Rachel Nania, wtop.com
WASHINGTON - Army veterans Matt Thompson and Blake Hall recently found themselves walking a cheetah-print carpet in the company of Jeff Bridges, Burt Reynolds and Ben Affleck.
The two McLean, Va.-based business partners were invited to attend Spike TV's Guys Choice Awards in Los Angeles. And while other honorees at the event were awarded golden "mantlers," Thompson and Hall took home the title of the nation's most veteran-friendly small business.
After serving tours in Afghanistan and hunting high-value targets in Iraq, Army Rangers Thompson and Hall met in a less treacherous environment: Harvard Business School. When it came to starting their own business, the two veterans chose to help those who help the country.
Thomson and Hall recognized an unfortunate trend in military benefits: Many service members and veterans were not able to access their discounts and benefits online or in an efficient manner. To help alleviate this problem, Thompson and Hall founded Troop ID in 2010.
In the past, veterans wishing to redeem their benefits were required to present a document issued by the Department of Defense upon separation from active duty. Thompson explains this form is the "only ubiquitous form of identification that a veteran has." He compares it to a birth certificate and resume in one document.
"It's a paper form a lot of organizations have asked you to bring in person or to fax in, which really exposes veterans to identify fraud or heightened levels of risk that's really unnecessary when most of these organizations just want to know whether or not someone has served in uniform," he says.
As Thompson and Hall dug deeper, they noticed almost every brand that offered military benefits did so through its brick and mortar stores. However, these companies weren't delivering the same benefits online, since there was no established way to verify military identity, digitally.
That's where their business, Troop ID, comes in.
Troop ID partners with organizations to build web interfaces with authoritative data sources that enable companies to verify military affiliation online in real time. This step enables brands and companies that offer military benefits the opportunity to do so through a digital channel.
While the interface helps military personnel redeem their benefits, Thompson says it also helps those companies offering the benefits, since it protects them from fraud and abuse of the military benefit system.
In addition to being recognized at Spike TV's Guys Choice Awards for winning the small business contest from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's Hiring Our Heroes program and Spike TV's Hire A Vet campaign, Troop ID has also been recognized by the White House.
However, the honors are not enough for Thompson and Hall. They hope their recognition will inspire more businesses to re-evaluate their veteran-friendly practices.
"We truly know first-hand that veterans have a lot of wonderful skills that they've learned from their time in the service that can translate into success in business if they're given the right opportunities and are recognized for that service," Thompson says.
Watch Troop ID's television spot, produced by Spike TV:
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