On Feb. 9, 2012, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Me.) wrote to Eric K. Shinseki, the secretary of veterans affairs, noting that many veteran-owned small businesses are complaining about the struggles that they face when applying to the VA for certification as service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSB’s).
Many small businesses, Sen. Snowe wrote, “have reported long delays, repeat requests for documentation, complaints of a subjective process, and finally, no recourse to file a grievance.”
“Just as I am outraged whenever fraud and abuse occur in Federal government programs, I am dismayed when innocent business owners are deprived the opportunity to compete for contracts after they have sacrificed so much to protect our freedom,” Sen. Snowe continued. Her letter to Secretary Shinseki was obtained by the Washington Business Journal.
Under a procurement program established by Congress in 2003, SDVOSB’s receive special federal contracting assistance. Federal contracting agencies are required to establish and achieve a goal of 3 percent of the total of all contract awards that must be awarded to small businesses owned and controlled by veterans with service-connected disabilities.
Sen. Snowe asked Secretary Shinseki to provide her with an update on the verification process for SDVOSB’s, including the number of applications in the backlog, the average time to process the applications, and any steps that the VA may have taken to streamline the process. She said responses would be due back to her by March 2.
The senator’s letter highlights, once again, a key tension in all of the federal contracting preference programs. No one wants to leave the door open for widespread contract fraud that takes advantage of preferences granted by Congress, yet no one wants to place bureaucratic roadblocks in the way of legitimate businesses that wish to qualify for these programs.
In particular, as Sen. Snowe pointed out in her letter, we have an important national concern for safeguarding economic opportunity for those who made sacrifices for the nation.
We hope that the VA and Sen. Snowe come to an agreement on the best way to administer the SDVOSB program.
Businesses that wish to qualify for this and other federal contracting programs may wish to turn to a law firm that has experience with their details and nuances. We have represented many minority-owned, women-owned, veteran-owned, and other companies in the certification and contracting process.