The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is one of the largest procurement and supply agencies in the Federal government with needs in the following areas:
- Program Management, Administrative, Janitorial, and other Non-IT Services
- Information Technology services
- Healthcare Staffing
- Medical and surgical supplies
- Equipment, supplies, and materials for facility operation
- Maintenance and repair of medical and scientific equipment
- Building construction, maintenance, and repair
- Prosthetic and orthopedic aids
- Architect/Engineer services
Last week, I attended the VA’s annual National Veterans Small Business Engagement (NVSBE). It was a fantastic opportunity to connect with VA leaders, decision makers, and contracting officers. I’ve attended the NVSBE for 6 years straight and, without hesitation, I put VA’s efforts to connect with Veteran Owned Small Businesses (VOSB) as superior to any other agency’s matchmaking event I’ve attended in over 20 years as a government contractor.
This year a dominant theme at NVSBE was the Supreme Court’s Kingdomware decision that makes adherence to the “rule of two” mandatory. We’ve covered this momentous decision in a previous blog. But the bottom line is that the VA will first look to SDVOSBs/VOSBs to fill all their needs. This change will create enormous opportunity and a competitive edge for “Procurement Ready,” Veteran-owned small businesses.
During his keynote speech at NVSBE, Mr. Greg Giddens, VA Chief Acquisition Officer, outlined the 5 steps every SDVOSB/VOSB should take if they want to do business with VA.
1. Be Procurement Ready
- Make sure you meet SBA Size Standards and your business is in compliance with current laws.
- Have a taxpayer or employer identification number with the IRS Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center.
- Register for a Dun & Bradstreet Data Universal Numbering System (D-U-N-S) Number.
- Register with the federally mandated System for Award Management (SAM)
2. Be VA-Verified and have a complete profile in VIP
The Vets First Contracting Program was created under Public Law, P.L. 109-461 and expanded the Service-Disabled Veteran contracting program for VA procurements. The Public Law was implemented in two regulations published in the Federal Register:
38 CFR Parts 802, 804, 808, 809, 810, 813, 815, 817, 819, 828, and 852 implemented changes to the VA Acquisition Regulation that defines the acquisition rules for the program with VA.
38 CFR Part 74 Veterans Small Business Regulations was published on February 8, 2010, and clarified on January 19, 2011. This regulation defines the requirements for verification as a VOSB or a SDVOSB.
To be eligible to compete for opportunities under the Vets First Contracting Program, firms must go through the VA’s verification process and be registered in the Vendor Information Pages (VIP) database. More information can be found at https://www.vip.vetbiz.va.gov/.
3. Obtain Federal Supply Schedule, as appropriate
VA uses the Federal Supply Schedule program, (aka GSA Schedule) extensively to obtain the services, supplies, and equipment they need to fulfill their mission. If you want to do business with the VA, it is advisable to offer your products and services through the FSS/GSA Schedule program.
FSS/GSA Schedules take time to acquire. GSA/VA’s review process can take anywhere from 6 to 18 months. So, if a FSS/GSA Schedule is part of your strategy for doing business with the VA, you’ll need to get started sooner than later to position yourself for future SDVOSB/VOSB set-aside opportunities. More information can be found at coleygsa.com/vets-get-GSA-schedule/
4. Register for FedBizOpps (FBO) Alerts
VA competes everything and publishes opportunities at FedBizOpps.gov and/or www.ebuy.gsa.gov. You can register at www.fbo.gov and setup Watchlists for VA opportunities. Find out more at https://www.fbo.gov/downloads/FBO_Vendor_Guide.pdf. Opportunities posted to GSA eBuy are only visible to approved GSA Schedule vendors. Not on GSA Schedule? See item 3 above.
5. Respond to RFI/Source Sought
To comply with the Vets First program and determine if two or more SDVOSB/VOSB firms are available and qualified to meet their needs, VA performs market research in the form of Requests for Information and/or Sources Sought for almost every opportunity. It’s important to respond to these requests to help shape VA’s acquisition strategy. If two or more verified, qualified SDVOSB/VOSB firms respond, then in accordance with Vets First, VA will set-aside the requirement for SDVOSB/VOSB firms.
- Procurement Readiness Reference Guide provides information to help small businesses effectively prepare to do business with VA.
- Office of Acquisition and Logistics (OAL) provides outlined information and additional resources for businesses working with VA.
Have questions or need to get on FSS/GSA Schedule? Give us a call at 210-402-6766 or by email at: [email protected].
Jack is CEO of Coley & Associates, Inc., Coley GCS, LLC, and founder of FedMap™– the government contractor accelerator. He is a results-driven executive, and successful entrepreneur who has a deep understanding of the super competitive government contracts marketplace. He has used his understanding, along with his more than 25 years of experience, to help small businesses win more than $20 Billion in new contracts. Jack has advised more than 1,000 small and large businesses, spoke at conferences, sat on expert panels, and been quoted in numerous articles. His experience spans a broad range of government agencies and functional areas. He is an Air Force Veteran, received his MBA with Honors from Webster University, and a Bachelor’s with distinction from Wayland Baptist University.