Joe Sharpe, director of the Legion's National Veterans Employment and Education Division, testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Small Business Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce March 30, 2017.

American Legion advocates for veteran entrepreneurs, access to capital

The American Legion testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Small Business Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce today to represent the views of entrepreneurial veterans and press for additional assistance for veterans who want to start small businesses.

Joe Sharpe, director of the Legion's National Veterans Employment and Education Division, urged members of Congress to give veterans the resources they need to start businesses in order to further stimulate the nation's economic recovery.

Sharpe said, "Veterans, when compared to their civilian counterparts, are more likely to start a business and are generally more successful at creating a lasting small business."

One of the top impediments facing entrepreneurial veterans is access to capital to develop a minimally viable product or service, create a market, and scale their businesses. "One of the leading barriers to small business financing is requiring that debt be secured by equity in fixed assets," said Sharpe.

Most veterans leaving military service lack the equity necessary for traditional bank loans.

Sharpe said, "One solution is to re-introduce legislation such as S.1870 - The Veterans Entrepreneurial Transition (VET) Act of 2016," that the American Legion spearheadded last Congressional session.

U.S. Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Jon Tester, D-Mont., sponsored the bill and successfully navigated it through the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship last year, but was canceled with the end of the 114th Congress last November.

The 2016 VET Act would have created a pilot program to enable veterans who did not desire to go to college to use money from their G.I. Bill benefit to start a small business.

Committee chairman Rep. Steve Knight, R-Calif., expressed interest in the Legion's VET Act legislation and requested more information.

"It's ideas like this that drive our economy forward," Sharpe said. "It is veterans who will lead the way."