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Veterans testify against bill giving state contract preference to only women-owned veteran businesses

TRENTON, NJ  – “Do not divide veterans by gender,” said veterans during the Assembly Military and Veterans Affairs Committee Thursday as they testified against a bill giving businesses owned by women veterans state contract preferences.

Reaffirming his position as detailed in an op-ed published Thursday, U.S. Army veteran and West Point graduate Assemblyman Brian Bergen urged committee members to consider how this legislation would hurt the state’s progress towards policies that promote ‘a vet is a vet.’

“Female veterans, and my classmates in particular and other West Point graduates, have fought extremely hard to bring equality in the military. This bill takes us a step back. This type of policy position could be hurtful to our cause of ‘a vet is a vet,’” Bergen (R-Morris) said.

The bill (A870) gives female veteran business owners a price advantage over other veterans when bidding on state government contracts. Their bid can come in 10% higher than the lowest bid and still win.

A representative of the state VFW read a statement in opposition to the bill from former Commander Barbara Kim-Hagemann, who was the first woman to be installed as state commander for the organization:

“Having served before harassment policies and in the early days of my veteran advocacy, I was more often than not the only woman veteran in the room. I know and suffer the struggles that many women troops and veterans face. I am a true believer that the veterans’ community should not be divided by gender or by any other class of human. No matter our race or gender, we are all green.”

Bergen noted that there was no disparity study conducted to show women veterans are at a disadvantage in winning government contracts. Proof of a disparity would be required for legislation giving women preference, he said.

“Every single female veteran that I spoke to unanimously thinks this is not a good policy position for us to take. The only female veteran that you’ve heard from today was the testimony from our former Commander Hagemann, who was opposed to this piece of legislation. I have yet to find a single female veteran in favor of segregating them from the rest of the veteran community,” Bergen said.

At the end of Bergen’s committee testimony, he gave members Lisa Jaster’s book, “Delete the Adjective: A Soldier’s Adventures in Ranger School,” which chronicles her journey to overcome labels and succeed on her own merit to become one of the first three women to graduate from the United States Army Ranger program.

Jeremy Baratta, of J Baratta Industries, a disabled veteran-owned business, also testified in opposition to the bill and described its technical problems.

Jay Edwards

Born and raised in Northwest NJ, Jay has a degree in Communications and has had a life-long interest in local radio and various styles of music. Jay has held numerous jobs over the years such as stunt car driver, bartender, voice-over artist, traffic reporter (award winning), NY Yankee maintenance crewmember and peanut farm worker. His hobbies include mountain climbing, snowmobiling, cooking, performing stand-up comedy and he is an avid squirrel watcher. Jay has been a guest on America’s Morning Headquarters,program on The Weather Channel, and was interviewed by Sam Champion.

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