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Senate Considers Allowing GI Bill To Fund Startups

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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Veterans are currently only allowed to use GI Bill benefits for attending school, but new legislation moving through the Senate aims to let vets draw on the funds to start businesses.

A recent survey conducted by The Bunker, a startup incubator for veterans, found that only about 50 percent of veterans end up making use of the GI Bill, and of that total, fewer than half finish their studies.

Introduced by GOP Sen. Jerry Moran and Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, The Veterans Entrepreneurial Transition (VET) Act of 2015 is designed to launch a three-year pilot program through the Small Business Administration, in which up to 250 veterans can use their GI benefits for funding a startup endeavor. Veterans are 45 percent more likely to run a startup compared to the general population, and approximately 9 percent of all small businesses are veteran-owned.

According to a statement from Moran, around 1 million veterans will integrate back into their communities in the next three to five years, given that troop presence in Iraq and Afghanistan is winding down to a close.

On Wednesday, legislators on the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee moved the legislation through the panel without a hitch, but the bill still needs the support of the Senate itself, as well as the House, where GOP Rep. Jeff Fortenberry also introduced the bill.

“I’m so proud to introduce this bill to help our veterans,” Fortenberry said in a statement. “The VET Act will help veterans in the transition from military to civilian life. It will create jobs and more efficiently use existing public resources. With this legislation, qualified veterans will be able to use the skills acquired in the military to start a business to support themselves and their families as well as our communities and economy.”

Any participating veterans would have to complete and application process and then attend entrepreneurial training. Veterans could then receive the equivalent of 36 months of educational assistance.

Many veterans’ advocacy organizations stand behind the bill, including Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and The American Legion.

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