The House of Representatives’ Veterans’ Affairs Committee has been questioned recently regarding the Veterans Affairs Department’s priority on veteran-owned businesses. There are laws and regulations that are supposed to put veterans first, but currently they rank eighth in priority for government contracts.
Thomas Leney, executive director of the Veterans Affairs office of small and disadvantaged business utilization, told the Military Times that veteran-owned businesses “have priority in open market purchases.” Mr. Leney was unable to explain the details of that statement when he later appeared before the Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s panels for economic opportunity and oversight and investigation.
It seems as though business owners and VA contracting personnel find the priority list unclear. Getting contracts is only a portion of the problem facing veterans-owned businesses. Certifying veteran ownership and operational control of a company is also a major obstacle.
Complaints of fraud and deception among businesses claiming to be veteran-owned have caused the VA problems in the past. Verifying companies is now one more step in the long process. According to the Military Times, verification has led to nearly 1,800 businesses being removed from the approved vendor list, leaving 1,700 others pending approval. Eight thousand companies have been approved.
The average wait time for approval averages around 75 days. In October and November, 60 percent of companies that were denied certification as veteran-owned businesses have appealed the process, leading to longer wait times once again.
Increasing frequency in denials or changes to legitimate veteran-owned businesses have resulted in numerous problems for business owners, causing several to even close down as a result.