After years of concerns about the shrinking number of veterans on Capitol Hill, advocacy groups are redoubling their efforts to bring more to the nation's capital next year.
The networking coalition HillVets is planning its first "HillVets House" next summer to bring a contingent of would-be veterans policy staffers into congressional offices.
They'll follow the Veterans of Foreign Wars second class of legislative fellows this spring and the first class in the Vet Voice Foundation's newly announced fellowship program, set to launch in January.
The theme behind the varied programs is identical: Putting more veterans in and around Congress helps better inform veterans policy decisions.
HillVets' own surveys have shown only about 3 percent of lawmakers' staff members are veterans, despite increased focus among many of those office in recent years on defense and veterans issues.
Their new program will provide free housing for at least eight veterans interested in working as unpaid interns in congressional offices. Group officials are hoping to expand the program in coming years to include a stipend and up to 20 fellowships.
Costs for the effort are covered through grants from the Atlantic Council and the Bob Woodruff Foundation, with additional fundraisers planned in coming months.
Three lawmakers already have signed on as potential landing spots for those internships: Reps. Tim Walz, D-Minn., Don Young, R-Alaska, and Mike Thompson, D-Calif. All three have close ties to HillVets and several congressional caucuses focused on veterans.
The Vet Voice fellowship comes with a $5,000 monthly stipend and a similar goal of placing veterans into congressional policy discussions.
The group has been tied to a number of Democratic candidates and positions, but officials said they hope to place veterans into offices held by members of both parties.
Both the Vet Voice and HillVets fellowships will place an emphasis on moving from the internships into full-time positions as congressional staffers.
The VFW program is designed as a weeklong tutorial on congressional work and lobbying, less focused on finding a Hill job than on broadening veterans' understanding of Congress and their influence with lawmakers.
The application window for that program — a partnership with Student Veterans of America — has already passed, with candidate selection underway.
The deadline for the Vet Voice fellowship is Dec. 1. Candidates have until early 2016 to apply for the HillVets program.