Veterans Affairs spends nearly $2 million on artwork in California, including a large decorative rock
Between 2011 and 2014, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs spent $1.9 million on art work for facilities within the state of California. To make sure they got the best for your money, they also spent more than $115,000 on art consultant fees between 2011 and 2013, according to a report
of FOIA requests obtained by OpenTheBooks.com
The VA spent this money not long before an Inspector General report revealed
that as many as 307,000 veterans may have died while waiting for care, and another report found that 57,000 veterans, including those with life-threatening conditions, were waiting over three months to see a doctor.
Just over a million of this was spent on art for the new facility in Palo Alto. The VA spent $489,000 on a "large decorative rock" for an area outside of this facility. This number does not include the $800,000 spent on preparing that area for installation of the rock
. The $800,000, as reported by Reason.com, is in addition to the VA accounting for "artwork" that OpenTheBooks.org found. This means that the rock by itself cost over $1.2 million. The list has 18 separate transactions listed for the facility in Palo Alto.
Over $26,000 was spent on artwork for a building labeled "24" at a VA facility in Fresno. Not to be left out, the VA facility in Yuba City purchased over $23,000 from The Great American Picture Company, Inc. which states that it provides "high quality art solutions to healthcare, senior living and corporate environments" on its website. VA facilities in Mather and Redding purchased upwards of $4,000 on art for their facilities.
As reported in Forbes
, a San Francisco VA facility spent $32,000 in 2014 on 62 "local images." That is over $516 on each "image." At the Palo Alto Polytrauma and Blind Rehabilitation center, $670,000 was spent on two art pieces that blind patients cannot see. The "Helmick Sculpture" cost the VA $385,000 while quotes spelled out in Morse Code from Abraham Lincoln and Eleanor Roosevelt cost $285,000 for "design, fabrication, and installation" in 2014.
In addition to spending almost two million dollars on artwork for VA facilities in California, the VA spent $402,000 in purchases from Northern California Art Conservators, though documents from the VA obtained by Watchdog don’t make it clear where the art ended up.
The VA told ABC News
, "While we must be stewards of taxpayer dollars, we also know that 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. We want an atmosphere that welcomes them to VA facilities, shows them respect and appreciation, honors them for their service and sacrifice and exemplifies that this is a safe place for them to receive their care."
Dan Caldwell, vice president of policy and communications at Concerned Veterans for America told The Hill
in a written statement, "The VA’s flawed priorities are actively hurting our veterans — on the backs of American taxpayers. While veterans nationwide are struggling to receive basic health care, the VA is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on sculptures."
The VA problems do not seem to end with artwork. In September, the AP reported
that over one-third of calls to the suicide hotline set up for veterans are not being answered. The VA attributes missed calls to the hotline’s staff having "poor work habits."
"Veterans sacrificed their lives to defend our freedoms, and when they get home, they deserve the absolute best health care our country has to offer," Caldwell told Watchdog.org in a written statement. "It’s mind-blowing that Washington bureaucrats can stomach reading report after report on VA failures, and still sit there and do nothing."