Tensions between the veteran-owned small business community and the Department of Veterans Affairs have been escalating, as reported in FedBiz Daily. The most recent example stems to failure by the VA Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization to timely and effectively process applications for veterans to be verified to compete for set aside contracts.
Protesting contractor: Government Contracting Services LLC
Contracting agency: Department of Veteran Affairs
Protest issue: Whether late certification from the VA should qualify the veteran-owned small business to compete.
GAO decision, Jan. 17 2012: Denied.
Post-mortem: Reflecting a requirement for all contracts set-aside for veteran-owned small businesses by the VA, the solicitation noted that all bidders shall be certified prior to submission of bids. GSC was initially denied verification of that status by the VA and filed a request for reconsideration – which, according to the law was supposed to be completed within 60 days. Backlogs are causing reconsiderations to take far longer, causing GSC’s request to still be pending during the period of the solicitation. The request was granted Sept. 29, 2011 – six days after the contract was awarded to another company.
But what if the VA was late in its decision about reconsideration? Shouldn’t that matter? Unfortunately for GSC, it doesn’t factor into the GAO decision. Compliance with the solicitation is required unless the solicitation itself violates law or regulations. In this case, it didn’t.