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Multiple Agencies Provide Assistance to Service-Disabled Veterans or Entrepreneurs, but Specific Needs Are Difficult to Identify and Coordination Is Weak
William Elmore (au)
As of July 2008, the Dept. of Defense (DOD) reported that almost 33,000 servicemembers had been wounded in action as part of Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom. Some of these servicemembers could have injuries that keep them from easily entering or returning to the workplace upon their exit from the military. For some service-disabled veterans, starting a business may be one option for entering or returning to the workforce. In the Veterans Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development Act of 1999 (P.L. 106-50), Congress stated that too little had been done to help veterans, particularly service-disabled veterans, in starting small businesses. This law established the framework for the Small Business Admin. (SBA), the Dept. of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Dept. of Labor (DOL), DOD, and others to coordinate in providing entrepreneurial assistance to veterans and service disabled veterans. To improve coordination and enhance small business assistance to veterans, the law required that these agencies enter into memorandums of understanding (MOU) as specified in the 1999 Act (but not all of the agencies were required to participate in each of the MOUs); established the Nat. Veterans Business Devt. Corp. (now known as The Veterans Corp.) to assist veterans, including service-disabled veterans, in forming and expanding small businesses; and established a govt. wide fed. procurement goal for the participation of small businesses owned and controlled by service-disabled veterans. The Military Reservist and Veteran Small Business Reauthorization and Opportunity Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-186) amended P.L. 106-50 and contained provisions directing these agencies and their resource partners to improve coordination when providing entrepreneurial assistance. For ex., it (1) established the authority for an interagency task force, chaired by the SBA Administrator, to coordinate these efforts; (2) increased the number of Veterans Business Outreach Centers (VBOC) by at least two centers in FY 2008 and in 2009, subject to funding from Congress; (3) directed the SBA Administrator to sponsor an independent study on gaps in the availability of VBOCs across the country; and (4) directed SBA to create written materials on self-employment and veterans' entrepreneurship and provide them to DOL for use in its Transition Assistance Program, which helps servicemembers exiting the military. Furthermore, P.L. 110-186 required that GAO describe the (1) types of assistance that may be needed by service-disabled veterans who want to become entrepreneurs and (2) resources that are available to assist such service-disabled veterans. Includes GAO recommendations. Illus.
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