The Department of Veterans Affairs has the money to reform its health care system. In fact, the Veteran’s
Health Administration’s budget this year is $57.28 billion, which is equal to $6,300 per veteran
served. The following examples highlight instances where the VA carelessly wasted its resources:
1. $600 Million + “Crown Jewel” Hospital in Nevada Not Living Up To Its Name
The VA constructed a new $600 million plus (actual costs were reported as closer to $1 billion)
hospital in North Las Vegas that was coined “the Crown Jewel of the VA Healthcare System.”
However, since its opening in 2012, the VA is now paying an additional $16 million to expand
and update the emergency room as the original ER was insufficient to meet patient
needs. Further, the VA hospital has been unable to adequately staff the medical facility with
physicians, and many Nevada veterans still have to travel to different states for certain services
2. VA Pays Out $845 Million in Ten Years for Malpractice and Wrongful Death Claims
Over the past ten years, the VA has paid out $845 million in malpractice claims. $200 million of
these malpractice costs were in the form of wrongful death payments in an attempt to compensate
families of veterans’ who died at the Department’s expense. $36 million was used to settle 167
claims in which the words “delay in treatment” were used to describe the alleged malpractice.
3. VA Construction Projects Rack Up Billions in Cost Overruns
In 2013, four major VA construction projects ended up costing significantly more than projected,
accounting for combined cost overruns of nearly $1.5 billion. Scheduling delays for 4 projects –
in Las Vegas, Orlando, Denver and New Orleans – ranged from 14 to 74 months. On average,
each individual VA medical facility construction project is 35 months late and $360 million over
4. VA Spends Almost $500 Million on Conference Rooms and Curtains
Over a four-and-a-half year period, the VA spent $489 million on embellishing its office spaces.
Highlights of these “office makeovers” include $6.8 million to construct one conference room in
Illinois, $1.8 million on office furniture in Puerto Rico, and $10.7 million on curtains and
5. VA Spends Billions on IT with Mixed Results
The VA has spent $3.9 billion on 32 IT investments this fiscal year (many of which are behind
schedule and over cost – though the data is limited because of inconsistent updates and
discrepancies within the VA’s internal project management dashboard). In 2007, an investigation
found the VA had the worst track record in the entire government for estimating the cost of IT
projects. Over 90 percent of the time, VA IT projects ran over their initial budget estimates.
6. VA Pays Millions to Department Employees to Perform Union Duties
Many VA employees spend their days not caring for veterans, but rather themselves. “Official
time” is a statutory entitlement that allows paid time off for government workers from assigned governmental duties in order to represent a union or its bargaining unit employees. As of
February 2013, there were 277 VA employees performing as union representatives on 100
percent official time. In 2011, the VA spent $42,565,000 in costs related to maintaining official
time employees (this number includes payroll costs, salary, and benefits).
7. VA Spends Millions on Lavish Conferences
While veterans suffer waiting to receive medical care, benefits, and other services, VA employees
are squandering funds appropriated to the Department. In 2011, the Department spent over
$220,000 on an 11-day conference VA employees at a Scottsdale, Arizona resort. That same
year, the VA held two more training conferences in Orlando, costing a combined $6.1 million –
with at least $762,000 wasted. Questionable purchases at the Orlando conference included
karaoke machines and artisan cheese displays, $184,000 worth of breakfast sandwiches, $16,500
for the production of “happy face” videos featuring daily recaps of conference events, close to
$100,000 worth of promotional favors, and $50,000 for the production of a video parody.
o Note: While VA employees are lining up in buffet lines at conferences in luxury hotels,
more than one in four veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are going hungry. A
recent study surveyed 922 United States veterans and shockingly discovered that 27
percent reported they were not able to feed themselves three times a day. This number is
“drastically higher” than the 14.5 percent national average.
8. VA Spends Millions on Employee Travel
In 2010, the VA spent $80 million on travel-related expenses for its employees. VA spending on
employee travel was brought to light in 2011 when the IG revealed that a senior VA administrator
billed the federal government more than $130,000 for his weekly commute to Washington. The
VA not only paid for the official’s weekly commute, but it also picked up hotel and meal
expenses so the individual would not have to relocate.
9. VA Spends Over $500,000 on Artwork and Photographs to Decorate its Facilities
In 2013, the VA purchased $562,000 worth of artwork to decorate various agency facilities. A
VA spokesperson described the art as “motivational and calming, professionally designed to
enhance clinical operations.”
10. VA Spends Millions on Vacant, Dilapidated, and Unused Properties
VA maintains thousands of buildings throughout the country, many of which are empty, unused,
or too rundown to utilize – some of them are even considered to be health hazards. Despite this,
the VA continues to shell out millions of dollars to maintain these abandoned and dilapidated
buildings, including a pink octagonal monkey house in Dayton, Ohio. In 2013, VA estimates it
spent approximately $20.2 million on 922 vacant and underutilized properties.