U.S. Representative Mike Levin (D-CA) introduced legislation to foster veteran entrepreneurship by expanding veterans’ eligibility for the self-employment portion, or “track,” of the Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) program. Currently, this track is only open to veterans “with the most severe service-connected disabilities who require homebound training or self-employment,” resulting in just 162 veterans participating in the self-employment track in 2021 out of 80,680 veterans using the VR&E program overall. Rep. Levin’s Veteran Eligibility for Necessities To Undertake Rewarding Entrepreneurship (VENTURE) Act would expand veterans’ eligibility for the self-employment track to all veterans who are eligible for the VR&E program. The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs passed the bill today.
“Veterans who have sacrificed for our country should have every opportunity to start their own business, but too many of these former servicemembers are denied access to a critical portion of the Veteran Readiness and Employment program that can help them achieve their dreams of entrepreneurship,” said Rep. Levin. “It’s time to open the door for more veterans with service-related injuries to access the self-employment program and all of the resources that come with it, and that’s what my VENTURE Act aims to do. I am very grateful for the support of Veteran Service Organizations and my colleagues on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee on this critical legislation, and I am hopeful we can advance it in the House soon.”
“Certain skills gained while in military service may make some veterans well-posed to become successful entrepreneurs,” said Emily DeVito, Associate Director, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) National Legislative Service. “For some veterans eligible for VR&E, self-employment may be the best track for a seamless transition from service. The VFW strongly supports this bill to expand eligibility for the self-employment track and is thankful to Congressman Levin for providing the support and resources needed for service-connected disabled veterans to start their own businesses.”
“Veterans with service-related injuries deserve the opportunity for self-employment that accommodates their employment barriers and provides them with financial empowerment,” said Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Deputy National Legislative Director Shane Liermann. “DAV strongly supports the Veteran Eligibility for Necessities To Undertake Rewarding Entrepreneurship Act (VENTURE) which will expand eligibility for self-employment training within VA’s VR&E program. We applaud Representative Levin for his leadership and commitment to keeping the promise to America’s veterans.”
VR&E supports servicemembers leaving active duty due to medical issues, as well as veterans with service-connected disabilities. The program provides comprehensive employment services and assistance including vocational counseling, training, career placement, and special rehabilitation services. The self-employment track specifically provides assistance with business plans, training in small business operations, assistance with start-up costs, and more.
On July 9, 2021, Rep. Levin, Rep. Barry Moore (R-AL), and Chairman Mark Takano (D-CA) sent a letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) expressing concern regarding reported underutilization of the self-employment track and requesting information to further examine the issue, among other things. In its response, VA listed the eligibility requirements for the self-employment track, one of which is that the veteran’s service-connected disability must be so severe as to necessitate selection of self-employment as the only reasonably feasible vocational goal. Rep. Levin’s VENTURE Act aims to break down that barrier to veterans’ participation in the self-employment track by expanding eligibility to all VR&E participants.