Fox News: VA Contracting

October 23, 2011

Veteran Says VA Refuses to Give Wounded Warriors Preference When Granting  Contracts

A government investigation is seeking a response from the Department of  Veterans Affairs after the agency allegedly failed to follow a law that would  have it set aside work for qualifying firms owned by disabled veterans.

The U.S. Government  Accountability Office began its probe after a complaint filed by former  Marine Rodney Marshall, who runs a commercial supply business in Portage, Mich.,  after returning from the Persian Gulf War with injuries to his knees, hips and  back, according to a report by McClatchy Newspapers.

Rodney, 40, filed his protest with GAO after becoming frustrated by not being  able to seek a pair of VA supply contracts because the bidding was restricted.   Marshall says the VA failed to follow a 2006 law – known as “Veterans  First” – that requires the agency to set aside work for qualifying,  service-disabled, veteran-owned firms.

Marshall was trying to get a contract to supply kitchen equipment to some  veterans hospitals.

After an investigation, the GAO agreed with Marshall. The VA now has two  months to respond to the GAO’s recent findings.

An internal VA memo dated Oct. 17 and obtained by McClatchy states that,  because the GAO is part of the legislative branch, the VA was not bound by its  decision. It said the issue would likely be decided by the courts.

“The GAO recommendation does not change how VA will acquire goods and  services in support of its mission,” the memo stated.

The VA also noted that it awards more contracts to service-disabled,  veteran-owned businesses than other federal agencies. They received $3.1 billion  in VA contracts in fiscal 2010 of the more than $15 billion worth of business  the agency does.

Marshall’s company, Aldevra, has one kitchen supply contract with the VA,  apart from the others he has been unable to win.

“It’s been an ongoing battle,” said Frank Clay, a service-disabled veteran  and VA contractor from Olathe, Kan. “Out of all the federal agencies, they (the  VA) should rule in favor of the set-aside and try to make the process  better.”

Clay, whose Clay Group company distributes medical and janitorial products,  said he doesn’t understand why the agency isn’t embracing “the spirit” of the  2006 law.

“The irony is, this is the Department of Veterans Affairs,” Clay said.

 [Frank Clay, Jr. is Chairman of the Board of the Federal Allies Institute.]

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/10/23/veteran-says-va-refuses-to-give-wounded-warriors-preference-when-granting/#ixzz1zwjG1JOr


Stars And Stripes: VA Contracting

October 21, 2011

Veterans say VA fails to give wounded warriors preference in contracting

By David Goldstein

Stars And Stripes
McClatchy Newspapers
Published: October 21, 2011

WASHINGTON — Rodney Marshall just wanted to sell a few electric griddles to VA hospitals.

Instead, the 40-year-old former Marine ended up in a battle with the Department of Veterans Affairs over whether they’re following a law designed to help companies owned by service-disabled veterans.

“It sickens me that the place that vets go to get help won’t even buy from us,” Marshall said. “They weren’t even considering us.”

Marshall, who returned from the Persian Gulf War with injuries to his    knees, hips and back, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder, runs a commercial kitchen supply business in Portage, Mich., with his wife.

Frustrated by not being able to seek a pair of VA supply contracts because    the bidding was restricted, Marshall filed a protest against the department with the U.S. Government Accountability Office. He claimed that the VA failed to follow a 2006 law — known as “Veterans First” — requiring it to set aside    work for qualifying service-disabled, veteran-owned firms.

After an investigation, the GAO agreed. The VA now has two months to respond to the GAO’s recent findings.

The dispute comes as President Barack Obama on Friday announced plans to formally end the 8-year-old war in Iraq. He plans to bring most of the 50,000 remaining troops home by the end of the year and pledged that economic    opportunities would be available to them.

But there could be another battle ahead for Marshall and other veterans like him who’ve long complained of the VA’s purchasing practices.

An internal VA memo dated Oct. 17 and obtained by McClatchy states that, because the GAO is part of the legislative branch, the VA was not bound by its decision. It said the issue would likely be decided by the courts.

“The GAO recommendation does not change how VA will acquire goods and services in support of its mission,” the memo stated.

Marshall said the VA was “smacking the law in the face. That’s how a lot of us in the veterans’ business community are taking it, that the decision means nothing.”

Prior to the memo’s release, VA spokesman Josh Taylor had said in a statement: “VA takes its contracts with small business very seriously and will continue to strongly support eligible veteran-owned small businesses who seek to do business with the federal government.”

But the VA also noted that it awards more contracts to service-disabled, veteran-owned businesses than other federal agencies. They received $3.1 billion in VA contracts in fiscal 2010 of the more than $15 billion worth of business the agency does.

Marshall’s company, Aldevra, has one kitchen supply contract with the VA, apart from the others he has been unable to win.

But by prevailing in his protest, the former Marine lance corporal has shed    light on VA’s contracting practices that veterans and supporters contend has denied many other former troops turned business owners the opportunity to    compete.

“It’s been an ongoing battle,” said Frank Clay, a service-disabled veteran and VA contractor from Olathe, Kan. “Out of all the federal agencies, they (the VA) should rule in favor of the set-aside and try to make the process better.”

Clay, whose Clay Group company distributes medical and janitorial products, said he doesn’t understand why the agency isn’t embracing “the spirit” of the 2006 law.

“The irony is, this is the Department of Veterans Affairs,” Clay said.

 [Frank Clay, Jr. is Chairman of the Board of the Federal Allies Institute.]

Indeed, the GAO’s decision on Marshall’s protest underscores the continuing frustration that a lot of veterans and their supporters sometimes have with VA policies.

They said that for all of the VA’s worthwhile efforts, they were puzzled    that an agency whose ostensible purpose is to champion the concerns of veterans seems to occasionally go out of its way to thwart them.

The GAO’s findings, however, are more than just one small businessman’s    victory over a massive government bureaucracy, supporters said.

“It’s a significant decision because it will open up additional opportunities to veterans and service-disabled veterans who wouldn’t have had    access to those same opportunities,” said Pamela Mazza, a Washington attorney whose firm represents small- and mid-sized government contractors, including many owned by veterans.

The VA buys the bulk of its goods and services — 60 percent, according to the GAO — from a pre-screened list of federal contractors known as the Federal    Supply Schedule. It’s a catalogue of companies offering everything from toilet paper to storage tanks.

But getting on that list can be a hurdle for some, particularly newer, less experienced businesses like Marshall’s. He couldn’t bid on the two kitchen supply contracts because they were restricted to contractors on the schedule.

Even the VA’s own website cautions, “Being a contractor can require    significant investment of time and expenditure of resources.”

Scott Denniston, former director of VA’s Office of Small Business and Center for Veterans’ Enterprise, said that the agency’s reliance on the schedule has hurt service-disabled, veteran-owned small businesses.

“Absolutely,” Denniston said. “If you look at all the things VA is using the Federal Supply Schedule for, you can extrapolate that a lot of that money    could have gone to the service-disabled veterans community.”

The VA maintains that its contracting practices were “in the spirit of the Veterans First legislation.”

But according to the GAO, the VA rejected the idea that the Veterans First law, or even the VA’s own rules, required it to first seek eligible veteran-owned small businesses before going to the Federal Supply Schedule to find contractors.

Veterans are perplexed by that interpretation of the law.

“‘Veterans First,'” said Rick Weidman, executive director for policy and government affairs at Vietnam Veterans of America, “means you should be considering veterans first.”


Web Post: VET Act of 2011

October 17, 2011

Oct 17, 2011

The Vet Act of 2011, H.R. 3167, would allow veterans to start a new veteran-owned or service disabled veteran owned small business using their GI Bill Benefits. The Vet Act GI Bill provides an alternative career track for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who will not pursue a college degree under the Montgomery GI Bill or Post-9/11 GI Bill.

Introduced on October 13, 2011 by Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, this GI Bill is now supported by American Legion California, Federal Allies Institute, HirePatriots.com, National Guard Association of the United States, NaVOBA – National Veteran Owned Business Association, The Partnership With America, Veterans Business Institute, and the Vietnam Veterans of America.


U.S. House: VET Act of 2011

October 13, 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C.–Congressman Jeff Fortenberry has introduced HR 3167, the Veterans Entrepreneurial Transition (VET) Act of 2011.   This jobs bill seeks to increase security and economic opportunity to a generation of veterans, including more than 100,000 service members who will soon return home.

“The aim of the VET Act is to create jobs, benefit veterans, and more efficiently use existing public resources,” Fortenberry said.  “The bill allows veterans eligible for assistance under the Montgomery G.I. Bill and Post-9/11 G.I. Bill to elect to use benefits to establish and operate a business, building upon and enhancing a very important benefit program for American veterans.”

The VET  Act allows the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs to implement and manage the program in conjunction with the Small Business Administration.  The bill also specifies program eligibility standards, qualifications and requirements for small businesses, survivor benefits, and parameters on how funds will be distributed to ensure that businesses are thoroughly vetted.  The VET Act has been coordinated with various veterans and small business groups, including the National Guard Association of the United States, Vietnam Veterans of America, the Federal Allies Institute, and the Veterans Business Institute, who applaud the concept and have provided input in developing specifications to make the law effective.