VA Tries to Improve Qualification Process for Contract Preferences

By Carol L. O’Riordan

Last March, we took note of an effort by the Veterans Administration to simplify its process for qualifying businesses as veteran-owned small businesses (VOSBs). We noted that without the need for congressional action, the VA was permitting applicants to correct minor issues in their applications without courting an automatic denial of their applications.

We applauded that change because we saw it as making the procedure more straightforward and possibly encouraging more people to apply to the program.

Now Tom Leney, executive director of the VA’s Center for Veterans Enterprise, is seeking public comment on additional ways to improve the process.

As Jill Aitoro reports in the Washington Business Journal, the VA has put out a notice for public comment, which closes on July 12, 2013, that contemplates changes in the approval process.

“VA seeks to find an appropriate balance between preventing fraud in the Veterans First Contracting Program and providing a process that would make it easier for more VOSBs to become verified,” the notice says.

Among the possible changes that the VA is considering are:

• Developing a list of criteria that clearly delineate what constitutes ownership and control of a company by a veteran and what does not
• Improving the verification process to increase efficiency and reduce the burden on veteran-owned businesses
• Providing additional training or assistance to help businesses more easily navigate the verification regulations
• Setting up a hotline for citizens to report companies that are suspected of receiving veteran status by fraud.

Again, congressional action is not needed to implement any of these changes. We applaud the VA’s actions here. Any efforts to make it easier for legitimate veteran-owned businesses to qualify for federal contract preferences, and to make it easier to distinguish between true veteran-owned businesses and fraudulent applicants, are a good idea and help implement the congressional mandate to give preference to veterans.

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