Advisory committees are used extensively by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide advice and guidance on a wide variety of programs that deliver benefits and services to our Nation’s veterans. Advisory committees operate as another component of the “people’s voice” in our democratic form of government. Some of VA’s advisory committees have been mandated by Congress to ensure that federal laws, as carried out by the executive branch, are meeting their intended goals. Other VA committees have been created by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to assess specific VA policies or programs.
Advisory committee members are generally acknowledged, by VA’s leadership and members of the veterans affairs committees in Congress, as “consumer representatives” of those millions of beneficiaries whose lives are affected each year by VA programs. Advisory committees must operate in compliance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). Advisory committee meetings at VA are generally open to the public, and notices of those meetings are published in the Federal Register.
One of VA’s principal objectives in managing its advisory committees is to ensure that committee members appropriately reflect the diversity of American society and the veterans’ population. Committee members are expected to have the technical, scientific and programmatic expertise demanded by the committees’ areas of interest and emphasis. Committee members are also expected to offer unbiased advice and to comply with all federal ethics standards.