Veterans Affairs spent $20 million between 2004 and 2014 on artwork.
ABCNews, July 2016.
We have just passed the annual “Christmas in July “early holiday buying season. Now, to add to the stress of the August heat and humidity, we find out that the VA has been doing a ridiculous amount of year round shopping!
Government data was utilized to examine the Veterans Affairs Department’s (VA) spending on art for their facilities in the decade ending in 2014. The study results are now available.
At the conclusion of the 10-year study, the data revealed $20 million dollars was spent on artwork that, at times was costly, luxurious, frivolous and purely ridiculous.
The report issued by ABC news cited this one example:
$21,000 for an artificial Christmas tree at one facility!
The average life span of an artificial tree is 10 years. The VA, assuming it keeps the tree for its average life, will allocate $2,100.00 per year for the tree!
The Old Man says that FUBAR is beyond comprehension. That is an absurd amount!
The table below indicates mean average dollars spent by consumers in 2014 who chose between real trees and fake trees. This information is provided by The National Christmas Tree Association
RETAIL MARKET VALUE – 2014
|TREE TYPE||MEAN AVERAGE DOLLARS SPENT||NUMBER PURCHASED||RETAIL VALUE ($)|
|Real Trees||$39.50||26.3 million||$1.04 billion|
|Fake Trees||$63.60||13.9 million||$1.19 billion|
WHAT THE NUMBERS MEAN
- These figures are from the annual consumer tracking poll commissioned by NCTA and conducted by Harris Interactive.
- Note: Mean average dollars spent is NOT a measurement of the average price/cost of trees. It is only a measurement of what consumers taking the poll spent on the trees they purchased. It is inaccurate to report that the “average Christmas tree cost $39.50 in 2014.”
- We do not have an effective way of measuring the average retail price of trees. Prices vary based on many factors.
What the rest of the report shows!
A spokesperson for the Palo Alto(VA) facility told ABC News that it had more than $4 million in art contracts in 2013 and 2014, including an installation on the side of a parking garage. The installation meant to honor blind veterans, featured quotes by Abraham Lincoln and Eleanor Roosevelt in Morse code that lights up. The irony, critics point out, is that a blind veteran would be unlikely to see the massive artwork that cost $280,000.
ABC News reported that the Veterans Affairs agency admitted publicly around this time that its health care operations were overwhelmed and understaffed.
Job vacancy data obtained by USA TODAY , through the Freedom of Information Act, reported in September 2015 that about one in three jobs are vacant at eight of the nation’s regional Veterans Affairs health care systems. Thus leaving veterans waiting weeks to get care. Nationally one in six positions, nearly 41,000 for critical intake workers, doctors, nurses, and assistants, were unfilled.
Among the many lapses, the Veterans Affairs Department may have committed, in planning two lavish training conferences in Orlando, Fla., in 2011, was a failure to adhere to contracting procedures.
The Inspector General’s report on the $6.1 million pair of employee gatherings, which led to the resignation of the department’s Chief Human Capital Officer John Sepulveda, focused mostly on overspending, wrongful acceptance of gifts by employees and unnecessary advance trips to plan the conferences.
This new report is sparking fresh anger from both veterans and lawmakers.
Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk, a Republican, wrote Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald on July 26, demanding a “moratorium on art spending by the VA.” In his letter, Kirk mentioned that a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing last fall highlighted what he said were excessive expenditures, $6.3 million, by the VA on artwork at the Palo Alto Healthcare System.
Here is a response from the Veterans Administration
“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”.
Are there less costly alternatives?
ABC News was able to confirm that VA contracts showed spending of hundreds of thousands of dollars for individual sculptures and art installations at some facilities.
There are alternatives!
Since 2009, VAP The Veterans Artist Program, has worked with national veteran and arts organizations to produce six music/theatrical live events, filmed three documentaries, one feature film, curated gallery exhibits, provided videography/photography services, and helped organize more than 30 community improvement projects, including painting two murals in Baltimore.
The Veterans Art Project is a Veteran Service Organization that offers free bronze and ceramics classes to Veterans, their families, and Veteran’s advocates. These classes are intended to not only teach art-making skills but to utilize the process as a medium to connect Veteran’s with each other and the communities they call home. In addition to being strong pieces of art, completed bronze pieces also provide a tool for public outreach and education that reaches far beyond the classroom.
Why is the art gracing the walls of VA facilities not designed and made by veterans themselves?
Adam Andrzejewski, CEO and founder of Open The Books stated: “Veterans tell me [theirs are] the stories that resonate with other veterans, not picturesque landscapes and sculptures they can’t see,” he said.
Art therapy can engage the creative potential of individuals — especially those suffering from PTSD. Art therapy is considered a mind-body intervention that can influence physiological and psychological symptoms. The experience of expressing oneself creatively can reawaken positive emotions and address symptoms of emotional numbing in individuals with PTSD.” – Josée Leclerc, a professor in the Department of Creative Arts Therapies
The National Veterans Art Museum is dedicated to the collection, preservation and exhibition of art inspired by combat and created by veterans.
Since its inception in 1981, the NVAM has been a space for military personnel, veterans, and civilians to open a dialogue over the impact of war.
All artwork is created by veterans.
The museum collects, preserves and exhibits art inspired by combat and created by veterans.
For years, the VA has encouraged Veterans to share their stories. The VA also provides psychiatrists and psychologist to offer one on one counseling and individual therapy sessions for Veterans – a place to tell their story!
The veterans Administration sponsors nationwide open events for Veterans to create and submit their own artwork.
Presented By The Department of Veterans Affairs and the American Legion Auxiliary. The National Veterans Creative Arts Festival (NVCAF) is the celebration and grand finale stage and art show, which are the culmination of talent competitions in art, creative writing, dance, drama and music for Veterans treated in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) national health care system.
The Veterans Administration is a bureaucracy out of control.
There is still a hell of a lot of work to be done by everyone who has a legitimate concern for the welfare of our Nations Veterans! Be proactive! Sound Off about this abuse of VA funds and neglect of patients that impacts you! Click To Tweet
The Old Man thanks all the sources who provided information for this post. There are active links to these sources in the post.