The Veterans Benefits, Health Care, and Information Technology Act of 2006 (the 2006 Act) requires the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to give priority to veteran-owned and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (VOSB and SDVOSB) when awarding contracts to small businesses. The 2006 Act also requires GAO to conduct a 3-year study of VA's implementation of the act. GAO evaluated (1) the extent to which VA met its prime contracting goals for VOSBs and SDVOSBs in fiscal years 2007-2009; (2) VA's progress in implementing procedures to verify the ownership, control, and status of VOSBs and SDVOSBs in its mandated database; and (3) VA's progress in establishing a review mechanism of prime contractors' subcontracts with VOSBs and SDVOSBs. GAO obtained and analyzed data on VA's prime and subcontracting accomplishments, and reviewed a sample of verified businesses to identify any deficiencies in VA's verification program.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Veterans Affairs||1. To facilitate the Department of Veterans Affairs' progress in meeting and complying with the requirements of the 2006 Act, and to ensure compliance with the 2006 Act, as its provisions were amended by the 2008 Act (Pub. L. No. 110-389), the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should develop an effective process to ensure that agreements it enters into with other federal agencies for contracting on its behalf to acquire goods or services include the required language and monitor other agencies' contracting performance under those agreements.|
|Department of Veterans Affairs||2. To facilitate the Department of Veterans Affairs' progress in meeting and complying with the requirements of the 2006 Act, and to help address the requirement in the 2006 Act to maintain a database of verified veteran-owned businesses, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should develop and implement a plan that ensures a more thorough and effective verification program. Specifically, the plan should address actions and milestone dates for achieving the following: (1) promptly filling vacant positions within OSDBU, including the two leadership positions, and hiring additional staff positions as necessary; (2) improving its verification processes and procedures to ensure greater completeness, accuracy, and consistency in verification reviews, including updating data systems to reduce the amount of manual data entry by staff and revising the verification procedures to include additional guidance for staff on maintaining the appropriate documentation, requesting documentation from business owners or third parties under specific circumstances, and conducting an assessment that addresses each eligibility requirement; and (3) conducting timely site visits at businesses identified as higher risk and taking actions based on site visit findings, including taking prompt action to cancel business' verification status as necessary.|
|Department of Veterans Affairs||3. To facilitate the Department of Veterans Affairs' progress in meeting and complying with the requirements of the 2006 Act, and to better ensure that VA meets the requirement to use veteran preferences authorities with verified businesses only, as required by the 2006 Act, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should develop a more effective system to ensure that contracting officers do not use veteran preferences authorities to award contracts to businesses that have been denied verification, and provide additional guidance and training to contracting officers as necessary.|
|Department of Veterans Affairs||4. To facilitate the Department of Veterans Affairs' progress in meeting and complying with the requirements of the 2006 Act, and to ensure that VA takes enforcement actions against businesses that have misrepresented themselves, as required by the 2006 Act, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should develop detailed guidance that would instruct staff under which circumstances to make a referral or a debarment request as a result of the verification program.|