WASHINGTON – Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) today voiced his concerns about two severe actions taken by the Bush Administration, turning its back on the veteran’s community during a time of war. Without consultation or notification, the Bush Administration has closed its office at the Small Business Administration (SBA) solely dedicated to helping veteran-owned small businesses gain access to federal contracts. The Administration has also informed the Veterans Advisory Committee, another group dedicated to helping veteran small business owners, that their charter will not be extended and instead will expire this September. These unprecedented moves hurt America’s veteran entrepreneurs and raise serious questions about the Administration’s commitment to comply with federal law.

“The Administration finally informed us three weeks late that thieves walked off with the Social Security Numbers and personal information of over 26 million veterans, but the Bush administration has failed to come forward publicly to announce they recently decided to close the SBA’s Veterans Office and disband the Veterans Advisory Committee. This complete lack of commitment to our veterans is really appalling, especially just before Memorial Day,” said Kerry, Ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

In closing the contracting assistance office, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has eliminated the one office solely dedicated to implementing a law that requires three percent of all federal contracting dollars to be awarded to service-disabled veteran owned firms. The government has failed to meet this goal and has also failed to develop and support the Veteran’s Advisory Committee, as required by law passed in 1999. Last year, the federal government awarded just .38 percent of contract dollars to companies owned by service-disabled veterans, costing them nearly $9 billion in lost contracts.

“It is shameful that in a time of war, the Administration saw fit to abandon our commitment to those who have honorably served our country – and the brave men and women serving today who will be the proud veterans of tomorrow. Now, it should be our turn to serve them, by protecting their personal information and by providing them with opportunities to start a business, or rekindle businesses that are struggling from recent deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Kerry.

Joe Wynn, President of the VETs Group and executive member of the Task Force for Veterans Entrepreneurship, said, “Despite the best efforts of the Task Force and other veteran's groups to work with the SBA to help make the Veterans Procurement Program under PL 108-183 become a success for the government and for the service disabled veteran business owners that it was designed to serve, the SBA continues to demonstrate a seemingly disregard for carrying out the President's Executive Order, 13-360, which instructed the SBA to provide information, federal procurement training, and assistance to increase participation in federal contracting for service disabled veteran business owners.”

Bob Hesser, also a member of the Task Force for Veterans Entrepreneurship, and President of Vetrepreneur, LLC a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned small business said, “During the short time the SBA's Veteran's office existed there were meaningful actions that gave us a belief that someone cared. I am just not sure of that today!”

The SBA has also failed to respond to a letter sent on February 27, 2006 from Senator Kerry and Senator Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), Ranking Member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, regarding their role in implementing the Veteran’s Benefits Act of 2003.