Newly Elected Veterans’ Impact on Congress

We have officially hit mid-November – Veterans Day was commemorated this week and as I write, the newly elected lawmakers have come to Washington while votes from the mid-term election are still being counted or re-counted in 11 house and senate races. The freshman class of elected officials is in D.C. to begin congressional orientation, and includes 16 veterans among the 150 veterans who ran. Among the many firsts in the 116th Congress are four women veterans, which may bring the women’s military service caucus to its highest ever at around six women.

In this week of celebration and gratitude for the bold men and women who volunteer to serve in our armed forces and the families who support them, what does all this mean? For starters, lawmakers with military service may bring grounded solutions to pending and active measures that impact veterans, active-duty military members, and their families. The Farm Bill is late in being reauthorized – will we see a return of the pilot programs preparing veterans who choose a career in agriculture in their transition to civilian lives? Will issues like the GI-bill payment delay be a focus when Congress convenes the new session next year?

One thing we can anticipate: some interest in bipartisanship. At least 25 of the veterans who ran for office this year were supported by super PAC With Honor. To receive With Honor’s support, candidates signed a pledge to participate in a cross-partisan veterans caucus and to work on at least one major piece of legislation per year across party lines. Will the veterans caucus become a voice of compromise across our otherwise highly stratified political lines? These are some of the questions you might see repeatedly in the media until the session starts. I imagine my Magic 8-Ball from middle school days and give you a resounding: “cannot be predicted now.”

What we can do is continue to tell our stories – from lawmakers’ communities back home. We can carry to the Hill the issues important to people served at Goodwill organizations across the country including veterans and military families: career navigation, human services, strategies that build financial strength and independence. We believe there are many opportunities to work with all parties on the Hill including the veterans caucus and their unique perspectives, and we look forward to engaging with new as well as experienced lawmakers in the new Congressional session.