America’s wounded and disabled veterans deserve the best health care our country can provide. Their sacrifice and heroism should not be forgotten.
Unfortunately, the Department of Veterans Affairs has been squandering scarce tax dollars that should be going to heal our veterans.
On July 9, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., subpoenaed Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki “for communications related to the Department’s extravagant July and August 2011 human resources conferences held in Orlando, Fla.,” according to a statement from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which Rep. Issa chairs. The committee has been trying to get the documents from the VA since last year, but so far has not received anything.
“It is unacceptable that Veterans Affairs still has not cooperated with the committee’s requests nearly a year after they were originally sent,” Rep. Issa said in his own statement. “After the personal assurances I received from Secretary Shinseki and the accommodations made by congressional investigators, there can be no excuse for the continued delay. I am forced to use the compulsory process and am determined to find out just why and how taxpayer dollars were spent in such an indulgent and careless manner.”
Last September, the VA’s own Office of the Inspector General issued a scathing report on some, but not all, of the tax-fueled partying.
For starters, the report found that $280,698 in funds were “costs in excess of VA’s contract with the Orlando World Center Marriott, including excessive expenditures for audiovisual services, catering, food, beverages and other miscellaneous expenses.” In addition, $49,516 had to do with “unauthorized costs associated with the production of the General George S. Patton parody video; the conference planner lacked the authority to commit government funds for this purpose.”
We watched the tax-paid attempt at humor on YouTube. It imitates the famous first scene of the 1970 movie “Patton,” where the World War II general, played by George C. Scott, stands in front of a gigantic American flag and gives an inspirational speech laced with profanities. The costly VA version was an unfunny attempt to boost bureaucratic morale.
The conference scandal follows similar partying waste by the Department of Agriculture, the IRS and other departments, Leslie Paige told us; she’s the vice president for policy and communications at Citizens for Government Waste, a watchdog group. “It’s a huge waste of resources in the fiscal aggregate,” she said. “And it’s a cultural disaster and a national shame. Because of processing backlogs, we have 70 percent of veterans needing care waiting four months or longer to get started with their medical complaints.”
She urged the VA to stop all conferences “until you get all those vets processed. They need the benefits they sacrificed for and are waiting for.”
As to the stonewalling on the documents, she added, “That’s also an outrage.” Unlike with the Fast and Furious documents, some of which involved border security and Justice Department investigations, she said, “There is no privacy or national security involved here.” Congress just wants to see the details of the VA bureaucrats’ carousing.
Shinseki should comply immediately with the subpoena. And we urge Rep. Issa, and our other members of Congress, to continue pushing for all the information on the VA profligacy. Waste in other departments is bad enough. VA waste means our veterans are denied care and healing.
From the Orange County Register