HOUSTON - Sen. Ted Cruz made his way to Houston for the third and final leg of his 'Defend and Reform' town halls hosted by Concerned Veterans for America (CVA).
Dozens of veterans and community members on all sides of the aisle gathered at the Sheraton Brook Hollow Hotel for the chance to discuss his health care proposal and issues facing veterans and their families.
The programs was scheduled for an hour. Cruz was greeted with a standing ovation.
"We're here to ask Senator Cruz questions that we're not able to get answers to," participant Benjamin Mayer.
Veterans and families asked about the slow wait times and "inadequate" service.
"They said I need to see a neurologist -- 26 months later was my neurologist appoint," Army veteran Meghan Scoggins said to Senator Cruz in the Q & A portion of the program.
Cruz blamed the current bureaucratic system for the sluggish response times. His proposed reform focused on bringing accountability to the VA.
At the town hall Cruz announced his VA Information Technology Restructuring Act. The bill establishes that a Chief Information Officer be appointed to the Veterans Health Administration to modernize outdated software, and provide necessary oversight regarding the procurement, acquisition and management of the VHA's IT systems. Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) are the original cosponsors of the bill.
"Modernizing the VA's IT infrastructure is a critical step to improving the agency's delivery of health care and remedying the long wait times that have compromised the health and safety of veterans who have honorably served our nation," Cruz said
Cruz also pushed for choice and competition in the health care market for veterans.
"You don't actually need Washington dictating, 'Okay, don't give this lousy waiting period,' because empowering customers gives the power of competition to improve the system -- I think that's the only thing structurally that will change the incentives," said Cruz.
Demonstrators outside the hotel voiced concern that Cruz's health care proposal would benefit the wealthy and would leave the poorer communities without help.
"Ted Cruz's proposal for the nation takes and takes from sick people, puts them in a separate group, their policies will go up so much they won't be able to afford them." said protester Jan Forney. "It's literally a death sentence."
During the town hall, two people carrying signs were escorted out for disrupting the discussion through heckling. Afterward, in his closing remarks Cruz addressed the crowd of hecklers.
'I want to thank you for coming as well," said Cruz. Hecklers then continued to comments. "Okay, I was about to thank folks for being respectful," said Cruz.
Others in the crowd like Gabby Diaz worked to bring the heckling to a halt.
"I was really sad to see disruptors," said participant Gaby Diaz. "I think when there are disrupters that gives our senators every excuse to not come."
Despite the disruptions, Cruz said it was productive.
"I thought it was terrific town hall," Cruz said. "We had robust discussion."
Visitors had mixed emotions.
"I don't think there was much benefit that came from this," Mayer said later.
"I think the discussion went really well. I think a lot of meaningful things were said," veteran Andrew Chavarrilla said.
Cruz was also in Mckinney and Austin.
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