Two veterans' advocacy groups are backing a push from House Republicans to prohibit the Department of Veterans Affairs from buying luxury artwork, after controversy erupted over reports that the VA has spent significant funds on decorations.
Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., this month called on the VA to stop buying artwork, and cited the 70,000 veterans who continue to face "unreasonable delays" when attempting to obtain medical care from the embattled agency.
Concerned Veterans for America and Veterans for Common Sense, two groups that have been critical of the VA, applauded Buchanan's efforts to refocus the agency on problems within its healthcare system. The organizations cited its unreliable suicide hotline, which directed hundreds of veterans' calls to voicemail, and its inability to provide timely care for patients as evidence of the VA's need to prioritize funding.
"While veterans nationwide are struggling to receive basic healthcare, the VA is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on sculptures," said Dan Caldwell, vice president of policy and communications at Concerned Veterans for America.
"There are much more pressing needs and systemic problems at VA facilities around the country that need to be addressed before the VA spends millions of taxpayer dollars on lavish new artwork, including fixing VA's suicide hotline so it can always provide immediate assistance," said Anthony Hardie of Veterans for Common Sense.
The Veterans Affairs came under fire last month following reports that officials had spent $20 million in taxpayer funds on pieces of art over the past decade. The lavish expenditures included $115,600 for "art consultants" at a Palo Alto, Calif., facility and $195,000 for sculptures at an Anchorage, Alaska, clinic.
House Republicans have threatened to subpoena the VA if it does not provide accurate estimates of its spending on art.