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Is Art Priority #1 for Department of Veterans Affairs?

Bridget Johnson, reporting for Pajamas Media, wrote on October 7, 2013 that the Department of Veterans Affairs (the Veterans Administration, or the VA, for older veterans) is being "asked to explain blowing half a million bucks on art" in the waning days of the fiscal year that ended September 30, 2013.

Here's the lede from her article:

"Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, today called on VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to justify the purchase that carried a $562,000 price tag.

“At a time when the nation’s crushing debt threatens the well-being of our veterans and all Americans, and when spending across the government is being reduced, I fail to comprehend the reason why this purchase was authorized,” Moran wrote.

“If the overall fiscal stability of our country is not of sufficient concern, then the VA should have at least prioritized service to veterans who continue to wait inordinate lengths of time to receive decisions on benefit claims,” the letter continued."

Although agencies fear their budgets will be reduced if they end the fiscal years with budget surpluses, in the case of the VA, their first, second and third priorities should be working down the backlog of disability claims. See, for example, this October 4, 2013 story in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which reports the claims backlog spurred a national bus tour to highlight the "staggering backlog of veterans' benefits claims."

Kudos to Sen. Moran (R-Kansas) for requesting a justification for purchasing over a half million dollars of artwork and to Bridget Johnson for reporting the story.

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