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Imagine if you were a senior administrator at the troubled U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. You’re well aware that your institution has developed an extremely large backlog of patients seeking medical treatment, where many former military service members wait for weeks and months before receiving any care, if they’re lucky enough to get any care in the first place.
Now imagine what you could do with that problem if you had an extra million or two to spend. You could do things like hire extra staff or pay overtime to current medical staff members to start working through that backlog of patients at VA facilites. You could even give the veterans seeking medical attention vouchers they could spend at less burdened medical facilities so they could get care in a much more reasonable amount of time.
Or, you could do what the bureaucrats at a number of VA facilities did, and buy a bunch of artwork to brighten up your work environment. The 2015 Wastebook describes some of the artwork that VA officials at just one facility chose to buy and install with the money they had available to them.
The VA Palo Alto Health Care System in California spent “at least $6.3 million on art and consulting services,” according to Congressman Jeff Miller, the Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
The $1.3 million price tag for the renovation of the courtyard of the Mental Health Center includes $482,960 spent on a giant rock and $807,310 for “site preparation.” The rock, “cut into cubes with a laser and pieced together,” is meant to evoke “a sense of transformation, rebuilding, and self-investigation,” according to the designers.
The VA also spent $365,000 for a stainless steel and aluminum sculpture in the aquatic center entrance and $305,000 for another sculpture in an exterior lobby. A sculpture in the shape of a half arc located inside the mental health center cost $330,000, while an art installation on the side of a parking garage displaying quotes by Abraham Lincoln and Eleanor Roosevelt that lights up in Morse code cost $285,000.
Those wishing to decode the colorful Morse code messages visualized on the southern and western sides of the VA’s Palo Alto parking garage may reference the art project’s fact sheet, which might be particularly useful for all the Army soldiers who enlisted after 2012 that might visit the facility, since that was when the U.S. Army stopped training soldiers in Morse code.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs