Are VA administrators more interested in beautifying their workplaces than caring for veterans?
One may wonder after a new spending numbers reveal a bureaucracy spending lavishly on fountains, sculptures and paintings at a time veterans are still complaining about the care they’re receiving — or not receiving — from the federal agency.
The Boston Globe reports the Department of Veterans Affairs spent $483,000 on a “rock sculpture that is layered into cubes” outside the mental health center at the VA hospital in Palo Alto, California. The work is apparently meant to evoke “a sense of transformation, rebuilding, and self-investigation,” designers say.
The same hospital added “an art installation on the side of a parking garage that displays quotations by Abraham Lincoln and Eleanor Roosevelt in Morse code, at a cost of $285,000.”
All told, the VA Palo Alto Health Care System has spent at least $6.3 million on “art and consulting services,” according to the Globe.
The artwork is the doing of the General Services Administration Art in Architecture Program, which claims ‘‘these artworks enhance the civic meaning of federal architecture and showcase the vibrancy of American visual arts. Together, the art and architecture of federal buildings create a lasting cultural legacy for the people of the United States.’’
The expenditures come on the heels of the wildly over-budget new VA health facility in Denver, Colorado.
Initial $328 million cost projects have since ballooned to a staggering $1.7 billion — and the project is still not yet complete.
‘‘It is simply beyond me why VA would choose to pay to complete the Denver project by cutting medical services and medical facility dollars but not the exorbitant conference spending or bloated relocation expenses or art,’’ says Congressman Jeff Miller, who has been critical of VA spending habits.
The revelations likely will do nothing to ease the tensions between the VA and veterans.
A billboard in downtown Augusta, Georgia is forcing the conversation about the mistreatment of veterans by the VA hospital system. And there’s nothing subtle about it.
The sign, which reads, “VA is LYING, VETERANS ARE DYING!” was posted by a 19,000+ member Facebook group called “VA is Lying.”
The group appears to be comprised of veterans who have received shoddy treatment from the government health care agency. Ron Nesler, who runs the group, isn’t going away and will be spreading the message to other communities.
“Wow! Great weekend for donations. I will be selecting a city and buying a billboard Tuesday AM,” he posted on last month.
Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson defended the VA to WJBF.
“We know the VA health system has had its problems. I was the one that called on the Department of Justice to investigate the Augusta when the first indictment came out of the VA hospital in Augusta for the mishandling of medical information, but that should not be an indictment of the entire VA health system,” Isakson, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, says.
Nelser has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to post more billboards. So far, he’s raised $30,070 of his $100,000 goal.