On May 13, 2013, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (“the VA”) Office of Small Disadvantaged Business (“OSDBU”) published an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking, asking the public for guidance on how best to revise its verification regulations. Better late than never.
Since the verification program’s inception, it has been hampered by issues and problems. The hope was that the verification process would address concerns regarding fraud, and create a system that assured that those attaining verified status were entitled to recognition. Instead, service-disabled veterans have been largely frustrated by the system. Well, if you are a service-disabled veteran with an opinion on how to make the system better, you are being given your chance to make your opinions known.
The recent announcement stated that the OSBDU plans to revise the regulations governing the VA’s veteran-owned small business (“VOSB”) and service-disabled veteran-owned small business (“SDVOSB”) programs in order to “provide greater clarity, to streamline the program, and to encourage more VOSBs to apply for verification.” The OSDBU is specifically seeking comment from the public on the following eight (8) topics:
- What could be changed to improve the clarity of the regulations? Where might bright lines be drawn to more clearly indicate compliance with the regulations and reduce potential for misinterpretation? Where might the addition of bright line tests create unintended consequences?
- It has been suggested that VA should develop a list that would clearly delineate what constitutes ownership and control and what constitutes lack of control or ownership. Should a list like this be included in the rule, and if so, what should be on the list?
- Are there changes to VA’s regulations that could be made to reduce the economic impact on VOSBs?
- Are there changes to VA Form 0877 (the application) that could streamline the process?
- What verification process improvements could help to increase efficiency and reduce burden for VOSBs?
- What additional training tools or assistance might be offered to create more clarity for stakeholders and help them more efficiently and effectively navigate the verification regulations?
- What documents, records, or other materials could the Office for the Center for Veterans Enterprise use to distinguish legitimate VOSBs/SDVOSBs from businesses that fraudulently seek contracts from the Government?
- Would a special Hotline to report suspected ineligible VOSBs/SDVOSBs help the Government ensure that contracts are awarded to legitimate VOSBs/SDVOSBs.
Although the VA identified these eight topics for discussion, do not feel limited by this list. The OSDBU has emphasized that it is open to hearing any and all comments relating to the improvement of the process. As such, this is a rare opportunity to sound off in a very public way and make an impact on the processes that govern the verification program. We strongly urge you to make your voice heard!
Written comments should be submitted through www.Regulations.gov by mail or hand-delivery to Director, Regulation Policy and Management (02REG), Department of Veterans Affairs, 810 Vermont Ave. NW., Room 1068, Washington, DC 20420. Comments can also be faxed to (202) 273-9026. Comments should indicate that they are submitted in response to “RIN 2900-AO63—VA Veteran-Owned Small Business (VOSB) Verification Guidelines.” The comment period ends on July 12, 2013.
Edward T. DeLisle is a Partner in the firm and a member of the Federal Contracting Practice Group.
Maria L. Panichelli is an Associate in the firm’s Federal Practice Group.