By: Craig Roberts

The American Legion was the sole veteran service organization represented at a U.S. Senate roundtable discussion of veteran-owned small business recently. The April 18 session was hosted by Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and joined by Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs chairman Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Ranking Member Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. Participants included the Legion’s Davy Leghorn, assistant director of the National Economic Commission.

Two topics of Legion interest were discussed during the roundtable – the Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) Boots to Business and Patriot Express programs.

Boots to Business is SBA’s education program that teaches budding veteran entrepreneurs the nuts and bolts of setting up and successfully operating a small business. It is an elective part of the latest Transition Assistance Program “GPS” program and shares some similarities with the Legion’s own small business workshops. The Legion’s twice-yearly sessions teach veteran entrepreneurs how to do business with the federal government. Boots to Business has now finished a pilot phase and is waiting funding for establishment nationwide.

“As we made clear during the discussion, the Legion strongly encourages that all important funding,” Leghorn said. “The Legion encourages fundinging for Boots to Business, and we also want to see the Patriot Express program move forward.”

SBA’s Patriot Express Loan Initiative provides incentives and protections to lenders willing to front veteran entrepreneurs in their business startup ventures.

“We would like to see the program tweaked a bit,” Leghorn said. “For instance, we favor lowering credit and equity requirements so a greater number of veterans can receive loans, while raising the SBA’s guarantee limits to lenders to help banks feel more comfortable about granted loans to veteran entrepreneurs. At any rate, it is a worthwhile program that deserves to be continued.”

Like Boots to Business, the Patriot Express loan program has completed its pilot phase and now requires funding to be made permanent.

During its 2012 National Convention, the Legion adopted Resolution 320, which support efforts of the Small Business Administration’s Office of Veterans Business Development. According to the SBA, 9 percent of all U.S. firms are owned by veterans. The vet-owned businesses number more than 2.4 million and employ more than 5.7 million individuals.

Moran later announced that he and Democratic Sen. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, with a bipartisan group of co-sponsors, have introduced a bill designed to ease a financial burden on military spouses who hold state professional licenses or certifications.

The proposed legislation is called the Military Spouses Job Continuity Act. It would grant a tax credit of up to $500 to a military spouse who is required to pay for transferring a vocational license or certification from one state to another if the move has been mandated by the permanent change in duty station of a servicemember husband or wife. This most often affects spouses who are teachers, nurses or child care workers. An identical bill has been introduced in the U.S. House by Casey’s home state Democratic colleague, Rep. Matt Cartwright. That bill also has bipartisan support among co-sponsors.

Casey has proposed the same legislation in two previous sessions of Congress, and the House has seen identical bills introduced for the past two years as well. All previous incarnations have died in committee.