By Alex Levine
A new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) notes measurable improvement in the processes used by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to verify Service-Disabled, Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSBs) and Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (VOSBs).
The report updates a 2013 GAO report, which had found numerous programmatic inefficiencies in the process used by the VA stemming from the VA’s failure to prioritize comprehensive, long-term strategic planning. According to the report, since that time, the VA has taken numerous steps to improve its processes, including improving its timeliness for application processing, developing and following processes for verifying businesses, refining its quality controls for the program and improving its communications with veterans.
The report further notes that this streamlining has not only improved processing time, it has also led to a lower number of application rejections. In 2012, nearly 66 percent of applicants received denials. In 2015, that number was 5 percent. This substantial change can be explained by the fact that, increasingly, applicants are given greater opportunities to correct minor deficiencies or to withdraw their applications rather than receive a denial. This is significant because an application denial results in the applicant being barred from reapplying for six months, a lengthy period that could have a devastating impact for a veteran-owned, small business contractor.
The GAO report highlights further changes being put in place by the VA to make the verification process more cost-effective and veteran-friendly. The VA has begun a pilot for a new verification process that would give each veteran applicant a case manager as their point of contact for their application. The VA anticipates rolling out this process for all applicants beginning in April 2016. The VA also has plans to scrap its existing case management system and replace it with a new system, which currently being developed, by September 2016.
Despite these noticeable improvements, the GAO cautioned that the VA’s overall plan lacked an integrated schedule that includes specific actions and milestone dates for achieving program changes or discusses how such efforts might be coordinated. Accordingly, it remains to be seen how effectively the VA’s new case management system will be implemented when it rolls out next year.
About the author: Alex Levine is an associate with PilieroMazza in the Government Contracts Group. He may be reached at [email protected].