Vets’ business aid programs: few and far between

With politicians of all stripes trying to out-veteran each other during elections, you would think there would be dozens of programs that give financial help to veterans who are starting a business or to encourage companies to hire them.

But you’d be wrong. NHBR could only come up with three:

 • SBA Veterans Advantage loan: This is your typical SBA 7a express loan guarantee program with one difference. The waiver of the 3 percent fee – currently in place for loans under $150,000 – is extended to loans as large as $350,000. Since such fees are rolled into a loan, that could save a veteran as much as $9,000.

The program began in 2013, replacing a similar Patriot Express loan program. The New Hampshire office of the SBA has no figures to show how many veterans have taken advantage of the program and how much in loans they have taken out or how much in fees they’ve saved.

 • Veteran set-aside programs: There are two such programs. Under the first, federal agencies require that 3 percent of contracts be set aside to service-disabled veteran-owned businesses. (That doesn’t mean that the veteran is disabled, but that he or she was discharged with a service-related disability.) This is similar to other set-aside programs (23 percent for small businesses, 5 percent for disadvantaged businesses, 5 percent for women-owned and 3 percent for HUBZone business). In all cases, no advanced documentation is required proving that a business is veteran-owned, only the threat of prosecution for fraudulent submissions.

The VA also has a Vets First Contracting Program, which gives veterans a first shot at bidding on VA contracts. Such business must go through a verification process before bidding on the job.

Set-aside programs are heavily used, nationally and in New Hampshire, according to Dave Pease, program manager of the New Hampshire Procurement Technical Assistance Center. Federal agencies (not including the VA) awarded service-disabled veterans in New Hampshire $51 million in contracts in 2013 (and $14 billion nationally). They also awarded another $28 million in contracts in New Hampshire and $9 billion nationally to veterans who were discharged without any disability (and therefore have no set-aside requirements).

That year, the VA alone awarded $30.5 million in contracts to service-disabled veterans in New Hampshire ($3.6 billion nationally) and another $31.3 million to veteran-owned small businesses ($4.1 billion nationally).

 • Returning Heroes and Wounded Warrior Tax Credits: This is part of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit program, which was also available to employers who hire food stamp recipients, those on family assistance and the disabled in general.

The use of the past tense was deliberate: The program expired at the end of 2013, though in the past it has been reinstated retroactively in Congress’ lame-duck session after the election. Most sources say that’s likely to happen again in the coming weeks.

Thus the New Hampshire Department of Employment Security continues to issue certificates for those who hire in the pertinent categories, which would make them eligible for the credits, should they be reinstated.

In the case of veterans, there are several different kinds of credits, ranging from a veteran receiving food stamps (where the business can receive a maximum credit of $2,400) to a long-term disabled veteran (a maximum credit of $9,600).

Nationally, many companies took advantage of these tax credits, according to the IRS. In 2011, some 200 corporations claimed nearly $800 million in credits, according to the latest data available. In 2012, nearly 50,000 partnerships and individuals claimed $460 million worth of credits, but the IRS could not break down veterans’ claims.

State data indicates that they are a small minority. Of the 5,427 Work Opportunity Tax Credit certificates – 86 percent went to recipients of food stamps and family assistance in 2013. Some 323 went to veterans, more than half (184) to the long-term unemployed.

That’s mostly because it is difficult to come up with the form (DD-214) needed for the certification, said Keith Bader, the Employment Security official who runs the program. Also, all the paperwork has to be completed within a month after hiring.

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