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By Debbie Gregory.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) published new guidelines that took effect on October 1, 2018 for verification of Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (VOSBs) and Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSBs),

Under the changes, the VA continues to determine whether individuals are veterans or service-disabled veterans, and is responsible for verification of applicant firms for listing in the Vendor Information Pages (VIP) database.

Responsibility for adjudicating challenges of the status based upon issues of ownership and control is now to be determined by administrative judges at Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA).

These newly implemented rules are an attempt to resolve inconsistencies between SBA and VA regulations that have led to conflicting decisions about a company’s qualification for set-asides.

The standard for reviewing a VOSB or SDVOSB’s eligibility is “totality of the circumstances,” with the burden of proving eligibility falling on the applicant. Decisions based on an applicant’s failure to meet any veteran eligibility criteria are not subject to appeal; however, an applicant can re-apply and submit a new application six months after denial.

The changes also clarify the process for removal from the VIP database and expand the reasons for removal to include having tax liens and unresolved debts. Other removal criteria include being found guilty of or involved in criminally-related matters as well as debarment of any individual owning or controlling the business concern, as well as submitting false information to VA.

The VA is not providing an additional level of review, but merely acting on determinations issued by courts or other administrative bodies. Further, bankruptcy has been added as a changed circumstance that can lead to a contractor’s removal from the VIP database.

The new rules clearly define VA’s role in determining whether individuals are veterans or service-disabled veterans, and responsibility to determine the ownership interests of those individuals now ultimately falls on SBA, subject to appeal to OHA.

Understanding Set-Asides

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By Debbie Gregory.

Every year, the federal government spends approximately $500 billion on goods and services. In order to keep a level playing field, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has worked with federal agencies to ensure that at least 23 percent of all prime government contracts are awarded to small businesses. These are called “set-asides.”

In addition to the 23 percent for small businesses, statutory goals established by Congress for federal executive agencies are:

  • 5 percent for women-owned small businesses
  • 5 percent for Small Disadvantaged Businesses
  • 3 percent for HUBZone small businesses
  • 3 percent for service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses

There are two kinds of set-aside contracts: competitive set-asides and sole-source set-asides.

According to the SBA, in competitive set-asides, when at least two small businesses could perform the work or provide the products being purchased, the government sets aside the contract exclusively for small businesses. With few exceptions, this happens automatically for all government contracts under $150,000.

Sole-source contracts are a kind of contract that can be issued without a competitive bidding process. This usually happens in situations where only a single business can fulfill the requirements of a contract.

Veterans are uniquely qualified to secure government contracts due to the skills and experience inherit from their career in the military. The federal government tries to award at least three percent of annual federal contracting dollars to service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses.

Working with veteran owned businesses have additional advantages: many of their owners already have the necessary security clearances often required for government contracts. They also have knowledge of the inner workings of government.

The certification process varies depending on the SBA contracting program. For some, you can self-certify just by updating your business profile in the System for Award Management (SAM) at http:www.sam.gov.

For other programs, you have to apply for certification. As part of the application, you’ll answer questions about your business and its ownership, and upload supporting documents.

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