Entrepreneurs can use their Patriot Express loans for many business purposes involved in starting or growing a company. They can buy equipment or inventory, and they can also use their loans for working capital or to purchase business-occupied real estate.

The program is open to a broad range of entrepreneurs with military backgrounds and their immediate relatives:

Veterans (other than those with dishonorable discharges), including veterans with service-related disabilities;

Current members of the military who are on active duty and who are eligible for the military's Transition Assistance Program (potential retirees within 24 months of separation from the service and other active duty members within 12 months);

Members of military reserve or National Guard units; and

Current spouses of members of any of these groups and widowed spouses of military personnel who died on active duty or of veterans who died as a result of service-related disabilities.

The potential impact of the program is significant because approximately 1.2 million men and women are now on active duty with another 1.8 million in the reserves and National Guard. Of the 3 million total in America's armed forces, half have been deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq. More than 14 percent of all U.S. businesses are owned by veterans.

In addition to the Patriot Express program, the SBA also offers other services to small businesses that can significantly benefit entrepreneurs.

For example, the SBA's comprehensive Checklist for Starting a Business, available online at http://app1.sba.gov/survey/checklist/index.cgi, can help any aspiring business owner to analyze his or her entrepreneurial potential and direct them to resources.

The SCORE program provides technical business assistance to entrepreneurs such as guidance in writing a business plan; information on financing, managing and expanding a business; and how to sell goods and services to the U.S. government.

For vets who already own businesses, the SBA offers help in preparing their businesses for the owners' deployment, guidance in managing the business, free or low-cost training, and counseling.

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