Search Form
First, enter a politician or zip code
Now, choose a category

Public Statements

Letter to The Honorable Gene L. Dodaro, Comptroller General of the United States Government Accountability Office

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) and Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) sent a joint letter to Government Accountability Office (GAO) Comptroller Gene Dodaro about the critical need to ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of the Department of Veterans Affairs' Center for Veterans Enterprise (CVE). In 2006, to support service-disabled veteran-owned and veteran-owned small businesses, Congress created the Veterans First contracting preference program. VA was charged with implementing procedures to verify the ownership, control, and status of service-disabled veteran-owned and veteran-owned small businesses seeking to participate in Veterans First. Congress also emphasized the importance of ensuring that veterans' preferences in federal procurements are used to benefit only eligible service-disabled veteran-owned and veteran-owned small businesses. CVE began verification of service-disabled veteran-owned and veteran-owned small businesses in May, 2008. Since that time, CVE has struggled to implement an effective verification program. The letter urges the GAO to assist the CVE in developing the tools, resources and capacity necessary for an effective, timely and efficient verification process.

"Service disabled veteran-owned and veteran-owned small businesses are key partners in our economic recovery. These veteran-entrepreneurs continue to face red tape, delays and hurdles as they work to verify their businesses with CVE," said Senator Patty Murray. "After sacrificing so much to serve their country, they should not have to face such challenges when they return home. As Veterans Day approaches, there is no better time to be reminded how much we owe these brave men and women in uniform. I hope the GAO will assist CVE in identifying the changes necessary to make its verification program efficient and reliable, so that CVE can better serve these veteran-owned small businesses as they work to make America's economy strong."

"Veterans who have fought for our freedom deserve our support in their civilian lives," said Senator Maria Cantwell. "We need to make sure that returning troops have fair access to veteran small business programs that support jobs. That's why we're asking GAO to look into the process the Department of Veterans Affairs' Center for Veterans Enterprise follows for verifying the authenticity of service-disabled veteran-owned and veteran-owned small businesses. We need to ensure there's an efficient and timely verification program in place, so veterans can focus on growing their businesses and putting Americans back to work, instead of dealing with excessive red tape."

"Our veterans have already made a tremendous sacrifice for our country, and we should do everything possible to ensure job opportunities for them after they return to the civilian workforce," said Senator McCaskill. "There is clearly a problem with the VA's ability to verify that contracts are going to the right businesses under the law. We want to see the GAO help the VA get its house in order and ensure that truly veteran-owned businesses are getting the contracts targeted to them."

The Senators' letter also requests that the GAO assess the steps that would be necessary for CVE's verification program to be scaled and implemented government-wide. Such a verification program would apply to all service-disabled veteran-owned and veteran-owned small businesses participating in federal procurement preference programs. The letter also asks for suggestions for actions CVE can take to achieve readiness for this expanded role.

The full text of the Senators' letter is below:

November 3, 2011

The Honorable Gene L. Dodaro
Comptroller General of the United States
Government Accountability Office
441 G Street, NW
Washington, DC 20548

Dear Mr. Dodaro:

As our veterans face an unprecedented rate of unemployment, Congress must continue its work fostering our nation's service-disabled veteran-owned and veteran-owned small businesses. These small businesses fuel America's economy, are key partners in our fight to get veterans back to work and are vital to our long-term economic vitality. One such step that Congress can take to support these businesses is to ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of the Department of Veterans Affairs' Center for Veterans Enterprise (CVE).

In 2006, to support service-disabled veteran-owned and veteran-owned small businesses, Congress created the Veterans First contracting preference program. VA was charged with implementing procedures to verify the ownership, control, and status of service-disabled veteran-owned and veteran-owned small businesses seeking to participate in Veterans First. Congress also emphasized the importance of ensuring that veterans' preferences in federal procurements are used to benefit only eligible service-disabled veteran-owned and veteran-owned small businesses.

CVE began verification of service-disabled veteran-owned and veteran-owned small businesses in May, 2008. Since that time, CVE has struggled to implement an effective verification program. Indeed, the VA Office of Inspector General found that as many as 1,400 contracts were awarded to ineligible businesses in FY 2010. While VA has made some progress in improving its verification program, questions remain as to the program's overall effectiveness. Indeed, it appears VA may need to better develop the tools, resources and capacity necessary for an effective, timely and efficient verification process.

Therefore, we are requesting a GAO evaluation of the verification program operated by CVE. Specifically:

* How have CVE's businesses processes and procedures evolved from inception to their current-state following passage of P.L. 111-275, what metrics does CVE utilize to evaluate its processes and procedures, and are such metrics sufficient to provide CVE with an objective and measurable review of its own performance;
* How effective is CVE in processing, reviewing and verifying eligibility of service-disabled veteran-owned and veteran-owned small businesses, and in conducting appeals and quality-control reviews of its verification decisions in a timely and accurate manner;
* What steps can be taken to improve CVE's total in-process, aged inventory and requests for reconsideration statistics;
* Do CVE appeal and quality-control review reversal rates reveal any systemic or substantive errors in CVE eligibility decision-making policies, processes and procedures, and, if so, how can such errors be remediated;
* How effective are CVE communications to an applicant business at informing the business of its application status at each stage of the review process, and are such communications timely and consistently made;
* Has CVE issued effective guidance to applicant businesses regarding its interpretation and application of 38 C.F.R. § 74 et seq., "Veterans Small Business Regulations", and has CVE applied such regulations in a manner that is clear and consistent to applicant businesses;
* What progress has CVE made in developing capacity by updating and maintaining its data systems to reduce manual data entry by staff and to improve the timeliness and accuracy of application process; and
* What steps has CVE taken to analyze and assess core competencies and workforce needs for each of its business units, and to align these competencies and needs with its personnel training, performance evaluation, and recruitment and retention strategies?

Finally, we would like you to assess the steps that would be necessary for CVE's verification program to be scaled and implemented government-wide. Such a verification program would apply to all service-disabled veteran-owned and veteran-owned small businesses participating in federal procurement preference programs. To the extent that you find further development is needed before CVE can perform government-wide verification, please include suggestions for actions CVE can take to achieve readiness for this expanded role.

Please contact David Brown, Counsel to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, at (202) 224-9126, and Margaret Daum, Staff Director to the Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight, Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, at (202) 224-4462, to discuss this request.


Source:
Skip to top
Back to top