What does it mean to be a veteran business owner?
In 1999, the Veterans Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development Act of 1999 – Public Law 106-50 – went into effect, and suddenly there was a whole new meaning to being an entrepreneur who also happened to have served in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Since before World War II and the Korean War, it was considered an honor and a duty to employ and do business with U.S. veterans. In 2007, however, the unemployment rate among veterans ages 20 to 24 was nearly twice that of their civilian counterparts, and the rate at which the federal government conducted business with companies owned by veterans who claimed service-connected disabilities was less than one half of 1 percent of all federal dollars spent.
The benefits of the 1999 law unfortunately still await most veterans, too many of whom are unaware they have any advantages in small business. Section 101 of P.L. 106-50 states:
1. Veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces have been, and continue to be, vital to the small-business enterprises of the United States.
2. In serving the United States, veterans often faced great risks to preserve the American dream of freedom and prosperity.
3. The United States has done too little to assist veterans, particularly service-disabled veterans, in playing a greater role in the economy of the United States by forming and expanding small-business enterprises.
4. Medical advances and new medical technologies have made it possible for service-disabled veterans to play a much more active role in the formation and expansion of small-business enterprises in the United States.
5. The United States must provide additional assistance and support to veterans to better equip them to form and expand small-business enterprises, thereby enabling them to realize the American dream.
Within this act of Congress are many rights and benefits that veterans should exercise and enjoy, as business owners or potential business owners. And yet they are not.
In future columns, I will explain these rights and benefits and how veterans can make the most of them.
Louis J. Celli Jr. is a retired Army master sergeant who started, built and grew businesses and has counseled hundreds of veteran entrepreneurs. He is CEO of the Northeast Veterans Business Resource Center.
Editor's Note: "On Point" is a new column in The American Legion Magazine that aims to benefit veterans interested in, or invested in, small business. Every other month, national expert Louis Celli Jr. will cover a different aspect of veteran entrepreneurship.
Readers are welcome to send their questions directly to the author. firstname.lastname@example.org