Vetting the VA: Examining their Resources for Veteran-Owned Small Businesses
WASHINGTON—Today, Members of the House Committee on Small Business Subcommittee on Investigations, Oversight, and Regulations heard testimony from an expert panel of witnesses on the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) resources for veteran-owned small businesses, specifically the Veterans First Contracting Program.
“The Veterans First Contracting Program was established by Congress in 2006 to assist the VA in carrying out their mission of serving America’s veterans,” said Subcommittee Chairman Trent Kelly (R-MS). “However, despite this authority, the VA has continued to impede its own authority and work against the intentions of Congress by creating internal regulations and policies that make it harder to award contracts to veteran-owned small businesses.”
What the Experts are Saying
“Since early in World War II, Congress has recognized and legislated the importance of building and maintaining a small business industrial base for national security,” said Mr. Scott Denniston, Executive Director of the National Veteran Small Business Coalition in Centreville, VA. “Unfortunately, senior VA leadership, culture, and polices do not support the Congressional intent. VA has lost sight of its unique mission to support we who have ‘borne the battle’ and how VA mission outcomes are enhanced by building a veteran-owned small business industrial base.”
“Many American Legion members who are also small business owners agree that VA’s proposals in the J&A [Justification and Approval] would systematically unseat veteran owned small businesses as distributors for manufacturers and give all the selling capabilities to the prime vendors,” said Mr. Davy Leghorn, Assistant Director for the National Veterans Employment and Education Division at The American Legion in Washington DC. “This is bad for veteran-owned small businesses and contrary to The American Legion’s call for a reasonable amount of purchases [to] be set aside for veteran owned small businesses in federal procurement.”
Two service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses also shared their stories of how they contribute to the small business industrial base.
“Alliant Healthcare Products focuses on helping other companies navigate the complexities of the federal market. We assist large and small businesses who provide market-leading and innovative healthcare technologies,” said Mr. Bob Taylor, Founder, Owner, and CEO of Alliant Healthcare Products in Grand Rapids, MI. “Our most important benefit to the government is we do not mark-up prices for the clear majority of the products we sell to the VA. We allow the VA to negotiate fair and reasonable pricing as though they are buying directly from the manufacturer themselves and then we honor those prices.”
“First Nation has been one of the leading suppliers of medical and surgical products to VA for over 30 years. Because we stock so many different products and have extensive experience meeting VA direct-to-patient requirements, we are able to provide VA and our veterans with customized, multi-vendor patient solutions,” said Ms. Cheryl Nilsson, CEO of First Nation Group, LLC in Niceville, FL. “Our representatives also work with VA to deliver unique multi-vendor tailored solutions – no other vendor of sleep therapy products provides this direct and on-site support from trained sleep therapy product representatives.