Vietnam Veterans of America has thrown support behind a congressional effort to loosen a rule that governs service-disabled veteran-owned businesses working for the Veterans Affairs Department.
“Congress may need to move to synchronize the standards of control between VA and [the Small Business Administration],” said Rick Weidman, VVA’s executive director for policy and government affairs, in an interview with Federal News Radio.
Weidman criticized a VA rule requiring that service-disabled veterans competing for SDVOSB contracts unconditionally control decision-making within their companies. He said SBA regulations allow more flexibility.
Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), chairman of the Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, is crafting legislation to force VA to loosen its rule. Johnson said he favors SBA’s process, although he did not say exactly how the bill would change the steps VA uses to verify SDVOSB program eligibility.
The unconditional control requirement creates a “bright line” and removes subjectivity from the process examiners use to decide whether a business qualifies for the service-disabled veteran set-aside program, said Thomas Leney, executive director of VA’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, during in a recent subcommittee hearing.
VA is the only federal agency required by law to verify the status of service-disabled veteran-owned businesses. The department conducts audits of businesses through its Center for Veterans Enterprise (CVE).
But some lawmakers and veterans groups believe VA is keeping legitimately qualified veterans from receiving contracts, saying no investor in his or her right mind would give the majority owner carte blanche control over the investment.