The Obama administration’s Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) spent more than $1 million on television ads running during the government shutdown, prompting outrage from the congressional committee responsible for veterans’ issues.
The expensive TV ads were running while the WWII Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. was closed both to tourists and to veterans due to the government shutdown, and could create a tense environment when a top VA official testifies before Congress Wednesday morning about his agency’s handling of the shutdown.
“It has come to my attention that during the government shutdown, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has continued to run a costly advertising campaign, including expensive television commercials during National Football League games and Major League baseball playoffs,” said an October 8 letter sent by House Committee on Veterans Affairs chairman Rep. Jeff Miller to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.
Shinseki is appearing before the House committee Wednesday morning.
“According to information received from our initial investigation, it appears that VA spent more than $1 million on television advertisements from September 9th through October 13th, 2013, in the Washington DC metro area alone,” Miller said in his letter.
Miller demanded “all advertisement contracts, including those for television, radio, internet, and print media, that obligate VA funds after September 30, 2013…I request delivery of this information within 30 days.”
The television spot “You served. Let VA serve you” continues to air in various television markets during the shutdown.
The federal government closed the WWII Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. before public outcry encouraged the administration to re-open the memorial to veteran visitors. The VA was running television spots while the memorial was closed, and recently purchased $562,000 worth of artwork in one week prior to the shutdown.
In August, the VA awarded a $13.8 million contract to the public-relations firm Reingold & Associates for promotional services intended to increase enrollment in VA benefits.
“This VA outreach campaign is part of a comprehensive effort to inform Veterans of the benefits and services they have earned and deserved, in line with VA’s obligation to conduct outreach to Veterans. Funds for the advertisements currently running were all obligated prior to the lapse in appropriations,” a VA spokesperson told The Daily Caller.