On July 19, 2012, Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), along with Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), introduced the Veterans Small Business Protection Act of 2012. The legislation would allow veteran small business contracting privileges to be extended to spouses and dependents of soldiers killed in the line of duty.

Under current regulations, surviving spouses who inherit veteran and service-disabled-veteran small businesses after the death of the veteran-owner may continue to receive veteran-owned small business preferences. However, the current regulations do nothing for the families of persons who owned small businesses and were killed in combat prior to receiving veteran or service-disabled status. The Veterans Small Business Protection Act of 2012 aims to fill that gap in federal law. If the proposed legislation is passed, preferential treatment will be extended to spouses and dependents of service members killed in combat if the service member, prior to death, owned at least 51 percent of a small business concern.

The senators hope that the bill will support the families of those who owned businesses before activation and were killed in action. The bill is expected to receive bipartisan support and pass, whether on its own or as am amendment to another piece of legislation.

The legislation specifically provides that the surviving spouse or dependent would be treated as a veteran with a service-connected disability for purposes of contracting goals and preferences for a limited time. These privileges would begin on the date on which the small business servicemember-owner dies, and will end on the earliest of the following dates: (i) the date when the surviving spouse remarries; (ii) the date when the surviving spouse/dependent no longer owns at least 51 percent of the small business; or (iii) the date that is 10 years after the death of the servicemember-owner.