Submitted by Hardy R. Stone Jr., publisher of VetLikeMe.org
My younger brother shipped out to Afghanistan this month. Sure, we have that helpless feeling that anything can happen in a war zone. Being a disabled veteran, another concern I have is that he will be wounded or injured. He’ll always have the drive, commitment and entrepreneurial spirit he’s known for, but will there be opportunity for him in the American economy?
The current unemployment rate of returning veterans is just over 17%, which is well over the national rate. Speculation as to why these heroes are jobless is varied, but our returning troops are generally not welcomed with open arms by the American economic system.
But it’s great to see the “Support Our Troops” bumper stickers; the newspaper articles lauding their service; the wild cheers for returning troops at airport terminals. But that’s where it ends. All politicians on the national level are behind these men and women who protect our freedoms. But many federal legislators talk big and feign allegiance to our soldiers in empty gestures of support.
In 1999, the U.S. Congress mandated increased opportunities for service-disabled veterans in the federal procurement marketplace. Businesses run by disabled veterans will be awarded at least 3% of total procurement dollars of every U.S. agency. That’s the law. Oddly, government agencies ignore those laws, and politicians don’t hold the agency heads accountable for ignoring (breaking) these laws.
U.S. Census reported that in 2007, veterans owned 2.4 million businesses; nine percent of all U.S. businesses. These businesses generated $1.2 trillion, 4.1 percent of all business receipts nationwide, and employed nearly 5.8 million people.
Veterans hire veterans, that’s a fact. Veterans share similarities in work ethic, dedication, and attention to detail. Veterans take care of their brothers-in-arms.
A half-dozen laws and Presidential Executive Orders since 1999 have proven fruitless for service disabled veteran-owned businesses—agencies continue to ignore the 3% minimum. In 2008, the U.S. Department of Defense dedicated a mere .85% of that three percent minimum. The institution that sent these men and women into harm’s way doesn’t seem to care about troops disabled in the line of duty when they come home. An ironic slap in the face for disabled veterans.
And what’s more, there’s tremendous fraud in the government marketplace, no real surprise. Any business can claim to be owned by a disabled veteran and be eligible for contracts set-aside only for disabled veteran businesses. On proposals for government contracts, one can easily claim to be a disabled veteran. That’s it. In today’s economic climate, would businesses lie to gain contracts with the government? You tell me. There’s no penalty for lying on contract proposals, so why not? No one will know, even though it’s at the expense of our wounded warriors.
I want my brother to have the business opportunities he’s earned—especially if he’s disabled while serving. The federal government needs to hear loud and clear that he deserves it.
Memorial Day picnics, parades and political posturing came off yesterday as expected. If he’s injured, can he expect the guaranteed economic opportunities when he comes home? I don’t think so.
Author: Hardy R. Stone Jr., VetLikeMe.org