How vets, Gold Star families and mil spouses can work in Congress

Miguel Ortiz Avatar
(Architect of the Capitol)

With their military background, veterans, Gold Star families and active-duty spouses often work federal jobs in executive branch agencies. However, it’s not as common to see these groups represented in the legislative branch. Congressional staffer jobs don’t usually pop up on USAJOBS, so going to work for a Member of Congress might seem like a pipe dream. Luckily, the House Green & Gold Congressional Aide Program exists to make it possible.

Congresswoman Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) tours Naval Nuclear Propulsion Training Command with members of her staff (U.S. Navy)

In 2008, the House of Representatives leadership and the Committee on House Administration established the House Wounded Warrior Program. This provided an opportunity for military veterans to work on a congressional staff and continue their federal service. In 2019, a similar program was established called the SFC Sean Cooley and SPC Christopher Horton Congressional Gold Star Family Fellowship Program. The next year, the Gold Star Program was amended to expand eligibility to the parents of fallen service members. In FY2022, the programs were combined into the Green & Gold Congressional Aide Program. Eligibility has also been expanded to include active-duty spouses.

Veterans are eligible if they served on active duty within the last six years, separated at the pay grades of E-5/O-3/W-2 or below (or were promoted to the next higher rank within six months of separation), and received an honorable discharge. For Gold Star eligibility, applicants must be the spouse, child/step-child, parent/step-parent or sibling/step-sibling of a service member or veteran who died in the line of duty or of a service-connected disability. Milspouses must be the spouse of an active-duty service member subject to PCS orders; those subject to Title 10 mobilization orders are ineligible for the program. G&G aides apply to openings for specific Member offices that apply to the CAO to receive an aide. Once CAO matches up an aide with an office, the program can last for up to two years and is contingent on the Member staying in office.

A congressional staff delegation tours Fort Carson, Colorado (U.S. Army)

The G&G CAP is administered by the House Chief Administrative Officer and congressional aides are employed and paid by the CAO. However, G&G aides are assigned to work for their respective committees, House officers, or Members of Congress. This means that the salary for an aide does not come out of the Members’ Representational Allowance, nor does an aide count against a Member’s 18 permanent employees allowed under 2 USC 5321. Salary is selected by the Member’s office, but the pay range is dictated by the CAO; for 2024, the pay range is $54,000-$66,000. While G&G aides can work in Washington, D.C., or in the Member’s district, most are assigned to a district office.

Although G&G aides are CAO employees, specific duties are prescribed by the individual congressional offices. Still, most offices take advantage of their aide’s military background and assign them the military and veterans casework portfolios. When constituents contact their congressional representative needing help with the Department of Defense or Department of Veterans Affairs, the aide liaises with the appropriate agency to try and resolve the constituent’s issue. Having someone on staff who is familiar with the military and “speaks the language” can be a huge advantage when serving a military/veteran constituent. G&G aides also often head up a Member’s nominations to the military service academies.

As congressional aides, veterans can go from briefing general officers to getting briefed by them (U.S. Space Force)

The goal of the G&G Program is to provide eligible military populations with the opportunity to work in Congress. While Member offices can choose to hire their G&G aide at the conclusion of the program, or before it, employment is not guaranteed. That said, working in a congressional office provides a wide array of networking opportunities and exposure to different organizations that participants may not have otherwise. The Senate is also working on implementing its own fellowships program called the Stars of Valor Fellowships Program. G&G aide positions can be found on USAJobs.gov.