Northville, MI (Law Firm Newswire) September 16, 2016 – A new report has found the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) spent $20 million on costly artwork over a decade. The spending occurred amid a scandal in which thousands of veterans died waiting for health care at VA hospitals. Open The Books, a government spending watchdog group, collaborated with Cox Media to analyze VA expenditure on art for their facilities from 2004 to 2014.
Among the costly purchases was a large courtyard featuring a sculpture priced at over $1 million for the Palo Alto VA facility. In addition, the report claimed the VA paid $21,000 for a fake Christmas tree; $32,000 for 62 pictures for the San Francisco VA; and $482,960 for a rock sculpture.
“While it is nice for hospitals to have a welcoming atmosphere, procuring expensive artwork is far from a priority,” said Jim Fausone, a Michigan veterans attorney. “The VA should be using its financial resources wisely to improve staffing and medical facilities so that veterans get the best health care possible in a timely manner.”
The VA also paid $280,000 for an installation honoring blind veterans at the Palo Alto facility. The artwork features Morse code quotes that light up. However, critics pointed out the irony that a blind veteran would be unable to see the large, costly piece.
The majority of the spending occurred when veterans were experiencing lengthy wait times for treatment at VA facilities. As many as 40 veterans died while awaiting care at a Phoenix VA hospital in 2014. Further investigations revealed more than 1,000 veterans died while waiting to see a doctor. In addition, reports found VA facilities altered schedules to cover up the wait times.
The spending report has sparked outrage among both veterans and lawmakers. In a letter to VA Secretary Robert McDonald, Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk demanded a “moratorium on art spending by the VA” along with a “Congressionally approved process” to curb expenditures.
The VA told ABC News that the department is developing a national art policy that will cover the commissioning of artwork. In a statement, the VA said, “… providing comprehensive health care for patients goes beyond just offering the most advanced medical treatments. Artwork is one of the many facets that create a healing environment for our nation’s veterans.”
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