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CEO of Vets Group Backed by Koch Brothers Resigns as Campaign Heats Up

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The conservative veterans' organization Concerned Veterans for America and its controversial leader have gone separate ways in a move that both sides describe as cordial and mutually beneficial.

Pete Hegseth, a former major in the Army National Guard who since 2012 served as chief executive officer of CVA, said he resigned from the position at the end of December to devote more time to working as a Fox News contributor and author.

"I'm looking forward to addressing an even broader set of issues, but I still believe in what CVA is doing with its efforts to reform the VA," Hegseth told Military.com on Monday, referring to the Veterans Affairs Department.  His broader interests include national defense, the military, foreign policy and politics.

Hegseth said he's gearing up for publication of a book, "In the Arena: Good Citizens, a Great Republic, and How One Speech Can Reinvigorate America," due out in May.

Although one of the newer veterans' organizations, CVA quickly became a noted conservative voice on veterans' issues and policy, in part because of the group's financial ties to the billionaire Koch brothers. In 2014, Hegseth was recorded telling a Koch convention that exploiting VA failures in caring for veterans "created a new line of defense against the march toward socialized medicine, educating veterans and Americans in the process."

Some, among them VA Secretary Bob McDonald, claim CVA wants to see the VA dismantled, with veterans sent into the private sector for their care.

CVA denies the allegation, noting that in its Fixing Veterans Health Care Task Force report it argues for preserving and reforming department, not dismantling it.

Hegseth resignation, effective Dec. 31, first was reported by Military Times. Hegseth and CVA say the parting of the ways was cordial. CVA spokesman John Cooper said in a statement the departure gave Hegseth and the organization the flexibility to focus on their priorities.

"CVA recognizes and appreciates the accomplishments of Pete as CEO," Cooper said. "He provided strong leadership during the growth of CVA as an influential organization on many fronts. CVA thanks Pete for his many contributions and we wish him well in all future endeavors."

With Hegseth's departure, CVA reorganized its leadership weeks before the Republican presidential campaign heats up with the first GOP primary scheduled for Feb. 1 in Iowa.

Jae Pak, the group's chief operating officer, has assumed the duties of CVA president. Former CVA Legislative Director Dan Caldwell has been named vice president of legislation and political action. Peter Gaytan, former executive director of the American Legion national headquarters and vice president of Wounded Warrior Project, has joined CVA as communications director.

--Bryant Jordan can be reached at bryant.jordan@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @bryantjordan.

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