House lawmakers want to know why veterans looking to launch their own businesses are having trouble getting start-up capital, and whether federal support programs are doing enough to help.
In a letter to the Government Accountability Office this week, House Veterans’ Affairs Committee ranking member Mike Bost, R-Ill, and House Small Business Committee ranking member Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., asked for an analysis of current Small Business Administration programs targeting veteran entrepreneurs amid concerns that they may not be providing as much support as they could.
“It is imperative to study and examine access to capital issues for all small businesses, including those owned and operated by veterans,” the lawmakers wrote.
“Given the SBA’s role in assisting the nation’s job creators, it is critically important to better understand how they are serving veteran-owned small businesses, including how their lending programs reach veteran-owned small businesses, and the work the SBA conducts toward improving outcomes for these business owners.”
According to an SBA study released last summer, veterans own about 9 percent of all U.S. businesses and employ roughly 5.8 million workers across the country.
However, agency officials have also seen decreasing rates of entrepreneurship among post-9/11 veterans. That’s in part due to a general decline among all Americans, but the problem is even more pronounced among individuals starting new careers after military service.
Bost and Luetkemeyer said they have heard those challenges echo in their own conversations with would-be veteran entrepreneurs, particularly when it comes to access to business start-up capital.
SBA does have an Office of Veterans Business Development focused specifically on that group, but lawmakers said more data is needed to find out if those programs are providing the specific support needed by veterans to launch a business.
According to estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics released earlier this month, the overall veterans unemployment rate was 3.2 percent in February, matching the lowest monthly mark since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.