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Proposal to expand GI Bill would include veterans' business opportunities

Until now, Post-9/11 GI Bill funds have been directed primarily toward education.

NORFOLK, Va. — The Post-9/11 GI Bill is an educational assistance program enacted by Congress for individuals with active duty service after September 10, 2001. 

It provides up to 36 months of education benefits at colleges, universities, trade schools, and for on-the-job training, apprenticeships, and flight schools.

But what if you could use the benefit for something besides education? Rep. Rob Wittman (R, VA-01) has teamed up with Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Florida) and Rep. Young Kim (R-California) to sponsor H.R. 8660 - the Post 9/11 Veteran Business Acceleration Act.

The bill would amend the GI Bill to establish a joint seven-year pilot program between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Small Business Administration to allow eligible individuals to receive financial assistance for business operations instead of educational aid.

"It'll be the same resources that are available to a veteran to go to school," said Wittman. "Now, those dollars could be used for them in certain expenses associated with starting a business."

A previous version of the bill was introduced in the House in 2019, but it did not receive a vote. That measure had the backing of the American Legion, the nation's largest veterans' wartime service organization.

The bill has been referred to the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

Wittman said he has spoken to both the committee's chairman and ranking member, and he's hopeful that the measure will soon get a hearing.

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