Happy Veterans Day! We thought it worth taking a moment out of our day to highlight an issue of importance to veterans which interacts with our representation of whistleblowers reporting fraud – as well as specifically thank veterans for their service to our country.
The VA has had a number of whistleblowers emerge over the past two years to expose problems in the care of our nation’s veterans. These allegations are a grave concern and as a result of their exposure of this issue the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has concluded that some veterans died due to treatment delays in violation of the law. Many of the whistleblowers who came forward have subsequently brought allegations of retaliation against their supervisors and the department. This is deplorable and we applaud the continued efforts of the government to correct this situation.
Another situation that has been working its way through the system is the government’s efforts to stop contract fraud in the preference system while continuing to award government business to legitimate businesses of veterans. The Federal Government, and in particular the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), sets aside contracts for Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSB) and Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (VOSB).
The Veterans First Contracting Program is part of the government effort to provide a preference to small, disadvantaged businesses to help them compete against larger companies for federal contracts. It arose out of the Veterans Benefit Act of 2003, which mandates agencies set aside 3 percent of contracts for veteran-owned small businesses. Similar preferences are offered by agencies for minority-owned and women-owned businesses operating in the United States to earn government contracts.
After the Veterans First Contracting Program became mired in contract fraud, the VA implemented a verification process for companies to earn these contracts. However, the process made it difficult for legitimate veteran-owned businesses to get verified and thus significantly harder to qualify for government contracts.
The VA has recently proposed new guidelines for verification of these small businesses. Over the next two months, the government agency is welcoming comments as it attempts to make the process better. If you have experience with this program, we urge you to help make it better by submitting comments.