Procurement

VA seeks input on new standards for veteran-owned small businesses

military businessman

The Veterans Affairs Department is asking the public for advice on how to go about strengthening internal controls and better steer work to veteran-owned firms, part of an effort to bolster verification processes for its small business contracting office.

The Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization is taking a harder look at regulations governing the department's Veteran-Owned Small Business Verification Program. OSDBU has said it intends to improve regulations to provide greater clarity, streamline the program, and to encourage more VOSBs to apply for verification.

With the new regulations, the VA said it is looking to find an appropriate balance between preventing fraud in the Veterans First Contracting Program and providing a process that will make it easier for more VOSBs to become verified in the program.

In the formal notice of proposed rulemaking published May 13 in the Federal Register, VA said the OSDBU wants the public to comment on how best to approach the effort. In the filing, OSDBU identified a few specific issues and proposals, but also opened the door for public comment on other topics. Public comments are due by July 12.

The notice springs from a Government Accountability Office report released on Jan. 14, pushing VA officials to provide the OSDBU to provide better ways to monitor its verification program's progress.

Specifically in its May 13 filing, OSDBU wanted to know what could be changed to improve the clarity of regulations, as well as where "bright lines" could be drawn to clearly mark compliance with regulations and reduce potential misinterpretation. The unintended consequences of such "bright line tests" should also be a consideration, it said.

VA also wants to know whether it should develop a list that clearly delineates what constitutes "ownership and control" of a company and what "constitutes lack of control and ownership" and whether such a list should be in included in the rule and what would be on it.

The agency is also considering a special hotline to report suspected ineligible businesses in the programs.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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