On Wednesday U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) participated in a ‘Defend & Reform’ town hall hosted by Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) in San Angelo as part of his statewide ‘Texas Defends America’ tour. There, along with Executive Director of CVA Dan Caldwell and CVA Texas Coalitions Director Russ Duerstine, Sen. Cruz answered questions from attendees, and discussed the issues affecting veterans and their families.
When asked about his efforts to bring reform to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Sen. Cruz discussed his V.E.T. Protection Act, which would limit the amount of time VA employees can devote to union activity.
“All of us want to see the maximum resources at the VA devoted to caring for veterans,” Sen. Cruz said. “That’s the central mission of the VA. We don’t want to see lots and lots of VA employees spending their time on political activities, on activities that are separate and apart from caring for veterans. […] Each year, VA employees spend over a million hours – each year – on union organizing, union official activity, rather than caring for veterans. That is an enormous amount of time. What this legislation does is it seeks to focus that time and energy and those taxpayer dollars back on caring for veterans. Among other things, what it does is it says you should not be spending official time on the taxpayer dollars engaged in political activity, engaged in lobbying. That should not be on the official dime. Beyond that, it limits any individual employee from spending more than 25 percent of his or her time on the union organizing activities – that at least 75 percent of the time – should be on actually caring for veterans. There’s a place for union activity within the organization but a million hours a year is too much. And what the legislation also does is it says for the higher paid employees, for doctors that are making $100,000 a year or more, that they should not be devoting all of their time to union organizing. If you’ve got a doctor that’s making six figures, that doctor needs to be caring for patients and not doing political activity.”
One audience member, a veteran named Gabriel, shared that it took him two years to get a local appointment for an operation on his kidneys.
“I’ve been going to Audie Murphy San Antonio for 30 years,” Gabriel said. “They made me come back to Big Spring’s, and they sent me to Albuquerque – which is a 1,000-mile roundtrip. They wanted to operate on my kidneys, and I said there is no way I’m going to have an operation in Albuquerque and have to drive home another 500 miles after the operation. It took them two years to get me a local appointment. And, it’s a good thing that I had it here because I had problems with my operation, and there was no way I would’ve been able to drive back.”
Sen. Cruz responded, “I’m sorry sir. I’m sorry you dealt with that frustration. Let me say thank you for your service, and thank you for sharing that story. That’s exactly the sort of delays, the sort of unreasonable policies that legislation like the VA Mission Act is designed to address. It’s designed to say you have a right, and you should be able to choose. So if you’re not getting the service and care you need from your VA, you should be able to go somewhere else and you should be the one making that decision. It shouldn’t be some bureaucrat saying you’ve got to go Albuquerque. It should be you saying, this is the doctor, this is the health care, the hospital, the facility, that I want to go to get the care I need.”
Sen. Cruz also heard from Susie Smith, an audience member who asked how private citizens can support the veterans in their community.
“What can we as the general population, meaning the non-military, do to help our veterans get the help they need?” Susie asked. “They and their families have put it all on the line for us. What can we do to move Congress to give them what they need?”
Sen. Cruz thanked her for her question and for speaking up for veterans. He also noted that the support for the Goodfellow Air Force Base by the San Angelo community is extremely important to its success.
“Well I’ll tell you Susie, you’re doing it now,” Sen. Cruz said. “By being here, by being involved with Concerned Veterans for America, by speaking out, by putting your voice behind it, that has a powerful impact. Let me say also more broadly, I spent much of the afternoon at Goodfellow Air Force Base and just touring around, meeting with the senior leadership there. As you know, they do incredible work at Goodfellow on ISR, on fire prevention. But one of the things that is so powerful for Goodfellow is the incredible support the San Angelo community provides to that base. I will tell you, one of the senior leaders there talked about how he had been stationed at bases all over the country, and he had never seen a community embrace a military base the way the San Angelo community does here. That was a powerful, powerful testament. And let me say that’s important also. That is important. It’s one of the consistent things about Texas – I think there is no state in the union that loves, that values our active duty military, and our veterans the way the state of Texas does.”
Sen. Cruz has long championed America’s veterans. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, he has fought for our military service members and works to ensure that meaningful reform is occurring at the Department of Veterans Affairs when they transition. In January, Sen. Cruz introduced the V.E.T. Protection Act, In June of last year, Sen. Cruz introduced the VA IT Restructuring Act, which would establish a Chief Information Officer within the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), charged with overseeing modernization, acquisition and all matters related to the administration’s healthcare IT infrastructure.