Since 2005, the VA has held over 1,600 employee conferences, if you can believe it, spending an estimated 300 million dollars. That works out to a conference every one and a half days.
The most expensive meeting totaled a jaw-dropping 6.3 million dollars…In an ironic twist, the title of this conference was, “Financial Management Training.”
But wait, there’s more! Last year, the VA spent more than 6 million dollars on a pair of “Human Resources” conferences in Orlando. Indeed, the budget for the two conferences, signed off on by the Chief of Staff, actually budgeted the two events at 8 million dollars! I suppose the VA should be lauded for restraining themselves and coming in under budget.
Check out this article on the Military Times and watch the accompanying video, if you can stand it.
This makes the General Services Administration scandal from earlier this year seem like chump change in comparison. This is fraud, waste, and abuse on a massive scale.
Congressmen Jeff Miller and Richard Burr have written a letter to the secretary, retired general Eric Shinseki, demanding answers. They stop short of asking for Shinseki’s resignation, but do ask that his Chief of Staff, John Gingrich, be fired for signing off without critique the 8 million dollar budget for the two events.
Secretary Shinseki should resign. I do not say this lightly, for I recognize General Shinseki has distinguished himself in combat during Vietnam. Indeed, he is a wounded veteran himself, and by all accounts, a patriot.
However, Shinseki either knew about this grotesque culture of waste, and didn’t care, or he didn’t know that the agency he was charged with running was spending more than a quarter of a billion dollars on parties. (And make no mistake: these were parties, not conferences.) If it was the first scenario, he’s unfit to head up the agency, and if it was the second, he’s incompetent.
The VA is looking at enormous unfunded benefits, with promises made to thousands of troops maimed over the last decade, not to mention all of our soldiers from previous wars. The country as a whole needs to come up with 16 trillion dollars just to get back to breaking even. These federal workers, who receive very generous pay and benefits packages, do not get to have million dollar parties. Want to have a morale party? Spend 200 bucks on a couple kegs of beer.
These veterans of current and past wars have paid dearly, with blood, limbs, and the bodies of their friends. Any government agency with this much waste would be bad enough; when it is the Veteran’s Affairs agency… it is disgusting, deplorable, and a slap in the face to the men to whom you purport to serve, many of whom wait years to get a tiny amount of financial support and long lines at their scarce appointment times.
It is time that the taxpayers of this country start demanding names and firings. I, for one, am tired of the ubiquitous “un-named senior government official” nonsense. I am tired of the re-shuffling of incompetent federal employees.
Something seems to happen to these men when they get to Washington. I’m not sure if it is the corrupting influence of power, the desire to rub elbows with the beltway cocktail crowd, or something more sinister. They forget that they are there as public servants, not lords of the manor. They forget that all of this money is coming from hard-working American taxpayers, who entrust these officials to spend it wisely, while taking their duty of financial smarts seriously, not partying like middle aged frat boys.
As a good friend reminded me, this isn’t the first time General Shinseki has provoked unneeded controversy. Remember the black beret, Rangers? I know some of you still haven’t forgiven the general for that one.
General Shinseki, the buck stops with you. Do the honorable thing, sir… tender your resignation.
(Featured Image: courtesy dvidshub.net)