Our veterans deserve every honor and consideration we can give them. In his second inaugural address, President Lincoln solidified the government’s solemn obligation “to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.” Lincoln’s enduring words stand as a guide for how our nation should treat its veterans in all endeavors following their service.

As we head into Small Business Week 2018, It’s important to remember the role of veteran-owned small businesses in our community. According to the most recent census, over 2.5 million of our nation’s veterans have served and now run their own business.[1] Veteran-owned companies make up nearly 10-percent of all businesses in the United States. Moreover, the Small Business Administration notes that nearly a quarter of veterans say they are interested in starting or buying their own businesses.

In keeping with Lincoln’s call, it should be the explicit policy of all government agencies to assist these entrepreneurial veterans; to put our veterans back on the same level playing field with those who continued to build their business while the veteran left everything behind to defend the American way of life.

That’s the idea that motivated the introduction of the Fairness to Veterans for Infrastructure Investment Act [H.R. 4319] in every session of Congress since the start of the 112th Congress. I was proud to reintroduce this bipartisan bill to mark Veterans Day in 2017 to ensure veterans play a critical role in rebuilding America’s infrastructure.

The bill is simple: Veterans should receive the same contracting preference as any other group in federal contracting. Working with the American Legion, we’ve been advocating for this one-page bill as a powerful means of strengthening and empowering the veteran small business community. Providing veterans equal contracting preferences could have a massive impact in fueling veteran entrepreneurship and lowering the veteran unemployment rate, leading to lowering veteran homelessness, substance abuse, and suicide.

When awarding federally-funded contracts, governments at every level have chosen to give special preference to businesses owned and controlled by men and women with certain designations. The Fairness to Veterans Act simply proposes that if any group receives a preference for federally-funded contracts, then veteran-owned small businesses must receive an equal preference.

With the positive impact for veterans, it’s easy to see why the American Legion - one of the foremost organizations advocating for veterans in the workforce - continues to endorse this bill in every Congress. The American Legion supports providing parity for veterans in all small business government contracting programs.

By connecting veteran-owned businesses to the contracting power of the federal government, we can open the door for increased production, the hiring of additional staff – often veterans themselves, and national opportunities for the more than 380,000 veteran-owned construction firms across the nation. Moreover, it’s not just construction firms that will benefit - there are a variety of industries which stand to gain under this policy, touching all veteran-owned small businesses, such as personnel, admin, engineering, landscaping, utilities and IT.

As we continue to push to have Fairness to Veterans signed into law, we have noticed that once people understand the idea, they come to support it without hesitation. That’s why, in 2015, Fairness to Veterans passed the House of Representatives by 285-138, a large, bipartisan margin.

Let’s salute our veteran small businesses by empowering them to rebuild America by making the Fairness to Veterans for Infrastructure Investment Act the law of the land.