Peters, Cornyn Introduce Bill to Expand Opportunity for Disabled Veterans in Highway Projects

WASHINGTON, D.C. – During National Veterans Small Business Week, U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and John Cornyn (R-TX) today announced bipartisan legislation to help expand the number of infrastructure contracts awarded to small businesses run by veterans with a service-connected disability. The Disabled-Veterans Rebuilding Infrastructure to Vitalize our Economy (DRIVE) Act creates a goal that 5% of the funding authorized in the last highway bill be extended to Service-connected Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSBs). Currently, the bill includes a contracting goal for disadvantaged businesses but none for SDVOSBs, despite the fact that there is a government-wide target for both categories.

“The men and women who have sacrificed so much to protect our freedoms deserve every opportunity to succeed in civilian life after their service,” said Senator Peters. “America’s servicemembers are trained to be resourceful, determined problem solvers, and this bill would afford them greater opportunities to put their unique skill set to work by rebuilding our country’s roads, bridges, and tunnels.”

“The grit, determination, and sacrifice engrained in America’s servicemembers fuels small businesses across the country,” said Senator Cornyn. “Supporting these entrepreneurial veterans who have sacrificed so much for our country shows our continued gratitude and acknowledges the skills they bring to the table.”

The new SDVOSB contracting goal would be in addition to the current 10% goal for transportation contracts awarded to Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs), which are small businesses owned and controlled by women and other socially marginalized groups. The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, or “FAST Act,” was signed into law in 2015 and authorized $305 billion over fiscal years 2016 through 2020 for highway, highway and motor vehicle safety, public transportation, motor carrier safety, hazardous materials safety, rail, and research, technology, and statistics programs.

There are over 4.5 million veterans with a service-connected disability in America, including over 105,000 living in Michigan. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, there are approximately 20,800 small businesses nationwide that are owned by veterans with a service-connected disability, including 307 in Michigan.

The DRIVE Act is supported by the Paralyzed Veterans of America, the American Legion, High Ground Veterans Advocacy, Vietnam Veterans of America and Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the National Veteran Small Business Coalition.

"PVA's longstanding mission has always been to provide opportunities that advance the independence of our members,” said Heather Ansley, Associate Executive Director, Paralyzed Veterans of America. “This bill will ensure that service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses will not be at a competitive disadvantage in infrastructure contracts. Paralyzed Veterans of America supports this legislation and urges all members of the Senate to support our members and cosponsor this bill.”

“The VFW thanks Senators Peters and Cornyn for their efforts to promote business opportunities for Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses in the infrastructure field. The VFW gladly supports the DRIVE Act, which would provide veterans the opportunity to continue to build up our great nation,” said Carlos Fuentes, National Legislative Service Director for Veterans of Foreign Wars.

“Vietnam Veterans of America strives to support and empower our members, including thousands of hard-working small business owners. The DRIVE Act will help level the playing field so service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses can compete for highway restoration contracts across the country. We appreciate Senators Peters’ and Senator Cornyn’s efforts on this legislation, and hope to see members of both parties come together to support America’s veterans," said John Rowan, President of the Vietnam Veterans of America.

“America’s servicemembers are leaders on the battlefield, in the air and at sea. As veterans, they are leaders in their communities and their work places, but too often veteran-owned businesses are not given the opportunity to compete with larger companies for infrastructure contracts. The American Legion thanks Senator Peters and Senator Cornyn for introducing the DRIVE Act and for recognizing the extraordinary potential of America’s veterans,” said Brett P. Reistad, National Commander, The American Legion.

"As the nation’s largest non-profit trade association representing veteran and service-disabled veteran- owned small businesses  the National Veteran Small Business Coalition is please to support this effort. The DRIVE Act will provide veterans for the first time an opportunity to contribute to the rebuilding of the nation’s infrastructure. No one is better suited for this than veteran small businesses," said Scott Denniston, Executive Director, National Veteran Small Business Coalition.