicly around this time that its health care operations were overwhelmed and understaffed.
Now this new report is sparking fresh anger from both veterans and lawmakers.
Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk, a Republican, wrote Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald on July 26, demanding a “moratorium on art spending by the VA.” In his letter, Kirk mentioned that a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing last fall highlighted what he said were excessive expenditures, $6.3 million, by the VA on artwork at the Palo Alto Healthcare System.
A spokesperson for the Palo Alto facility told ABC News that it had more than $4 million in art contracts in 2013 and 2014, including for an installation on the side of a parking garage. The installation, meant to honor blind veterans, featured quotes by Abraham Lincoln and Eleanor Roosevelt in Morse code that light up. The irony, critics point out, is that a blind veteran would be unlikely to see the massive artwork that cost $280,000.