UPDATE: Committee officials announced on Friday that the extremism hearing has been postponed due to scheduling issues. A new date for the event has not been announced.
House lawmakers will hold a hearing next week on recruitment and involvement of veterans in extremist groups, calling it a threat to “the very core of our democracy and national security.”
The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee event, set for the afternoon of July 29, will include testimony from veterans advocates and experts on violent, fringe groups. The move follows to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, and reports that as many as one in 10 of the individuals charged with crimes related to that attack had military service.
But Democratic leaders on the committee said the problem pre-dates that, and the Jan. 6 incident will not be the focus of the hearing.
House appropriations want to require VA leaders to develop programs to stop online misinformation and radicalization among veterans.
“Last fall — long before the insurrection on Jan. 6 — our committee started investigating the troubling trend of domestic violent extremist groups recruiting veterans into their ranks,” Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., chairman of the veterans committee said in a statement.
“The harm from this particular issue transcends veterans, and taken to the extreme, can threaten the very core of our democracy and national security.”
The hearing comes as the Defense Department continues its own work on the issue, pursuing new penalties for troops involved in extremist groups or activities. Lawmakers are expected to address those ideas in the annual defense authorization bill later this year.
But response from the Department of Veterans Affairs on the issue has been limited thus far, despite past studies which show fringe organizations often target veterans for recruitment because of their military expertise and the public’s respect for their service.
Democrats see the issue as a major threat to military trust. Republicans dismissed the problem as too small to warrant significant attention.
Earlier this month, the House Appropriations Committee included language in its draft of the VA budget for fiscal 2022 which would require the department to look into “the unique vulnerabilities that veterans face online,” including targeting of veterans by extremist organizations and groups focused on sowing division in the military community.
Veterans committee officials said their hearing will focus on “domestic violent extremist groups like the Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, Proud Boys; why they target veterans; and how the committee can help these veterans.”
The event is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. and will be broadcast on the committee’s website.