May 14,2014 –
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and Angus King (I-Maine) introduced legislation today that would make it easier for service-disabled veterans to do business with the federal government by eliminating confusing differences between veterans contracting programs at the Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Small Business Administration. The Bill, S. 2334, introduced by Senator King, has been referred to the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, Chaired by Senator Maria Cantwell, (D-WA).
“Our nation’s disabled veterans and their families have sacrificed much for our country, and we will forever be in their debt,” said Senator Burr. “During their service, veterans gain valuable knowledge and develop unique skills that are put to good use when they return home and open a small business. To help these veteran-owned businesses succeed, we should make sure there are clear-cut rules and regulations that do not hinder their business’s ability to prosper. With this legislation we will ensure that our veterans don’t have to fight massive bureaucracy after returning home from war.”
“America’s service-disabled veterans and their families have sacrificed to defend our country and safeguard the values we hold dear. That’s why when they return home and decide to open up a small business that works with the federal government, we should be giving them the support they need to start, grow, and maintain that business,” Senator King said. “But right now, too many of these veterans are met with confusing rules and regulations and get the government go-round from multiple agencies when they seek help setting up or maintaining their small businesses. The simplified process established by our bill will make it easier for service- disabled veterans to cut through the red tape and will help surviving spouses carry on their business should they need that support. After all, these veterans bravely defended this country – shouldn’t we find a way to make it easy for them to do business with the government?”
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) operate procurement programs for Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSBs) that provide special federal contracting opportunities to business-owning veterans who incurred disabilities in the line of duty. The SBA administers a government-wide program while the VA maintains a database of “verified” SDVOSBs and oversees its own, unique “Veterans First” contracting program for SDVOSBs.
The VA and SBA, however, utilize differing definitions of an SDVOSB, which often results in inconsistent decisions about which firms qualify for contracts. Additionally, the VA allows surviving spouses of 100 percent service disabled veterans to retain SDVOSB for ten years while the SBA does not, creating uncertainty for the families of service-disabled veterans. In response to the ongoing problems with the VA verification program that impede progress for SDVOSB contracting preferences, Senator King’s and Burr’s bill would:
• Unify the definitions of SDVOSB between the SBA and VA.
• Allow surviving spouses of 100 percent disabled veterans or who died as a result of a service connected disability to retain SDVOSB status for ten years for both programs.
• Allow surviving spouses of disabled veterans rated less than 100 percent or who did not die as a result of a service connected disability to retain SDVOSB status for three years.
• Request that the GAO conduct a study to evaluate whether the SBA or the VA could or should assume responsibility for a government-wide verification program for SDVOSBs.
The U.S. government has an annual government-wide goal of awarding 3 percent of federal agencies’ contracting dollars to businesses owned by service-disabled veterans. Representative Mike Coffman (R-Col.-6) has introduced a similar bill on the House side, which is included in the House version of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act.