Seeking to give military veterans a “port of entry into the legislative branch,” Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) introduced a bill last week that would allow every lawmaker to hire one veteran a year at an annual stipend of $25,000.
The American Veteran Congressional Internship Program would be funded outside of the Members’ Representational Allowances, meaning lawmakers could hire veterans as interns without taking away from other office priorities.
Reps. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) and Lane Evans (D-Ill.) joined Holt as original co-sponsors.
“Everyday, we in Congress make decisions that directly affect the lives of those who wear the uniform of the United States,” Holt said in a statement. “Veterans who’ve completed their service deserve an opportunity to not only see how those decisions are made, but to help influence those decisions so that those who follow them into military service benefit from their wisdom and experience.”
Under Holt’s plan, each lawmaker could hire one veteran as an intern for one year.
“Not incidentally, this program will give our veterans a valuable point of entry into the legislative branch of government, which will provide them with the opportunity to either continue their public service or to contribute to our society in other areas,” Holt added.
Bob Norton, deputy director for government relations for the Military Officers Association of America, said he thought the idea is a novel and good one, especially given the large number of wounded military personnel coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
“This would be an opportunity for military men and women who are separated from the military and want to continue their service to the United States,” Norton said. Such an experience could inspire veterans to run for office or otherwise get involved with making policy, Norton said, even as the number of veterans in each chamber continues to decline.
Although not directly related to Holt’s bill, seven years ago Congress passed the Veterans’ Employment Opportunities Act to give military veterans hiring preference over other equally qualified applicants for many nonlegislative Capitol Hill jobs, but the institution has yet to implement the statute. This month, the Office of Compliance issued proposed rules outlining how lawmakers could go about applying the act to thousands of support staff such as Architect of the Capitol employees, similar to what veterans have enjoyed for years in the executive branch. But Congress has to approve the regulations before they go into effect.