Senator Calls for Veterans Affairs to Stop Extravagant Spending

VA secretary allegedly spent millions on artwork for their offices in last year, but failed to pay back providers.

A recent report found that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) spent approximately $20 million on artwork for their facilities from 2004 to 2014.

During this time, and even more so recently, the VA has come under scrutiny for cutting off benefits to US Armed Forces veterans, having long wait-times for appointments, and generally poor care in certain facilities. According to a report published by Open the Books, the department spent money on art pieces that ranged in cost from hundreds of thousands of dollars to a few hundred dollars, with a majority of the items in the report considered very costly.

Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Related Agencies, recently sent a letter to VA Secretary Robert A McDonald, referencing the report and calling for the VA to stop “excessive artwork expenditures.”

Sen Kirk said in his letter that the VA previously stated they have no formal approval process for buying artwork, but they would create a temporary process. However, Kirk alleges that the VA spent $1.8 million on artwork last year, while not paying private practices for care provided through the Veterans Choice Program.

He also criticizes McDonald for testifying that the VA is “understaffed and budget-strapped,” but they continue to spend money on costly artwork. According to the letter, the VA spent $6.3 million at the Paolo Alto facility last fall, and spent $610,000 for artwork in Puerto Rico’s new facility.

Kirk said he hopes this letter will suspend VA spending on artwork instead of providing adequate healthcare for its beneficiaries.

“Spending money on decorative art while veterans wait for care is unacceptable and Secretary McDonald should block any more purchases and formalize processes to use artwork by veterans instead,” Kirk said in the letter. “The VA has not taken the year-old directive to stop excessive spending on and I’m calling for an immediate moratorium on art purchases until a Congressionally approved process is formally instated, so the American people are informed on how their tax dollars are spent.”