When officials from Concerned Veterans for America hold their summit on veterans health care next month, lawmakers will be listening.
The event, scheduled for Feb. 26, will feature the unveiling of the group's almost five-month review into the Veterans Affairs Department's health care offerings, designed to offer a blueprint for internal reforms and legislative action.
The effort has been led by former Republican Senate Majority Leader Dr. Bill Frist, former Georgia Democratic congressman Jim Marshall, and former VA undersecretary for health Mike Kussman, and Avik Roy, former health care policy adviser to Mitt Romney.
And the work — still incomplete — has drawn interest from several Capitol Hill offices, where the issues of VA bureaucracy and veterans health care have gained extra attention in the wake of last year's scandals over patient wait times and records manipulation.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., have already announced plans to participate in the event. Other lawmakers are expected to follow in coming weeks.
CVA officials say they're confident the report won't end up just another dusty, unread tome on congressional shelves.
"Our goal is to put the veteran at the center of all of these discussions, not to undermine the current system," said Pete Hegseth, the group's CEO. "But we know there's no way you create something meaningful that isn't going to tick someone off."
CVA, which insists the effort is a nonpartisan undertaking, has been welcomed by Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill and savaged by critics who point to the group's conservative backers and perceived partisan attacks on VA woes.
The group has been a frequent opponent of President Obama and Capitol Hill Democrats and held a summer-long "defend freedom" tour that decried current government policies, with members saying those policies undermine both military and economic security.
CVA members have become fixtures on Fox News but also on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers from both parties have begun to take notice. Hegseth is hopeful the new health care summit will take that a step further, moving the group from another outside critic to the inner circles of reform conversations.
"We're hoping that helps facilitate a whole new discussion," he said. "We need to get out of this cycle of reform and failure that veterans health care continues to go through."
CVA officials said they have consulted with other veterans groups, VA officials and veterans nationwide on the upcoming proposals. Lawmakers also will have a chance to react to the report at next month's summit.
More information on the event is available at the CVA website.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.