The following has been provided by The American Legion -
'Fairness to Veterans' empowers veteran-owned businesses in rebuilding nation's infrastructure
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-IL) and Congressman Don Young (R-AK) have teamed up to introduce bipartisan legislation to ensure veterans play a critical role in rebuilding America's infrastructure. The Fairness to Veterans for Infrastructure Investment Act [H.R. 1694] levels the playing field in federal contracting for veteran-owned businesses by providing veterans access to existing preferences authorized for transportation projects.
"With more than 75% of current veteran business owners over the age 55, it is critical we empower the next generation of veteran-owned businesses to get to work upgrading our nation's roads, rails and bridges," said Fitzpatrick, a member of the Veterans Jobs Caucus. "Our veterans are the most highly skilled workforce in America's history – the product of rigorous training, an iron-clad commitment to teamwork and the remarkable ability to succeed where others might fail. We need Fairness to Veterans so we are leveraging the unique strengths of veteran entrepreneurs to address the challenges at home."
"Rebuilding our nation's transportation infrastructure is essential to growing our economy and creating jobs," said Bustos. "The veterans who served us so honorably deserve our full support and that starts with making sure they have good-paying jobs here at home. Not only will this bipartisan effort help get veterans back to work, but it will also help rebuild our crumbling roads, bridges, tunnels, and rail lines."
"As our men and women in uniform return home from combat and begin transitioning into their civilian lives, it's important to ensure they have every opportunity to succeed," said Young. "There's no question that America's veterans, who have sacrificed so much for the greater good, are able and ready to put their battle tested skills towards improving our nation's roads, highways, and critical infrastructure projects. As a veteran and the Congressman for the state with the largest veteran population, I am proud to cosponsor the Fairness to Veterans for Infrastructure Investment Act."
Federal agencies, including the Department of Transportation, have special 'set-asides' for contracts going to small businesses owned and controlled by particular groups of people who have been designated for contracting preferences. Fairness to Veterans simply states that if any business is going to get a preference, then veteran-owned small businesses should at least get that same partiality. There is no equal preference for veterans when it comes to building our nation's roads, highways, and critical infrastructure, which is not fair to these heroes.
Nearly 2.5 million veterans own and operate small businesses in the U.S. – including over 380,000 construction firms – and sustain over 8 million American jobs. Of the 250,000 service members currently transitioning from military to civilian life, surveys show one in four are considering starting or buying a business.
The Fairness to Veterans for Infrastructure Investment Act is endorsed by a number of veteran-advocacy organizations, including the American Legion, as a key piece to increase access to jobs for veterans.
"It is a misconception that Department of Transportation's Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program only excludes veteran owned road and infrastructure construction firms. There are in fact a variety of industries involved, so this is an issue that affects all veteran owned small businesses," said Joe Sharpe, Director of the American Legion's National Veterans' Employment and Education Division. "The American Legion has worked with Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick and other leaders to ensure that veterans are not disadvantaged by other government procurement program established by law. The Fairness to Veterans for Infrastructure Investment Act is a simple and effective approach that levels the playing field for our veteran small business owners."
At a recent House Small Business Committee hearing on the groups legislative priorities for veterans, the American Legion urged support of the bill, saying:
"Recently, Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick from Pennsylvania has successfully added an amendment to rail infrastructure legislation which passed the House on March 4, 2015. Fitzpatrick's amendment, passed as part of the 'Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act', directs the Secretary of Transportation to conduct "a nationwide disparity and availability study on the availability and use of certain classes of small businesses – including veteran-owned businesses."
The American Legion believes that this is a crucial step in leveling the playing field for our veteran small business owners that are not currently eligible to go after these set-asides.
Fitzpatrick has introduced the bipartisan Fairness to Veterans for Infrastructure Investment Act which seeks to add veterans as a separate category of small businesses they can use to meet their 10 percent goal. The American Legion and numerous other Veteran Service Organizations support this bill and asks again for this Committee's support this summer when Congress reauthorizes the federal highway bill."