Did you know that, on average, about 60 percent of the United States' annual federal budget is appropriated for military and veteran spending?
You'd think with that large of an investment that a significant number of our lawmakers would come from the military community.
But that's not the case.
Only about 17 percent of all members of Congress are veterans. Less than 5 percent of staffers are veterans.
With so much of our government's resources dedicated to military and veterans, having more veterans involved in the policymaking process is important. That's the mission of HillVets, to get more veterans involved in that process through policy fellowships in congressional offices, finding each other and making connections at networking socials, and building their "second career of service" in Washington, D.C.
"We need more veterans at the table, getting their lived experiences and input and worldview into the policymaking process, because that's important for crafting the best legislation possible," said Carrie Ann Alford, Development Director for HillVets.
Founded in 2013, HillVets is a nonprofit organization that provides veterans and other members of the military community with networking, professional development, and other resources to help them attain and grow careers in government. HillVets has a three-pronged approach to its services:
- The HillVets House Fellowship: Supporting veterans, transitioning service members, and Gold Star family members in placement for Congressional fellowship programs that focus on substantive policy work;
- LEAD Program Providing mid-career professional development through its LEAD (Leadership, Ethics, Advocacy, Dedication) Program, and;
- Offering networking opportunities for the military-connected community to build relationships.
HillVets' small but mighty team of three employees works to get veterans and other members of the military community the experience and confidence to make a real impact in government or policymaking through advocacy.
"These are folks who need a little help getting the door opened," Alford said. "They are amazing people who are very accomplished and work very hard, and once the door is opened they're able to walk through and shine."
HillVets operates a house in the Eastern Market neighborhood of Washington D.C., just 12 blocks from Capitol Hill. The nonprofit houses up to eight fellows at a time while they complete their program.
HillVets rents the house, which is one of the organization's most unique assets. Going forward, the plan is to own its own home that can house even more veterans and is ADA-compliant and disabled veteran-friendly.
"We want to grow our support base so that we can continue to offer this really great benefit of a house in D.C. where even more veterans can live while doing their fellowship," Alford said.
"Not only do fellows not pay an application fee or any fees to participate, but if they live in the house they receive a benefit worth about $2,000 a month, since rents on Capitol Hill are very high. They also receive a small stipend for four of their six-month fellowship."
At Spave, we are honored to support HillVets in its mission to increase the platform veterans have in the policymaking process. HillVets is working to help members of the military community get a seat at the table, and together we are working to amplify HillVets' reach, increase its sponsorship, and help it to impact even more lives.
By supporting HillVets, you are helping veterans to start their second career of service. We invite you to join us in supporting HillVets and its meaningful mission. Set up automatic, recurring donations and/or make one-time contributions to HillVets through the Spave app.