The Department of Veterans Affairs Blew $1.2 Million on Decorative Rock Sculptures

From 2004 to 2014, the government-run health agency spent more than $20 million on luxury art.


Open The Books

As long waiting times and bureaucratic inertia left veterans unable to get medical care, the federal Department of Veteran's Affairs was spending more than $1.2 million on a giant rock.

The "large decorative rock" outside the VA's Palo Alto Health Care System cost $489,000. The VA also paid another $800,000 to prepare the site for the rock's installation, according to a new report from Open The Books, a government spending watchdog.

That's one of the more questionable purchases detailed in the new report, which looks at how the VA spent more than $20 million between 2004 and 2014 on luxury artwork.

"Included in the expenditures is a 27-foot artificial Christmas tree for $21,500 delivered to Chillicothe, Ohio and two sculptures costing $670,000 for a VA facility in California that serves blind veterans," reported Open The Books.

The VA also spent $285,000 on decorative rocks that spell out a message in Morse code on the side of a parking garage. A VA hospital in Puerto Rico spent $600,000 on artwork in a five year span and a facility in Biloxi, Mississippi, that was fingered as one of the worst VA hospitals in the country managed to spend $168,000 on 25 separate purchases.

"I think it's outrageous, but frankly not that surprising," Shaun Rieley, a research analysts for Concerned Veterans for America told ABC News on Friday.

Not spending money on fancy sculptures and expensive artwork probably wouldn't have done anything to fix the ongoing problems at the VA. That's because the problems at the VA aren't caused by a lack of funds—although Congress "addressed" the VA crisis the only way it knows how: by throwing more money at the department.

Rather, the single-payer health care system for America's soldiers is beset by systemic problems: pervasive mismanagement, poor customer service, and a complete lack of accountability that included a culture of "whistleblower retaliation."

While waiting lists were growing longer and some veterans were dying before they could see a doctor, all 470 executive officials at the VA were rated "fully successful" in annual reviews for 2014. That same year, an internal VA audit found "57,436 newly enrolled veterans facing a minimum 90-day wait for medical care; 63,869 veterans who enrolled over the past decade requesting an appointment that never happened."

If you're not going to fail an annual review for overseeing that disaster, you're probably not going to get in trouble for blowing six-figures on some artwork. And if they hadn't wasted the money on giant rocks, the VA's track record suggests that money would have been flushed away on something else.

Still, it gives you an idea of where their priorities lie.

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  1. In Iraq, I decorated a rock for free and named it after my NCO. I walked around with it on occasion and let it engage in conversation with people. He eventually took it home with him. It brought much joy.

    It was free, but I could probably do the job for the VA for like half that.

  2. and two sculptures costing $670,000 for a VA facility in California that serves blind veterans

    At least it wasn’t two PAINTINGS for a facility full of blind veterans.

    1. It has to be some sort of joke, surely.

    2. for the record, the blind vets probably aren’t allowed to touch the statues either.

  3. Tactile artwork not decorative rocks.

    1. *tactical

  4. I bet Trump probably wouldn’t spend $1.2 million on a rock.

    “Lisa, I want to buy your rock.”

  5. “Single payer is the only way to have affordable healthcare.”


    1. I’ve brought that up, but I have yet to hear a response.

    2. Progs didn’t want single payer healthcare. Oh, yeah, I forgot, Republicans, who didn’t cast a single vote for the law, somehow stopped them. /derp

    3. Affordable healthcare with SCULPTURE!

  6. I’m assuming this is due to the requirement to spend a percentage of the project total on art? The newish federal courthouse (an abomination of design in itself) installed artwork on the roof to meet the minimum.…..res.action

  7. Bah! This is common. Our county insists that at least 1% of the total cost for any new library being built must be spent on public art.

    Can’t have a library without some really cool art can you?

    1. The county where I grew up requires sculptures even in front of some privately financed office buildings.

    2. They’re still building libraries, why do these things even need to exist now?

      1. You need to put librarians somewhere, otherwise they start rampaging through the streets.

    3. better than your sister taking pictures of her nights spent working on the backpage.

  8. We need Mr. Khan and his wife to show up and wave their pocket constitution at the rock.

    1. Performance art!

  9. Rather, the single-payer health care system for America’s soldiers is beset by systemic problems

    Whenever someone starts telling me how they think their particular socialized medicine scheme would be fantastic, the VA is the counterexample I give them. If our country can use human lives like this and then throw them to the wolves when it is time to pay for the medical care they need afterwards, what makes the average citizen who has made no such sacrifice think he’s going to get a better deal?

  10. It’s my opinion that the $20 million spent on decorative rock structures was better spent than the CDC’s ‘getting the fairer sex innerested in sciencey stuff’ program.

    1. Meanwhile Zika has gained a foothold in Miami-Dade. Thanks, CDC.

  11. This is a prime example of over regulations since in government buildings a percentage of monies has to be spent on art work hence artist who can’t create art still sell crap to the government for an exorbitant fee

  12. Its not so much that they are buying art (which really is something you ought to have at public buildings), or even that they’re spending too much on it (depending on the building).

    Its that they seem to be spending way too much for what they are getting. Seriously, $800K in site prep for a rock? We added a wing to our hospital without spending that much on site prep.

    1. You didn’t have the AFGE overseeing the project.

    2. It’s also that most of the “art” is butt ugly.

  13. The “large decorative rock” outside the VA’s Palo Alto Health Care System cost $489,000

    I don’t mean to be a know it all or anything. But I’ve been to Virginia before, and I’m sure such a rock could be obtained free of charge with a method to haul it and the labor to place it. I bet some Mexicans down at home depot could get this done for a lot cheaper than 489K. But who am I to question the decision making of TOP.MEN.

    1. I bet some Mexicans down at home depot could get this done for a lot cheaper than 489K

      That’s 100% of it right there – Davis-Bacon and “Prevailing Wage” laws.

      People think the overspending on public projects is due to contractors skimming profits, politicians taking bribes, mismanagement, and whatnot.

      Really it’s that any project taking federal funding, and any project undertaken in a state with Prevailing Wage laws (like CA) pays at least double market rate for all labor.

      On one of my projects, we literally spent about $85/hr on a guy who did nothing but sit in a chair and tell people to not go through a door that had a sign on it saying “keep out.” He was there for about six months.

      But, on a public construction project $85/hr is essentially minimum wage.

    2. That’s probably what actually happened.

      The artist hired a truck and crane, hired some day laborers to operate them, found a rock, loaded it, hauled it over, installed it, paid the day laborers a few hundred dollars, and pocketed the rest.

      If it cost 9K to get it installed, that’s still a 98% margin.

      1. Yes but you forgot the 9 months that artist spent in a drunken stupor coming up with the design of the rock, you gotta cover that too if you want real high quality art.

    3. But then it wouldn’t be art!!!!!!!!

  14. luxury art, as opposed to the utilitarian kind.

    1. Yeah like bathroom signs and potato chip bags.

  15. But, it’s a very nice rock

    1. It reminds me of the flexibility of your typical bureaucrat.

    2. It’s a very phallic rock. Isn’t that merely a symbol of white hetero male dominance? This is going to scare women and transgendered individuals out of their minds!

  16. The ready and willing are sacrificed like generic plastic bottles on the dubious rack of soulless wars so why the fuck would the crippled among them gain a smidgen more concern from the magic governing factory? Human flesh is goddamn fertilizer for the flaying rods of hellish adventuring butchered from the corpse of nationalism.

    1. Hmm. Does *poetry* count as art for government buildings?

  17. If you’re gonna blow taxpayer dollars at least do it on something interesting like hookers and blow.

  18. No one will be held personally accountable. And since incentives matter, this will all happen again.

    1. I can all but guarantee you that no one involved broke any laws or violated any procedures. Nothing for anyone to be held accountable for.

  19. It makes sense, doesn’t it? The patients can say they are literally between a rock and a hard place.

  20. Unless the aforementioned rocks are to be used as ammunition for a large trebuchet, and to be flung at Capitol Hill, I want my money back!

  21. I would’ve sold them a big rock for half that price.

  22. They’re building a new VA hospital here in Floriduh’s capitol, unfortunately. I drive by on the way to pick up my son. I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for fancy overpriced rocks.

  23. Rocks were purchased. Sites were prepared.

    move along…

  24. Quite a cash pile: just think how many unemployed Masters of Puppetry could have been hired to produce an endless supply of papier mache Obama heads to decorate not only this VA center but every federal building in the country!

  25. Ah, yes. The V.A.

    Otherwise known as exactly what a government created single payer system would ultimately look like. If you think otherwise, you are a high functioning retard since that is literally what it already is.

    That being said, the 800k spent to prepare the site for their giant rock that somehow cost less? I’d love to see what contractor they hired, and what relation they might be to the fine government employees at that facility. I’d be willing to bet an equal sum that they are either a contributor to the Democrat party or a personal friend/relation of someone at the facility itself.

    Just a guess…

    1. My guess is that they had to make sure the weight of the rock would not cause the site to capsize.

  26. I sure there are a number of vets engaging in art therapy at the various institutions there… why not use their works rather than whoever they’re paying to align a rock “just so”?

    Irritated that my local library’s renovation included a $180k art project with a national artist, rather than giving a shot to some of the talent at the (pricey) art institute next door. People are going to say it sucks either way…

    1. Somehow I doubt the art therapy program has anything like real materials to work with. Crayons, paper, maybe some tempra or watercolors. No clay, no stone, no chisels and wet sanding paper.

      I guess they could always put a fridge outside to hang their work on.

  27. RE: The Department of Veterans Affairs Blew $1.2 Million on Decorative Rock Sculptures
    From 2004 to 2014, the government-run health agency spent more than $20 million on luxury art.

    Well, so what?
    What is more important?
    Helping those who made our country free or art?
    The prudent and wise bureaucrats in the VA knows the answer to that one by making the choice they did.
    Everyone should be eternally grateful that we have such wise and giving people in the VA.

  28. Nothing left to cut.

  29. I was medically retired and have some surgeries that need done relating to my time in. I’m just going to pay for them as scheduling through the va sucks, I’d have to drive 340 miles for the surguries (veterans choice is a joke and dosent exist in any real sense) and I trust ba docs about as much as I trusted those inside the fence on base. Military health care should be everyone’s example of socialized medicine. It’s great as long as you are an officer or upper enlisted. Proletariat need not apply.

  30. If the VA spent the money on actually treating veterans veterans would have faith in the VA’s ability to treat them. Then more veterans would use the VA rather than any other healthcare system, public or private, free or costly. Incentives matter and the incentive for the VA is to prevent anyone but the most desperate relying on them.

  31. It has to be some sort of joke, surely!!
    geometry dash apk
    freedom apk

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