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The VA spent $20M on art while ignoring sick Veterans

The VA spent $20M on art while ignoring sick Veterans

The Veterans Affairs administration spent $20 million on expensive artwork and
sculptures amidst the health care scandal, where thousands of veterans died waiting to
see doctors.

The taxpayer watchdog group Open the Books teamed up with COX Media
Washington, D.C., for an oversight report on spending at the VA, finding numerous
frivolous expenditures on artwork, including six-figure dollar sculptures at facilities for
the blind.

“In the now-infamous VA scandal of 2012-2015, the nation was appalled to learn that
1,000 veterans died while waiting to see a doctor,” wrote Adam Andrzejewski, the
founder and CEO of Open the Books, in an editorial for Forbes. “Tragically, many
calls to the suicide assistance hotline were answered by voicemail. The health claim
appeals process was known as ‘the hamster wheel’ and the appointment books were
cooked in seven of every ten clinics.”

“Yet, in the midst of these horrific failings the VA managed to spend $20 million on
high-end art over the last ten years—with $16 million spent during the Obama years,”
Andrzejewski said.

The VA spent $21,000 for a 27 foot fake Christmas tree; $32,000 for 62 “local image”
pictures for the San Francisco VA; and $115,600 for “art consultants” for the Palo Alto

A “rock sculpture” cost taxpayers $482,960, and more than a half a million dollars
were spent for sculptures for veterans that could not see them.

“In an ironic vignette, at a healthcare facility dedicated to serving blind veterans the
new Palo Alto Polytrauma and Blind Rehabilitation Center—the agency wasted
$670,000 on two sculptures no blind veteran can even see,” Andrzejewski said. “The
‘Helmick Sculpture’ cost $385,000 (2014) and a parking garage exterior wall façade
by King Ray Studio for the ‘design, fabrication, and installation of the public artwork’
cost $285,000 (2014).”

“Blind veterans can’t see fancy sculptures, and all veterans would be happier if they
could just see a doctor,” he said.