This week, the U.S. House passed U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn’s, R-Fla., bill giving more federal contracts to small businesses owned by veterans.
Last month, Dunn unveiled the “Ensuring Veteran Enterprise Participation in Strategic Sourcing Act” which would make the VA and the General Services Administration (GSA) send more federal contracts to small businesses owned by veterans, closing a loophole left by the “Veterans Benefits, Health Care, and Information Technology Act” passed in 2006. Earlier this month, the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, which held a hearing on the bill, passed it without opposition.
On Monday, the House passed the bill on a voice vote.
“We will forever be in debt to our nation’s heroes, which is why we should be doing all that we can to ensure they are taken care of when they come home. This legislation is a common sense solution to a problem that is depriving veterans the opportunities they deserve,” Dunn, who served more than a decade as an Army surgeon, said on Tuesday. “We need to hold the VA accountable to the veterans it serves and this legislation does just that.”
Dunn took to the House floor earlier this week to urge members to support his legislation.
“Over 10 years ago, Congress gave veteran- and service disabled veteran-owned small businesses the highest preference to compete for VA contracts,” Dunn said. “Last year, the Supreme Court ruled in the Kingdomware case that this preference applies in all situations, even when VA uses contracts awarded by other agencies. A loophole has emerged in a group of contracts called the Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative run by the General Services Administration. Currently, the VA uses the GSA to connect them with suppliers of certain goods and services they need to purchase. All too often, GSA is not connecting the VA with enough small businesses owned by veterans and service-disabled veterans. The law requires VA to look for these companies and buy from them when it finds them. But when veteran businesses are not there, VA cannot find them.
“Because of the loophole, well qualified veteran owned companies are being passed over,” Dunn added. “In some cases, VA disregards the GSA contracts and finds veteran owned companies elsewhere, but it wastes resources by creating contracts similar to what GSA already has in place. The bill simply directs the VA Secretary to determine whether veteran-owned and service disabled veteran-owned small businesses are sufficiently represented on the contracts for VA to follow the law. If not, VA must consult with GSA to increase their representation on all the contracts and their subcategories. Should this not be possible on a particular contract or subcategory, VA must stop using it.
“We need to hold the VA accountable to the veterans it serves—including our veteran and service-disabled veteran small business owners,” Dunn said in conclusion. “It is the right thing to do, and I urge all Members to support it.
U.S. Rep. Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., co-sponsored the bill.
“As a veteran, I understand the challenges that our service members face when they transition from military to civilian life,” Panetta said when the bill was introduced last month. “Congress should be working to serve those who served us by opening every opportunity for our veterans to thrive. This commonsense legislation will ensure that the VA continues to invest in our nation’s veteran- and service-disabled-owned small businesses by closing this loophole. I thank Congressman Dunn for his partnership in supporting our veterans, and I look forward to working with the committee and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to uphold our debt of gratitude to those who have served in our armed forces.”
U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., was also a champion of the bill, bringing it through the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee which he chairs.
The bill was received in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday and sent to the Veterans Affairs Committee. So far, there is no Senate sponsor.