A new report published by a transparency organization revealed that the Department of Veterans Affairs spent nearly $20 million over the past decade on artwork.
While veterans in Phoenix waited for healthcare for years on a secret waitlist, the VA was spending tens of millions of dollars decorating its facilities. The reported spending included $1 million on a courtyard with a large sculpture and $280,000 for artwork for the side of a parking garage in Palo Alto, $21,000 for an artificial Christmas tree, and $330,000 for glass artwork installation. The report tracked the spending over the ten-year period from 2004 to 2014.
The report was published by Open The Books, an organization described on its website as “the World’s Largest Private Database of Government Spending.” Open The Books lists the following mission statement on its website: “Capture and post online all disclosed spending at every level of government - federal, state and local government across America. We’ve successfully captured over 3 billion public expenditures. We are rapidly expanding data in all 50 states down to the municipal level. Our goal is to map an additional 1 billion government spending transactions during 2016. It’s your money and you deserve to see where every dime is spent by your government.”
While news outlet ABC was not able to independently verify all of the contracts cited by the report, the VA has did not dispute the figures in its statement to ABC News. The report has sparked some public outcry. ABC News reported that Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois wrote to Bob McDonald, Veteran Affairs Secretary, to demand a moratorium on art spending by the VA.
All of us can understand that VA facilities should be clean and pleasant in appearance. However, given that the VA is unable to consistently deliver appropriate and timely medical care to our veterans, we agree with Senator Kirk that $20 million is excessive.