(Image courtesy of HillVets)

Wanna work in DC politics?

HillVets fellowship program places vets on Capitol Hill

Jake Hughes
March 06, 2018 - 11:10 am

Between Senators like Tammy Duckworth and Joni Ernst, and Representatives like Don Bacon, Darrell Issa and Tim Walz, it seems like veterans are in abundance in Congress. Currently, however, only about 21 percent of Congress has served in the military.

That's a far cry from 40 years ago, when the number was as high as 73 percent, and to Justin Brown, founder and CEO of HillVets, that number that needs to be much higher.

"While some may say that 21 percent is relatively high compared to the rest of the population, I would argue it's pretty low when you consider how much of the budget is spent on military and veterans," said Brown.

HillVets aims to increase the number of veterans involved in politics, not just in Congress but also in staffing positions, where the percentage of vets serving on congressional staffs is a pitiful 2 percent. They do this by helping vets engage in what they call "SecondService," meaning serving their nation a second time in a different capacity.

Since inception, HillVets has helped hundreds of veterans in their pursuit to become involved in their 'SecondService to our Nation' program. They also work to raise national awareness of the value that veterans bring to relevant policy decisions, as well as the positive impact that they have on local communities.

Currently, HillVets has two openings in their HillVets House program, a starting ground for vets to get their feet wet on Capitol Hill. The house is located in Crystal City and fellows are invited to stay there until they can arrange housing of their own. Fellows even get a stipend for housing and food for the first four months.

"Our goal is for the veteran to have gainful employment within 8 months," said Brown. Historically, fellows have found employment in multiple functions on Capitol Hill, from staffers and lobbyists, to non-profit advocates and federal jobs. They warn that, as one would assume, Washington, D.C. is not for the faint of heart. 

They look for the kind of people who are hungry, motivated self-starters, looking to get involved in policy and who have a history of making it happen. "These days, members of Congress spend the better part of their time fundraising," said Brown, "And that leave the job of learning about actual policy decisions to their staff."

For more information about the fellowship and to sign up, please visit the HillVets House website