Many of our veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are interested in starting or buying their own business. To support our soldiers, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) implemented the Veteran and Small Business program, which creates set-asides for Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business and Veteran-Owned Small Business (“VOSB”). However, the far more lucrative set-asides with the Department of Transportation (“DOT”) are governed by the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (“DBE”) program. For DOT set-asides, only women-owned and minority-owned small businesses qualify as DBEs.
In an effort to expand the scope of the DBE program, the House passed the Fairness to Veterans for Infrastructure Investment Act on November 17, 2015. This Bill would add VOSBs to the definition of DBEs. If signed into law, general contractors would be entitled to use VOSBs to meet their DBE hiring goals. By creating a new pool of eligible firms, the Bill may also help general contractors increase competition within their DBE goals. Critics of the Bill say that it would hurt women-owned and minority-owned small businesses.
The fate of the Fairness to Veterans for Infrastructure Investment Act is far from certain. After passing the House last session, this Bill was introduced into the Senate as H.R. 2906 (113th). The Bill has been sent to the Senate’s Committee on Environment and Public Works. According to govtrack.us, only 21-percent of Bills that made it past committee in the last three years were enacted. However, on March 2, 2016, The Hill – an inside the beltway, political newspaper – published an article by one of the Bill’s sponsors, Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), and Dale Barnett urging the Senate to act.