GSA partners with VA to assist veterans in becoming government contractors
This past summer, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. General Services Administration partnered to better help VA buyers find veteran-owned small businesses for government contracting purposes. On July 10, the two parties signed a memorandum of understanding allowing veteran-owned and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses already listed in the VA's Verified Vendor database to be included in GSA's VA Advantage with an icon identifying them as VIP. This designation will make it easier for VA acquisition professionals to find and utilize such vendors, as the icon makes VIP veteran contractors more visible on VA Advantage.
"Gaining verified VA VIP status provides access to important resources for veteran-owned businesses," Acting Deputy Commissioner of GSA's Federal Acquisition Service Mary Davie explained in a statement. "The MOU provides VIP veteran contractors with valuable increased visibility to vendors through GSA's VA Advantage."
Jane Frye, the VA's Logistics and Senior Procurement Executive and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Acquisition, added that the icon program enhances the longstanding partnership between the two government agencies. It will also make it easier for VA employees to make better-informed purchasing decisions and fulfill their mission of assisting veterans.
The new changes fall under the umbrella of the Veterans First Contracting Program. Veteran-owned venders must first complete the verification process before they can participate.
Veteran's First Verification Program
The Vets First Verification Program is a cautionary measure designed to guarantee only veteran-owned businesses receive set-aside funds. The VA provided the following checklist to help veteran business owners prepare for verification:
- Veteran status: Business owners must meet the definition of "veteran" (a person who served on active duty with the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps or Navy and was discharged or released under conditions that were not dishonorable) or "service-disabled veteran" (a veteran with either a disability determination from the Department of Defense or a disability rating letter issued by the VA).
- Ownership: A majority of the business (at least 51 percent) must be directly and unconditionally owned by at least one veteran or service-disabled veteran.
- Control: Veteran owners must have full control over various aspects of the business, including but not limited to strategic policy and daily management.
- Prequalification: While not required, veterans who utilize prequalification resources may have their applications processed more quickly.
To qualify, eligible government contractors must approach the Center for Verification and Evaluation and receive verification through the MyVA Verification Process, which includes three mandatory and one optional step:
- Prequalification: This optional step helps potential veteran contractors assess their eligibility and learn about available resources. It may also shorten processing time.
- Intake: Applicants create a profile in VetBiz VIP and are contacted by an Intake Analyst, who explains the process and next steps, and a Case Analyst, who manages the application.
- Pre-application review: The Case Analyst briefly inspects the veteran's application and conducts public research on the business and its owner. He or she informs the applicant of any discrepancies or areas of noncompliance and advises correction.
- Assessment: The Case Analyst thoroughly reviews all documents and, if necessary, requests clarification or advises the applicant to address areas of noncompliance.
- Decision: A federal employee reviews the case and approves or denies the applicant.
Although the process is extensive, it's necessary to ensure only qualified veterans receive verification. Combined with the icon program outlined in the MOU, VIP veteran government contractors have increased visibility and, therefore, another chance to serve their country.