Federal legislation that allows veterans to use their G.I. Bill benefits to launch a business is finding traction with lawmakers.
Introduced by Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., the Veterans Entrepreneurial Transition Act of 2015 has unanimously advanced through its originating committee and was introduced in the U.S. Senate on Monday. The bill — S. 1870 — would allow veterans to access resources provided by the Small Business Administration and their G.I. Bill benefits to start a business. It aims to improve the U.S. economy through new business creation and job growth.
Moran said that veterans own nearly one out of 10 U.S. small businesses, and that the measure would foster even more entrepreneurship among former servicemen and servicewomen.
“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 in a release. “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.”
Only about half of eligible veterans use G.I. Bill benefits to pursue a higher education or a specialized training program. Of that group, only half complete a program of study.
Moran, and the bill’s co-sponsor, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., say the bill gives entrepreneurs a choice in using their benefits to start a business and “pursue the American dream.”
If passed, the bill would amend the Small Business Act. The amendment would create a pilot grant program administered by the Small Business Administration for veterans to start or acquire businesses. Other specific details on the bill — such as the definition of a qualifying business — have yet to be provided by the Library of Congress, which reports that delays can occur after a bill is introduced on the Senate floor.
Sean McIntosh, executive director of veteran business incubator The Bunker KC, expressed his support of the measure. A former Navy SEAL, McIntosh said that Kansas City in particular would benefit from this legislation, as it would compel more veterans to spread roots in the area.
“This would be a game changer,” he said. “I think that areas like Kansas City that provide a longer runway and better cost of living would see a huge influx of veterans that would stay here because of that runway. It would be easier for Midwest cities to capture the talent that’s needed.”