Service-Disabled Veterans Face Contracting Opportunity, Challenges
According to Federal Sources, Inc., registered service-disabled veteran-owned businesses have doubled from 3,200 to 6,400 since October 2004, when President Bush signed an executive order that required agencies to implement a strategy designed to reach the government-wide 3% goal for contract awards. Yet obstacles remain.
By 2005, Defense was awarding awards about $514 million a year to service-disabled veterans, or about 0.3% of total contracting dollars. While that value had more than doubled since 2003, and had doubled again to about $1 billion by July 2007, the 3% goal remains a long way away. In response, the General Service Administration (GSA) and Veteran’s affairs are using education, web-based directories, and outreach efforts to narrow the gap.
An American veteran must have DD Form 214 (Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty) in order to prove service. A Service Disabled Veteran must have a letter from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), or a discharge paper stating a service connected disability rating ranging from 0% to 100% disability. The GSA FAQ confirms that a 0% rating individual can still self-represent as a service-disabled veteran:
“According to Veterans Affairs, Public Law 106-50, the Veterans Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development Act of 1999, does not require any minimum disability rating. A veteran with a zero percent-rating letter is eligible to self-represent as a Service Disabled Veteran for Federal contracting purposes.”
A service-disabled veteran-owned small business is a small business concern, at least 51% owned by one or more service-disabled veterans; or in the case of a publicly owned small business, at least 51% of the stock is owned by one or more service-disabled veterans. A July 2007 USAF article estimated that more than 24,000 service members had been wounded or injured on duty since the war on terrorism began on Sept. 11, 2001.
In response, GSA has established a Governmentwide Acquisition Contract, the “VETS GWAC,” reserved exclusively for service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses.
The Defense Department’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization also suggests partnerships and joint ventures with established contracting firms to narrow the gap. The GSA’s Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business initiative generates medical and general directories, in order to help agencies and large companies interested in subcontracting with easy access to service-disabled veteran-owned businesses.
A business who wanted to be listed in these directories would apply for a GSA number like any other business, and indicate its status as part of the application in the “Social-Economic Factors” section. Once approved, they would be added to the compiled Excel directories during the next monthly update. It’s always a good idea to double-check, of course, and work with one’s local GSA Small Business Utilization office or the GSA customer service hotline in order to resolve any issues.
Veterans Affairs, meanwhile, offers VetBiz.gov, including a veteran-owned and service-disabled veteran owned registry of its own. Other VetBiz services include an electronic Clearinghouse with resources for the veteran contemplating small business ownership and veteran small business owners considering expansion; and in-house experts help veteran business owners with specific business questions, brainstorming and counseling.
Even so, registration and business assistance are just the first steps. The key for service-disabled veterans is to leverage those tools in order to find the right partner to offer subcontracting work, and/or work in an unfilled niche to meet a key Pentagon need.
- US General Services Administration (GSA) – Welcome to GSA’s Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Web Page
- US GSA – Service-Disabled Veteran Small Business (FAQ)
- US GSA – Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses on GSA Federal Supply Service Schedule. Updated monthly from the GSA central contract registry.
- US GSA – Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses on VA Federal Supply Schedule. Covers medical/dental-related businesses. Updated monthly from the GSA central contract registry.
- US GSA – Veterans Technology Services Government-wide Acquisition Contract (VETS GWAC)
- US Department of Veterans Affairs – VetBiz. Has its own registry of veteran-owned businesses, including service-disabled veterans. Also offers other services to veteran-owned businesses.
- USAF (July 18/07) – Program helps disabled vets get defense business contracts
- GovExec.com Daily Briefing (May 20, 2005) – Veterans ask for more contracting help