A new bill unveiled in Congress would strip the Veterans Affairs Department of responsibility for verifying veteran-owned small businesses, a change in federal contracting procedures aimed at simplifying the process and saving money, according to the bill’s chief sponsor.
Verification of veteran-owned and disabled veteran-owned small businesses is now a shared duty, with VA responsible for clearing companies that want to have VA contracts and the Small Business Administration responsible for all other agencies.
This can lead to confusion, as the definitions and processes used by the two agencies differ to the point that a company might qualify under one set of rules but not the other, according to congressional aides.
Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., who sits the House Veterans’ Affairs and Small Business committees, proposes giving the SBA sole authority. “It is past time to create a clear and transparent set of rules and processes for the government to follow,” he said, calling the current process an “obstacle to success” for veteran-owned businesses.
The measure has some powerful cosponsors, including Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., chairman of the House Small Business Committee, and Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman.
Graves said reducing fraud is one of the goals. The current system allows some companies that the SBA would not certify as being owned and controlled by a veteran to get certification from VA. Eliminating the disparities would make it easier to catch cheaters, he said.
Miller said the change would reduce an “excessive and redundant bureaucracy that is making business even more complicated for the people it was meant to help.”
The Veterans Entrepreneurship Task Force and Vietnam Veterans of America have endorsed the bill.
VA would still have a role in the process; the bill would have VA determine if the owner of a company is a veteran or a service-connected veteran. If the owner’s veteran status is confirmed, the SBA would be responsible for deciding if the company is owned and controlled by the veteran.
An appeals process would be set up within the SBA as well.
The process would provide “better service while using taxpayer money more efficiently,” Coffman said in a statement, noting VA now has about 120 full-time employees and spends about $33 million a year working on small business verification.