Senators want GAO probe of veteran-owned business program

As the Obama administration recently has emphasized the need to help America’s veterans find work, several senators are questioning whether Veterans Affairs Department officials are doing their part to make sure veterans are getting federal contracts.

Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairwoman, Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) together sent a letter Nov. 3 to GAO Comptroller Gene Dodaro about the critical need to ensure the Veterans Affairs Department's Center for Veterans Enterprise works effectively and efficiently.

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In 2006, Congress created the Veteran First contracting program to help small businesses that are owned by veterans and service-disabled veterans have preference over other types of companies. VA was charged with putting procedures in place to verify the ownership and status of the companies that wanted to participate in Veterans First. CVE began verification of companies in 2008.

However, there has been problems ever since, according to the senators.

“Since that time, CVE has struggled to implement an effective verification program,” the senators wrote.That has led to ineligible firms getting veterans' benefits. The VA inspector general found that up to 1,400 contracts went to companies that improperly claimed veteran-owned status in fiscal 2010.

The senators want GAO to help CVE to get the resources and necessary skills for an efective verification process. Overall, they have asked GAO to figure out if the systems work smoothly as applicants go through the evaluation process. Are the processes efficient? What metrics is CVE using in evaluating its processes? Are the processes effective in reviewing and verifying businesses? Has CVE improved its capacity to reduce manual data entry?

The senators also asked for GAO’s advice on specific steps to get CVE working better.

“These veteran-entrepreneurs continue to face red tape, delays and hurdles as they work to verify their businesses with CVE,” Murray said. “After sacrificing so much to serve their country, they should not have to face such challenges when they return home.”

Days before the veterans holiday, the Obama administration too issued proposals for putting veterans back to work with jobs banks, online resources for finding jobs, and a tax credit for companies that hire veterans.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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Reader comments

Mon, Jun 18, 2012 RLB

My company has been experiencing some difficulties with the re-verification process. The website was down for VIP and it may cost us a contract. I have to say though, the staff has been very polite and patient considering the stress they are under, especially if am not the only one this is happening to. So it appears some things have changed. The process is gruelingly slow.

Wed, Nov 16, 2011 STILL IN SHOCK Michigan

Unbelievable treatment, I could go on and on about the atrocities the CVE has committed. From the incompetent on site evaluator, documents dated incorrectly, disrespectful people on the phones, etc. Went to Vet Conf and after being lied to by Tom Lenny, we're still unable to bid on set aside contracts thus we'll be closing the business after our two projects are completed. We didn't have a chance to diversify, simply disgusted.

Thu, Nov 10, 2011

The CVE is a joke and the arrogant SOBs that are in charge make it worse. I was a charter member of CVE in 2008 and got kicked out of CVE in July. Reason, they said I was short 4 words in my bylaws. I was finally reinstated after 3+ months, but it cost me a good chance at a contract in the meanwhile. My experience with their arrogance and lying to me was not pleasant.

Wed, Nov 9, 2011 Fairfax Station, VA

With reference to the Step 2 comment about hiring veterans to handle and monitor the SDVOSB program. What an outstanding idea !!! My business position has been, "Give the job to someone who cares and has 'skin' in the game." A veteran does. The Secretary should implement this idea immediately.

Wed, Nov 9, 2011

Obviously, the penalties are insufficient to deter this: "The VA inspector general found that up to 1,400 contracts went to companies that improperly claimed veteran-owned status in fiscal 2010." -- The OBVIOUS solution, any company found to have fraudantly self-certified their Vet status should be made to forfiet/repay ALL payments made to them under the contract. That is what is being proposed for companies that falsely claim to be 8(a)s. See haw fast that fixes the problem!

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