by JD Palmer and Hardy Stone
Almost a year ago the veteran business community took a victory lap for what we’d all been waiting for — the realization by the United States government that the Department of Veterans Affairs had been blatantly cheating veteran-owned businesses for years. Finally someone was listening, finally new policies would emerge that observe the legal rights we earned. Policies that would make it right to veteran business owners by forcing the VA to give up its empty guarantees and broken promises.
Who is bitter? Bitter about what? Bitter that Tom Leney and the VA is saying to the Supreme Court:
‘You all are just blowhards in black robes who pretend that you have the final say. We’ll continue to do what is best for us.’
Bitter about the little guy scratching to eek out a living…Bitter about the veteran small business owner who is drowning in debt…Bitter because his disability compensation cannot keep funding his small business.
In the Kingdomware decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the Veterans Administration is required to use non-competitive acquisition procedures for all acquisitions when there are two or more veteran owned small businesses offering the requested good or services. In other words, Veterans First.
Tom Leney, in his testimony to the Senate Committee on Small Business, said that “the VA will comply immediately with the Court’s decision.” That was back on June 23, 2016.
The Court held that VA’s set-aside law was mandatory and must be applied to all competitive contract awards, including orders on the Federal Supply Schedule.
I am still trying to find the VA contracting officer who did due diligence in doing market research to find 2 or more veteran owned office supply companies who could provide office supplies to the VA. There are a large number of VOSB’s that are verified in Vet Biz. Why the VA would continue to use non-VOSB’s for their office supply requirements doesn’t make sense.
And it doesn’t make sense with the financial condition of the VA, that the VA buy from FSSI contract holders who are more expensive than VOSB’s that are non-FSSI contract holders.
The GSA indicated that 50% of the VA purchases are from veteran businesses. Of the 7 businesses in the GSA pie chart, only 3 are veteran owned (Access, Shelby, MJL. The others, My Office, Document Imaging, metro and ABM are non-VOSBs). Of the 23 FSSI contract holders, only 6 are veteran owned. But the dashboard that the GSA publishes, over 85% of the VA business has gone to non-Veteran Owned businesses.
With over 100 veteran owned small office supply businesses, giving the VA business to only 6 veteran owned businesses and the rest to non- VOSBs, I question how the VA is saying they are adhering to the Supreme Court ruling.
Office Depot may not be on VA’s radar. But in talking with buyers all over the country, their vendor of choice is Office Depot. OD is the company that has hundreds of salesmen that cover the complete United States. All the others have single offices in a limited geographic area. They don’t have outside salesmen. And because of OD’s size, their prices are usually the lowest of all the FSSI contract holders. So for a buyer not to select them, even if they aren’t mandated directly to do so, doesn’t make sense. (People buy from Amazon because of their low prices). And the numbers that are published by the GSA really don’t indicate that “much of the VA business given to Office Depot is done as a last minute resort when unexpected projects pop up and time is of the essence.”