BACKGROUND:  Below is the 1 VET AT A TIME White Paper written in support of the Veterans Entrepreneurial Transition Act of 2017.  This legislation is intended to re-establish the primary intent of the original Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, i.e. full employment.  In particular, this legislation endeavors to give veterans access to their individual GI Bill benefit for critically needed business start-up capital.  It is this challenge which remains the primary, longstanding impediment which has prevented many veterans from starting their own businesses.



The original G.I. Bill, drafted in 1944 as the Service Members Readjustment Act, was intended to give returning veterans the opportunity to seek training, education and home or business loans to become gainfully employed or to employ themselves.  Importantly, in the nine years following WW II, nearly 49 percent of veterans from “The Greatest Generation” owned their own business and their success was due in no small manner to their Service Members Readjustment Act benefit.  The role of veteran small business ownership in the revival and subsequent growth of the American Post-WW II economy is legendary.

The Kauffman Foundation reports that the percentage of veteran entrepreneurs in America has been declining steadily over the past two decades.  In 1996, veterans represented 12.3 percent of all new entrepreneurs.  By 2014, veterans comprised just 4.1 percent of new entrepreneurs.  Kauffman’s research attributes this decline to the fact that younger veterans now have less support from within their own community.  While these communities welcome home veterans for employment purposes, there is little understanding of a large percentage of veterans who wish to become entrepreneurs.  So, as they consider their own entrepreneurial ventures, veterans find that there are fewer networking opportunities, mentors and most especially…little if any access to start-up capital.

Beginning with 2014 statistics (with a recent release in the Fall of 2016), the U.S. Census Bureau released its First Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs.  This survey provides a more frequent socio-economic portrait of the nation’s employer businesses by gender, ethnicity, race, and veteran status.  In 2014 it was noted that 7.8%, or 534,000 in number, of all small businesses that have employees were veteran owned; however, of that number, only 21,900 were owned by veterans who have served since 9/11…a troubling trend that has persisted to date.

*The above-referenced data from the Kauffman Foundation, as well as that of the U.S. Census Bureau’s First Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs, amplifies a stark and well-known reality within the veteran community.  That reality is this: despite a myriad of veteran boots-to-business programs, the principal reason for the persistently low numbers of Post-9/11 veteran-owned, small business start-ups is lack of access to capital…the critical component and all-too-often the key impediment for potential veteran entrepreneurs.

Current Situation:  Post-9/11 G.I. Bill Underutilized

As per the U.S. Census Bureau, there are now over 21.8 million veterans in the United States.  Since 2001, over 2 million men and women have completed tours of service in the U.S. military and returned to civilian life.  It is projected that an additional 1 million service members will leave the Armed Forces over the next five years. Of those service members who now transition from military to civilian life each day, only one-half of eligible veterans use their G.I. Bill benefit to pursue higher education or a specialized training program or apprenticeship.  Of those, only 54 percent complete a program of study.  *Meanwhile, the Department of Defense has spent billions on unemployment for former separated military personnel in the last eight years.Veteran Business Ownership ChallengeIn a recent survey conducted by the renowned veteran startup incubator, Bunker Labs, it was noted that:

  • An overwhelming 90 percent of the veterans who participated wanted to use their G.I. Bill benefit toward starting a small business; and
  • Nearly 95 percent would complete an entrepreneurial training program in order to utilize their G.I. Bill benefit toward starting a small business.

In the Office of Veteran Business Development at the SBA, there currently are several different resources and/or programs available to assist veterans in starting a small business.  While some of these programs are effective, there is ample room for improvement in tailoring programming to the exact needs of prospective veteran entrepreneurs.  Most importantly, the primary impediment to veteran small business ownership is the longstanding lack of access to start-up capital, most especially for the junior enlisted personnel who traditionally do the heavy lifting in combat.  


The original Veterans Entrepreneurial Transition Act of 2015 (VET Act), S. 1870 was authored by U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) to create meaningful veteran entrepreneurship opportunities, as well as derivative jobs for other Americans.  It offered veterans the opportunity to pursue their dreams of owning their own business by giving them access to resources provided by the Small Business Administration (SBA) and their own Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefit.  Although the bill successfully passed through the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, unfortunately it was subsequently tied up in the rush to adjourn last year and therefore did not pass.

The VET Act of 2015 (as originally proposed), S. 1870 established a 3-year pilot program that would enable up to 250 G.I. Bill benefit-eligible veteran program applicants to start a new business or purchase an existing business or franchise.  It was envisioned that grant monies (projected at $80M for years 2016-2020) would be made available for successful program applicants and that the program itself would be overseen by the Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA) in consultation with the SBA Advisory Committee on Veterans Business Affairs and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.  The pilot program called for a thorough application process and required successful participation in an approved entrepreneurial training program.  Interested veterans would be required to develop a business plan to be approved by their training program advisor and the SBA’s Associate Administrator for Veterans Business Affairs.

Revised Proposal

While there are a considerable number of credible “boots to business” programs available to aspiring veteran entrepreneurs, the longstanding lack of access to start-up capital remains the principal impediment to veteran entrepreneurs realizing their dream of small-business ownership.  As noted previously, this is especially the case for junior enlisted personnel who traditionally do the heavy lifting in combat.

As to this vexing issue of access to small business start-up capital within the context of the proposed VET Act of 2015, two avenues have been considered…grants or Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefit utilization.  Of these two alternatives, two of our nation’s premiere veteran small business incubator programs, Syracuse University’s EBV Program and Bunker Labs, strongly caution against the use of grants while favoring the veteran’s access to his/her existing G.I. Bill benefit.  In their experience, a grant is essentially viewed as “free money” without personal negative consequence if expended to no avail.  In emphasizing the seriousness and depth of commitment necessary for successful small business ownership, both programs much prefer a personal financial commitment by the veteran entrepreneur.  Indeed, the veteran’s personal financial commitment is viewed, by both programs, as a key ingredient in ferreting out those candidates who are serious about the challenges in becoming a successful small business owner, as opposed to those who are not.

Therefore, a realistic, readily available and appropriate source of small business start-up capital for many veterans is their unused Post-9/11 G.I. Bill educational benefit…a significant personal benefit that the veteran has already earned in no small measure.  And, as previously noted in the above-referenced Bunker Labs study, many veterans already desire to utilize their Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefit as one source of capital for a start-up.  In such a case, the veteran could apply for a program-established amount against their total Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefit value…assuming previous successful matriculation through the mandatory program due-diligence steps.  (See Attachment A and Attachment B.)  *It is further believed that this program should be implemented expeditiously with no pilot program. 

Supporting Endorsements

“The American Legion believes that veterans should be allowed to convert G.I. Bill education funds into capital for business start-ups,” said Ian DePlanque, Director of the American Legion, Legislative Division.  “These funds would further the goal of growing the veteran-owned small business industrial base, which, in turn, would generate jobs for veterans.”  *The American Legion remains a vigorous advocate of this proposed legislation.

In addition to 1 VET AT A TIME and the American Legion, the VET Act of 2015 was supported by the Small Business Administration, the National Guard Association of the United States, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Veterans2Commerce, the Military Business Owners Association, Bunker Labs, the Syracuse University EBV Program, The Kauffman Foundation and the Association of Defense Communities.  U.S. Navy Admiral James Stavridis (ret), former Commander of U.S. European Command and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, has also offered support for the legislation.


The Service Members Readjustment Act of 1944 was the forerunner for the current Post-9/11 G.I. Bill.  It was intended to give returning veterans the opportunity to seek training, education and home, farm or “business property” loans to become gainfully employed or to employ themselves.  In the nine years following WW II, nearly 49 percent of WW II veterans ended up owning their own business and the resounding success of these veteran small business owners was instrumental in their reintegration into American society, as well as the legendary rebuilding of the American economy.  These veterans took their maturity, discipline, training, drive and life experience gained in the military and applied those qualities and experiences to successful small business ownership.  Their success was remarkable but not surprising to anyone with an understanding as to the value of military education, training and experience.

Our military veterans continue to serve and sacrifice…yet nowadays upon discharge, we present them these three options:

  1. get a degree, get a job (100% pay);
  2. get a trade, get a job (partial pay);
  3. start your own business (no access to $).

Importantly, in the Post-WW II environment the U.S. government also offered a 3rd option for veterans by way of backing up to 50% of a veteran’s obligation when he/she wanted to purchase “business property”, a farm or a home.  The maximum amount for that option was $2,000.00 back then…roughly $26,000.00 in today’s dollars.  BUT…the fact remains that it was an option of a type we are striving for today.  This current effort, as set forth within this Act, i.e., fund start-up capital for a veteran’s small business enterprise, is therefore very much one about restoring a benefit of a type previously conferred but since removed.  The veterans of WW II clearly acted upon that 3rd option and our modern-day veterans want to do exactly the same.  And, as history indicates, they have all the training, discipline, experience and more to succeed as small business owners, just as our WW II veterans did.

Moreover, while the WW II veterans’ success is one for the ages, none of the due-diligence, pre-funding, quality control measures envisioned within this Act existed, i.e.:

  1. completion of an approved boots-to-business program;
  2. approval of business plan by program committee;
  3. assignment of approved entrepreneur mentor/advisor;
  4. funding request made;
  5. funds to be released in a manner approved by supervising committee.

The time has come to unleash the abilities of our veteran entrepreneurs by giving them this benefit they have earned and deserve.  With meaningful access to start-up capital, they will be able to begin and build their businesses and their futures.  They will be able to hire other veterans, as well as non-veterans…thereby creating hundreds of jobs nationwide.  They richly deserve this opportunity…they, their families and loved ones, employees, suppliers and more will all benefit by this rebirth and regrowth of the American Dream and our veterans as meaningful contributors.



GENERAL Post-9/11 G.I. Bill Overview

In general, the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill provides education benefits for service members who have served on active duty for 90 or more days since Sept. 10, 2001.  The Post-9/11 G.I. Bill can pay full tuition and fees at a qualified school, provide a monthly housing allowance while going to school and up to $1,000 a year for books and supplies.

The Post-9/11 G.I. Bill applies to colleges, universities and many other types of training, and benefit payments are tiered based on the amount of creditable active-duty service a veteran has achieved.

The Post-9/11 G.I. Bill has several facets including:

*Attachment B contains a more detailed breakdown of the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill eligibility criteria and benefits.


A veteran who qualifies under the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill can apply for a business disbursement allowance (BDA) based upon the four-year aggregate amount of:

  • tuition, costs and fees for a public institution within the veteran’s state of residence. In addition, the business disbursement amount will include monthly housing allowances and annual $1,000 books/supplies allotments.

A veteran BDA applicant’s total will depend on the maximum amount he/she will qualify for given their G.I. Bill eligibility as determined by current VA Post-9/11 G.I. Bill regulations. (See Attachment B.)

To qualify for a BDA, a veteran must:

  • complete an approved boots-to-business program;
  • present their business plan to the program committee;
  • receive program committee business plan approval;
  • be assigned an approved entrepreneur/mentor;
  • submit a qualified/approved BDA funding request.

Note: Funds will only be released in a manner approved by supervising committee.



Basic Eligibility Criteria for Post-9/11 G.I. Bill Benefits

At a minimum, a veteran must have served at least 30 days of continuous active duty service after September 10, 2001 and be discharged due to a service-connected disability, or served an aggregate of 90 days of active duty service after September 10, 2001 and received an honorable discharge.

For Reservists and Guard members the following active duty qualifies for Post-9/11 G.I. Bill eligibility:

  • All Title 10 active duty supporting named contingency operations
  • Title 32 service for the purpose of organizing, administering, recruiting, instructing, or training the National Guard
  • Title 32 service under section 502(f) for the purpose of responding to a national emergency
  • All voluntary active duty, with the exception of active duty for medical care and medical evaluation

What a Veteran can qualify For

If Vet Is They Qualify For
Tuition and Fees Monthly Housing Allowance Book Stipend Yellow Ribbon Relocation
Veteran X X X X X
Spouse Using
Transferred Benefits
Child Using
Transferred Benefits


NOTE 1: A spouse cannot get the Monthly Housing Allowance or Yellow Ribbon benefit if the sponsor is still on active duty.


Post-9/11 G.I. Bill tuition and housing allowance payments are based on the amount of creditable active-duty service after Sept. 10, 2001.  If a veteran is discharged for disability after at least 30 days of active duty, they automatically receive the 100% benefit tier.  Active duty time for the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill can also include Title 10 mobilizations and some title 32 duty for reservists & guard members.  The following table shows the benefit tiers and corresponding active duty time:

Post-9/11 Service Percentage of Maximum Amount Payable
At least 36 cumulative months
(Includes Entry Level or Skills Training time)
At least 30 continuous days on active duty and discharged due to service-connected disability
(Includes Entry Level or Skills Training time)
At least 30 cumulative months
(Includes Entry Level or Skills Training time)
At least 24 cumulative months
(Cannot include Entry Level or Skills Training time)
At least 18 cumulative months
(Cannot include Entry Level or Skills Training time)
At least 12 cumulative months
(Cannot include Entry Level or Skills Training time)
At least 6 cumulative months
(Cannot include Entry Level or Skills Training time)
90 aggregate days
(Cannot include Entry Level or Skills Training time)

Tuition and Fees

VA will pay tuition & fee payments directly to the school.  Tuition payments are based on the amount of creditable active-duty service after Sept. 10, 2001.

For example, if a veteran has 24 months active duty after September 10, 2001, their G.I. Bill benefit tier percentage is 80%.  If they are attending a public school with tuition of $10,000 per semester, 80% of their tuition and fees or $8,000 would be paid by the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill.

The G.I. Bill can pay up to the full resident tuition at any public school, if a veteran is qualified to receive benefits at the 100% rate based on their active service shown above.  Effective January 1, 2016 public schools will have to offer resident tuition to all Veterans who have been out of the military for less than 3 years, and their dependents using transferred benefits.

Monthly Housing Allowance

The Post-9/11 G.I. Bill also pays a Monthly Housing Allowance based on the ZIP code of the location of the school the veteran is attending – not their home ZIP code.  This stipend currently averages $1,611 a month, but can exceed $2,700 depending on where they go to school.  Students taking 100% of their courses online are eligible for a monthly stipend equal to half of the national average stipend, which is currently $805.50.

Housing allowance payments are based on the amount of creditable active-duty service after Sept. 10, 2001.

For example, if a veteran has 24 months active duty after September 10, 2001 their G.I. Bill benefit tier percentage is 80%.  If they are attending a school which has a Monthly Housing Allowance of $1000/month, they would receive 80% of their housing allowance or $800/month.

This stipend is based on the DoD basic housing allowance (BHA) for an E-5 with dependents.  This stipend does not require students to live on campus.

NOTE: Service members currently on active duty, their spouses using transferred benefits and those taking courses on a half-time basis or less do not qualify for Monthly Housing Allowance.

A veteran’s housing allowance is also based on their training time, AND they must be training at greater than 1/2 time training to receive a Monthly Housing Allowance.

If they are taking undergraduate classes their training time is determined as follows:

If 12 credits is considered full-time, a course load of 6 credits yields a training time of 50% (6 ÷ 12 = .50), whereas a course load of 7 credits yields a training time of 58% (7 ÷ 12 = .58).  In this scenario, a Veteran would need to enroll for at least 7 credits (such as two 3-credit classes and a 1-credit lab) in order to receive the housing allowance benefits.

For graduate training the VA will pay benefits based on what the school reports their training time to be.  So, if they are taking 3 graduate hours and the school tells the VA that they are considered a full-time student, that is what the VA will pay them.

Once the training time is determined, the monthly housing allowance is paid at the nearest 10% level.  For instance, if their training time is determined to be 58% as calculated above they will be paid 60% of the applicable housing allowance.  If their training time is calculated to be 84% you will be paid 80% of the applicable housing allowance.

Book and Supply Stipend

The veteran may receive an annual book stipend of up to $1,000/year with the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill.  This stipend will be paid at the beginning of each term.  It is paid proportionately based on the number of credits taken by each student at $41 per credit hour.

Yellow Ribbon Program

The Post-9/11 G.I. Bill also includes a provision to help students avoid some or all of the out-of-pocket tuition and fees associated with education programs that may exceed the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill tuition benefit.  The Yellow Ribbon Program is not automatic, schools must enter into an agreement with the VA to share the expense.

To qualify to receive the Yellow Ribbon benefits a veteran must meet the following criteria:

  • Qualify for the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill at the 100% benefit tier, and
  • Be attending an approved Institute of Higher Learning.

One-Time Relocation Allowance

A veteran may also receive a one-time rural relocation benefit payment of $500.00 to help cover the cost of relocating from a rural location to attend school.

To qualify they must:

  • Be an otherwise eligible veteran,
  • Reside in a county with 6 persons or less per square mile (as determined by the most recent decennial census), and
  • Either physically relocate at least 500 miles to attend an educational institution
    – or travel by air to physically attend an educational institution if no other land-based transportation exists.

Benefit Transferability

The Department of Defense (DoD) is authorized to allow individuals who, on or after August 1, 2009, have served at least 6 years in the Armed Forces and who agree to serve at least another 4 years in the Armed Forces to transfer unused entitlement to their Spouse.  The Department of Defense may, by regulation, impose additional eligibility requirements and limit the number of months transferable to not less than 18 months.  National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Public Health System (PHS) personnel are also eligible to transfer their entitlement to eligible dependents.

What Can A VETERAN Use the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill For?

A veteran can use their Post-911 G.I. Bill for many types of education programs including:

What Can A VETERAN Use the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill For? (continued)