There have been thousands of documented cases of military veterans dying over the past decade due to long wait lists at hospitals and treatment facilities maintained by the Veteran’s Administration. While the VA complains of a lack of funds and continues to put veterans on wait lists for basic treatments, it was revealed that the administration spent over $20 million on high-end artwork to hang on the walls of facilities instead of using the funds to treat more veterans.
Forbes reports that people across the nation were horrified when it was revealed that thousands of veterans had died while waiting to be seen by doctors. The VA scandal also indicated that veterans suffering suicidal thoughts were often sent to a voicemail and that the health services fell significantly short of what most Americans consider acceptable. With so many problems plaguing the care system of the Veteran’s Administration, the recent revelations that the very same organization was wasting tens of millions of dollars on fancy artwork is almost unfathomable.
Cox Media in conjunction with OpenTheBooks.com discovered that the VA had spent over $20 million on artwork, Christmas trees, and sculptures during the same time that veterans were dying from lack of access to medical care. The $20 million was spent over the last 10 years, with $16 million of the art expenditures taking place under the Obama administration. News outlets reported that some 500,000 sick veterans were waiting on medical treatment, backlogged due to a lack of doctors, when the VA decided to negligently spend tens of millions on artwork and add nearly 36,000 new paid positions to the department payroll that were not “medical officers.”
“The VA added 39,454 new positions to their payroll between 2012-2015, but fewer than one in 11 of these new positions (3,591) were ‘Medical Officers,’ i.e. doctors. Today, nearly 500,000 sick veterans are still wait-listed for an appointment because there just aren’t enough doctors.”
As if not prioritizing the hiring of doctors in a system with such a large backlog of medical care needs is not bad enough, the group continued their wasteful spending on projects completely unrelated to the care of patients. In one of the most gross overspending projects discovered, the VA spent $670,000 on two sculptures for a clinic that served veterans that were blind — over half a million dollars to place sculptures in a facility with veterans who couldn’t even see them. Likewise, it was revealed that one facility spent $21,000 on an artificial Christmas tree for the holiday season.
It seems that even the most financially “troubled” VA facilities were not exempt from the out-of-control spending. The VA center in Biloxi, Mississippi, was denoted as one of the “most troubled” facilities in the 2014 bombshell report outlining the problems faced by military veterans needing medical care. However, that didn’t stop the VA from spending over $168,000 on art for the facility. Even minor items for the facilities were turned into expensive art projects with one facility paying $16,000 for two upholstered window cornices.
It isn’t just the art itself that costs the VA a large sum of money, some are even paying for art consultations that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. For example, the Palo Alto VA facility spent $115,600 for “art consultants.” The trend of expensive artwork began in 2008 when funds for art skyrocketed.
“The VA purchased $1.515 million in artwork (2004-2007). Then, during 2008 through 2014, the VA spent 16.2 million on artwork, art consulting and restoration services plus another $2 million on special projects.”
While most Americans have shown grave concern for the plight of veterans in the VA system, the VA secretary is reportedly busy comparing the issue to lines at Disneyland. Fox Boston reports that VA Secretary Bob McDonald feels that the VA should not be measuring how long it takes for a veteran to be seen by a doctor, but rather how satisfied they are with their visit when it actually takes place.
“The days to an appointment is really not what we should be measuring. What we should be measuring is the veteran’s satisfaction. … When you go to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line? What’s important is what’s your satisfaction with the experience. And that’s really the kind of measure I want to move to.”
However, as many people have pointed out, the VA is not make believe nor a vacation. It is life or death for many veterans forced into the system for care.
What do you think about the exorbitant art expenditures of the VA as centers across the country struggle to provide services to the veterans relying on their care?
[Photo by Russell Contreras/ AP Photo]