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WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee unanimously passed out of committee legislation authored by U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) to empower veterans to become entrepreneurs and create jobs for Americans. The Veterans Entrepreneurial Transition Act of 2015 (VET Act), S. 1870, would offer veterans the opportunity to pursue their dreams of owning a business by giving them access to resources provided by the Small Business Administration (SBA) and their G.I. Bill benefit.

“Veterans in Kansas, as well as across the country, face challenges when they separate from the military and transition into civilian life,” Sen. Moran said. “After serving our nation, many veterans want to continue their service by giving back to their communities as small business owners and entrepreneurs. It’s common sense to give them more flexibility and choice in their benefits to achieve their goals. America is the country of entrepreneurs – a place where those with good ideas who are willing to work hard can make something for themselves. Nearly one in 10 U.S. small businesses are owned by veterans, and there are thousands more who aspire to achieve the same goal. The VET Act would help make certain they have the opportunity to live the American dream.”

“Our commitment to the brave men and women who serve our nation doesn’t end when they return from war,” Sen. Tester said. “This bill will help veterans transition from the armed services to the private sector so they can succeed on Main Street. Small businesses and entrepreneurs help drive our economy and these resources will help veterans and their families as they begin the next chapter of their lives.”

Nearly 550 service members transition from military to civilian life each day, and an estimated 1 million veterans will settle into communities across our country within the next three to five years. Only one-half of eligible veterans use their G.I. Bill benefit to pursue higher education or a specialized training program or apprenticeship. Of those, only 48 percent actually complete a program of study. Meanwhile, the Department of Defense spent more than $1.4 billion on unemployment for former military personnel in fiscal year 2013.

While some veterans choose to use their G.I. Benefits to pursue higher education, more often veterans are looking to enter the workforce. The VET Act proposes an innovative way to support veterans in their professional development by offering veterans a choice in accessing the resources, training and support they need to pursue the American dream to start a small business, create jobs, and generate growth in our economy.

The VET Act establishes a 3-year pilot program that would enable up to 250 G.I. Bill benefit-eligible veterans who apply to the program to start a new business or purchase an existing business or franchise. The program would be overseen by the Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA), in consultation with the SBA Advisory Committee on Veterans Business Affairs and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. The pilot program includes a thorough application process and requires participation in an approved entrepreneurial training program. Interested veterans would be required to develop a business plan to be approved by their training program advisor and the SBA’s Associate Administrator for Veterans Business Development. Click here to read a full summary of the pilot program, selection process, and terms of the grant process proposed by the VET Act.

According to a recent survey conducted by a veteran startup incubator, The Bunker: 

  • Only 40 percent of survey participants have used their G.I. Bill benefit and, of those, only 12 percent completed three years or less of the program of study;
  • An overwhelming 90 percent of the veterans who participated would like to use their G.I. Bill benefit toward starting a small business; and
  • Nearly 95 percent would complete an entrepreneurial training program in order to utilize their G.I. Bill benefit toward starting a small business.

“The Veteran Entrepreneurial Transition Act represents an unprecedented opportunity for our veterans and will greatly assist the Department of Defense in making the entrepreneurial transition pathway a reality for those who have served our great nation,” said Charles Lynn Lowder, CEO of 1 Vet At A Time. “Our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are hard-wired for success in the business world and the VET Act will provide the capital they need to start their own businesses.”

“The American Legion believes that veterans should be allowed to convert G.I. Bill education funds into capital for business start-ups,” said Ian DePlanque, Director of the American Legion, Legislative Division. “These grants would further the goal of growing the veteran-owned small business industrial base, which, in turn, would generate jobs for veterans.”

In addition to the 1 Vet at a Time and the American Legion, the VET Act of 2015 is supported by the Small Business Administration, the National Guard Association of the United States, the Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of America, Veterans2Commerce, the Military Business Owners Association, The Bunker, The Kauffman Foundation and Association of Defense Communities. U.S. Navy Admiral James Stavridis (ret), former Commander of U.S. European Command and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, has also offered support for the legislation.