Senate investigates Veterans Affairs program

Dayton Business Journal Date: Tuesday, February 14, 2012, 8:14am EST

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs   has until March 2 to provide detailed information about its process for verifying veteran-owned small businesses as eligible to win set-aside contracts to a Senate committee, which is investigating claims of widespread program failures, according to the Washington Business Journal.

U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, sent a letter to VA Secretary Erik Shinseki Feb. 9, asking for a an update of the verification process that requires veteran-owned small businesses to be vetted and approved as legitimate by the VA before they can bid on set-aside contracts.

Specifically, the VA is to provide the number of applications processed, the amount of applications in the current backlog, the average time to process applications, and the number of applications that have appealed initial certification decisions. The VA also must explain the steps taken to streamline the current process, the forms of communication and outreach provided to applications during the review process, and the degree of collaboration happening between the VA and other agencies that oversee small business contract programs, including the Small Business Administration.

“Unfortunately, I continue to hear from numerous veteran-owned small businesses about the struggles legitimate veterans face when applying for certification,” including long delays, repeat requests for documentation, complaints of a subjective process, and no recourse to file a grievance, Sen. Snowe wrote in the letter, which was obtained by Washington Business Journal. “Just as I am outraged whenever fraud and abuse occur in federal government programs, I am dismayed when innocent business owners are deprived the opportunity to compete for contracts after they have scarified so much to protect our freedom.”

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