The Value of Veteran-Owned Businesses

As former employees in the private sector, both Secretary Shinseki and I have been in the shoes of small business owners–trying to navigate the ins and outs of the General Services Administration (GSA), and figure out how to secure federal government contracts.

When I worked at a larger company–IBM–we acquired a new company every two weeks. One of the things we looked for in these purchases was a business with the ability to weather the ups and downs of the economy. Companies with federal contracts were attractive for that reason.

Over the last two years, President Obama and the Administration have taken decisive action to empower America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners in many ways, including:

  • Tax relief
  • Improved access to capital
  • Counseling and
  • Support for start-ups and small businesses poised for high-growth and innovation.

As the President says, small businesses are the backbone of the American economy and the cornerstone of America’s promise.

At the Department of Veterans Affairs, we are committed to supporting small businesses to fulfill our mission to “care for those who shall have borne the battle” and their families. One third of our discretionary budget is used to purchase goods and services from the private sector, and in light of that VA recognizes that the supplier community is critical to our success in meeting the changing needs of our Veterans.

VA works hard to put Veterans first when it comes to procurement. Our goal is for 12% of contracts to go to Veteran-owned small businesses, and we’ve exceed that goal two years in a row: 18 percent went to Veteran-owned small businesses in 2010, and we are at 17 percent so far this year.

For service disabled Veteran owned small businesses, our goal is 10 percent, and again, we’ve been able to exceed that goal with 16 percent last year, and 14 percent so far this year.

If you haven’t worked with the federal government before, VA can help you make that adjustment. Federal contracting is a different world – spending taxpayers’ money requires focus on value and transparency. Here are some things you should know about what VA offers small businesses:

  • VA trains acquisition officials. We are very proud of our Acquisition Academy, which trains and certifies our acquisition team. VA was the first civilian agency to have such an academy.
  • We counsel entrepreneurs. Our Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) holds month industry sessions which vendors are invited to and discusses how to do business with VA. We answer their questions and point them to experts who can help them with capacity building.
  • We conduct bundling reviews. Representatives from OSDBU review all procurements over a set amount to help determine whether a set aside or preference for small businesses would be appropriate to the acquisition strategy.
  • OSDBU also participates in conferences and distributes informational materials that describe how to do business with us. We attend over 100 events a year and counsel small businesses on how to work with us and facilitate business-to-business collaboration.

In addition to the conferences above, VA is hosting the National Veteran Small Business Conference and Expo this summer, from August 15th to the 18th, in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The conference theme is “Building Partnerships–Veterans, Businesses and Government.”  VA is proud to host this conference, which is the largest nationwide conference of its kind, and provide Veteran-Owned and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (VOSBs and SDVOSBs) an opportunity to learn, network, and market their businesses.

We are expecting about 4,000 leaders from various VOSBs, SDVOSBs, large contractors, Federal agencies, as well as Veterans from the New Orleans area to participate.  This year’s event is composed of three venues:

  1. Small Business Conference – Attendees will participate in training sessions on a variety of topics including finance, compliance, business development, marketing, strategy, contract management, human resources, technology, and program management.
  2. Expo Hall – Companies will have the opportunity to network with each other in a 500+ booth expo hall and through one-on-one matchmaking sessions.
  3. VA Open House – Veterans from both the conference and local community are invited to join us to learn and experience the wide range of resources available to the Veteran community.

VA is serious about strengthening our supplier relationship and meeting all of our small business goals. We simply cannot achieve our mission without America’s small business community–when we improve our relationship with small businesses, we are able to serve Veterans better. For their sake, we must get this right.

W. Scott Gould is the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

21 Comments to “The Value of Veteran-Owned Businesses”

  1. Mr.Bruce says:

    While I appreciate the efforts of the VA to develop Veteran small business ventures, I feel that through all the outreach, and all the money, and all the self-delivered patting on the back, that the VA is missing one crucial thing. With the current wait-times for disability claim decisions approaching or exceeding 24 months; what type of credit do you think these Veterans have? I guarantee you that they cannot secure credit for businesses or even VA home loans. Countless members of the IAVA, DAV, VFW and etc have been forced into bankruptcy for nothing more than the enormous wait-times for claim decisions. So, I ask what good are these programs other than to benefit those who sacrificed the least in the war or the military? Do you have a program to assist a Veteran, who was forced into bankruptcy due to the VA’s own disability decision delays and whose wounds prevented him/her from working during the claim process time? Once awarded, is he/she really suppose to live off the 100% pay and SSDI while the non-combatants have all the opportunity to thrive and use your wonderful program? Or is this simply another slap in the face to those who actually fight in the war, just like in theater with the Warrior vs. Fobbit divide? The VA is really starting to remind me of the military as a whole, with most of the benefits going to the former Officer Corp and the former Fobbits. Any potential recruits should strongly consider enlistment in anything that keeps them on the FOB. It offers all the best amenities, with little or no danger, and when you return you still have your body, and credit, to start a business. Real warriors, or those few support MOS’s forced into combat, continually get the shaft it seems; just like the in-country PX’s where the Fobbits raid everything before the warriors are offered scraps. I strongly urge you and Secretary Shinseki to consider some type of relief for the brave combat troops who fight the hardest, with the least, for the longest periods and continue under your leadership to suffer continual insult for the sacrifice of their bodies and credit scores.

  2. Tom seifert says:

    Where was all this so called help when I needed it ?? I looked for and couldn’t find anything that would actually help me keep my computer store from going under ! I was in business for 5 years and sold and spent everything I had and / or could borrow trying to stay afloat but to no avail , there is nothing out there as far as actual useful aid when the need is practically immediate !

  3. Ms. Church says:

    It is commendable that the programs are out there for the Veterans to use and participate in. However, it is difficult for small business startups to come up with the funds to go across the country to attend these forums in a lot of cases. I have been a participant in one of the training programs for Veteran Owned Small Businesses, but found I knew more than they did about how to set up and run a business and the format, therefore, was rather useless to me. Personally, I think there has to be a better way.

    Mr. Bruce – while it seems you are a bit bitter about whatever you may have encountered during your service, those of us that served during peacetime and are disabled are not in any better shape to obtain credit and start a business. The small business loans are, after all, given by the banks and not by the VA. In addition, we face the same time delays in getting disability approved and the same limitations with 100% and SSDI in making a living while trying to start a business. In fact, our benefits are lesser and sometimes harder to get. For my part, I make it a priority to help only veteran and disadvantaged people to start their businesses from an accounting standpoint. This is something sometimes overlooked by people thinking they can just start a business without knowing the ins and outs of business licensing, taxes, quoting and bids, etc…. If you need help all you have to do is reach out. I, for one, would be happy to help you if you need it. Technology being what it is, electronic help is relatively easy.

    Please don’t think lesser of us that did not serve during wartime. It is, after all, timing. I did not choose to serve during peacetime, I just chose to serve. If I can be of any service to you, as a fellow veteran, please reply on this forum and I will give you a contact email.

  4. Pete says:

    Maybe the VA could consider sub-contracting the disability claim processing to Veteran Owned Businesses. After all, what would the sub-contractor need besides the manual dictating what the requirements for meeting disability claims?

  5. jim says:

    The day will come Mr W.Scott Gould when the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee The VHA and the US Senate Banking and Finance Committees sit together and reflect on the (LOC) process. The Letter-Of-Credit banking certifications with respect to start-ups in both corporate and government business investments.

    I can think of no LOC better for a business start-up in the veterans circle than a DD 214. Can you? And I for one will not do business with any bank that does not have on its “Board” veterans . Would you? truly??

    Now, how to engage the “banking” councils to have a new kind of trust in “engaging” this untapped and energy driven market place? Easy! Business Marry two or three veterans who have the business savvy; shared business plans and three at the on-start the LOC 2.0 theory of: (LOCinVetBiz- dd214′s)

    Sometimes in business all you need is “busy hands.” Hands that work building economic trusts. The “system” is ready for a up-knowing as is banking, investments and marriages of new products and logistical delivery proxys.

    The local hypothesis: My Mayor & the Vet, My governor and the Vet; and my Nation and the vet in biz!

    Increases the opportunity with less liabilities, merit the (“mos’s)experience as driven; shared business exchanges from local to regional to federal.

    A Banking Letter of Credit 2.0 and veteran centric. Ok they may not be listed on the NY or Amex board in three years, but logistical operations Im willing to bet they keep costs in the black. And when need be, eat k-rations for a bit. Secondly The business keeps its word and delivers the widgets on time..then Uncle Sam, pay the “start-ups”back ….on time. Failures report of old school money at IBM, etc, purchasing the company its inventory at “below fair market values” why cause the fed did not send the check! The goal is “collabrative” no longer practice, cut away. Its has to stop in new start-up processes.

    I also think its wise to share the truth of one-enlistment veterans over a retired or ring-knocker the career militry competitive equations.

    I say this with humble heart. Fact, we pay military officers; sr NCO’s who retired and now get a retirement check and maybe a VA disability check. So they have an safety net income. How long is the wait at VBA?

    The greater equation is the officer retired prior to leaving service..we paid their salery to network on tax payer money, to connect, to build a social, business network. The one-term vet has no possible way to compete in this off-balanced equation for government contracts.

    I do not have to say its set up a little unfair in ethical practices in a real to percieved ..percieved will win this pleading? If sensitive positions were ivolved, say a USAF officer knows what NASA needs “next year” ..hmm, well you see the quark in the business process.

    This is not a job for crossing over the party asiles..this is a solution crossing over committees..Veterans & Banking of both House and Senate to deliver quickly a start-up equation; that is fair, “honorable” and equal in funding investments.Banks need to take a “mentor” approach. which is a shared approach in sound investment, marketing and potentials.

    Start with LOCin 214) and dear VA this idea is copywritten, sound and logical…but on a VHA level what a healing we will see in the veterans distresses as a (cascade) when the community says we need help..and vets in biz march in and say, “we can help cause its our oath our ethos to help folks” in distress, including economic PTS, career and job training as building partners…and most of this is simply the old “handshake contract”! maybe its time we get a new look at faith, ethos and oaths, revisit historys rewind and reverse a kind of walk it back approach in sounding the economic pulse of tommorow with todays era of 2.2 million vets. SBA says 45% are thinking generally about business start-up. Sounds like the 50′s to me?vr jpw

  6. JD Calhoun says:

    Talk is cheap as the saying always goes. Doing business with the Govt is expensive. I been waiting over a year filling out paperwork after paperwork. Some they admitted to losing, even my VA file. So why say you do have PTSD and all the symptoms then lose your paperwork. If I depended on the Govt to finish their paperwork like so many Vets I would be pushing up daisies now. Can’t imagine getting Govt contract for my small business with already paying IRS so much. The cost of doing business, insurance, liability, renew all licenses, health insurance premiums. The Ga. state workers comp when it does not cover the owner although you are required to pay it to do business at places. The Govt can’t even handle the paperwork already created.

  7. MrBruce says:

    MsChurch, yes I am angry with the VA, the administration, the Army and my government as a whole. I don’t like the term “bitter” because in my opinion that implies the anger has no defined source or is possibly unwarranted. I also want to state I have all I the love for non combat Vets that I have for “My Warriors”. I was in long before the wars and was one of those until my number was called to conduct Matt Damon “Greenzone” style searches for nonexistent WMD’s. Yes I can be a little intense sometimes, but I have countless brothers and sisters who have suffered due to leadership failures in the VA. As an NCO I could never get away with the excuses and blameshifts the VA leadership regularly gets by with. So I do not offer any quarter or relief for senior VA leaders who deliver the same old song and dance, with very few tangible gains. I will leave you with this. I knew an Army mechanic who drove a Husky mine sweeper. After 18 IED strikes he is a zombie. Forever. He was bright, funny and an excellent Soldier and human being who knew well the sacrifices he was possibly making. I saw him in a WTU after he was medevac’d and swore then that I must, as a NCO and a capable leader, do something to care or improve conditions for the severely wounded TBI Veterans who no longer have the ability to articulate for themselves. This is personal as this young man, wishes to start a business (with family help) but cannot due to the destruction of his credit. He should not be held accountable for being forced into bankruptcy due to VA leadership failures! We are in our 10th year of war and many in government still are not prepared. Why? The minute the 1st IED popped in early 2003, these failed leaders should have been scrambling for health professionals, more staff and more funding! Did they? Of course not. There are no acceptable excuses for the poor treatment my beloved comrades are getting. Colin Powell said it best in his Iraq war warnings to our government: “You broke it…..you bought it”! This covers the whole Soldier as well as the countries we took. I believe, at least in our society, the VA owes this poor warrior the dignity of a credit score worthy of getting him a home loan, and possibly a business loan. In closing, the VA leadership should take heed. We are sick of your excuses, and this recent group of vets are not going to take your excuses, lies, and maltreatment laying down. It’s foolish to think the warrior spirit stayed over there. Its here and I owe it, to these souls, who sacrificed blood, brains, youth and now credit scores; for me and you.

  8. Ms. Church says:

    Mr. Bruce – Having written a response that for some reason did not go through, I will attempt again. Using the word ‘bitter’ was not meant in any way to be an insult. I find myself bitter as well after seeing my own daughter not only be injured, but suffer at the hands of the military surgeons who took on a chest wall reconstruction (twice) they were ill prepared to do. They finally sent her to a civilian hospital where it was performed successsfully. However, her medical board expired after not being turned in complete and she will likely spend another year in the military while they do the whole thing over again. Having been through so much, coming out with 45% lung capacity and PTSD, I don’t know what the future holds for her. So in a way I am bitter as well. Back to the topic, though, you are right. The veterans who have been injured and even those who have not have been paid a pittance to keep their lives in order while they are gone and the help to get started is minimal. Most contracts awarded to small veteran ownded businesses are only given to those who have a proven track record and that cannot be accomplished in the beginning. The money for startups is tightly held by the civilian banking industry who has no real incentive to loan to veterans who have less than stellar credit and they, too, are looking for a proven track record of at least two profitable years. I don’t see a solution for that if it is kept the same. I can help all of the vets I want to learn how to set up and runa business successfully, but if they can’t get a loan for operations, they can’t succeed. I find myself in barter situations for the most part because these vets have no money. So until the system is fixed, all of the conferences in the worls are going to do no good whatsoever.

  9. Michelle says:

    Thanks for the upload and for sharing. Here’s something that might contribute to all readers. Do check it out!
    Health

  10. Judith says:

    I think tax relief and support for start ups has to be the presidents focus for this year!

  11. Michelle Gatz says:

    I am working with a group of veterans to try and procure government contracts, but there is one hugh hurtle that stands in the way for all contracts not just federal, BONDING, as an example I had a veteran that wanted to sell to the college, they required a 5 million bond, this needs to be changes. I also called the VETbiz rep and there is no seed money available. All everyone talks about is up coming budget cuts and they don’t want to do anything until they know where they are at. The mentor program that is offered needs to be expanded. I have found in doing the research that there are all kinds of “Help” out there but little or no action to help veterans get a business started. I think that funding for these agencies should be based on performance, I am tired of hearing, “We can’t do that” “We can’t work that government agency” Why not, there are five government agencies that offer the same assistance, I say fund to the agency that actually gets things done.

  12. Jerry R. Martin says:

    On the outside chance anyone reads this from you office, I would like to comment that my local VA now is mandated to buy their offices supplies from Office Depot. I had been serving their needs for 13 years as a Combat SDVOSB from the Vietnam era, now they are forbidden to even talk about purchasing from any Veteran or Disabled Veteran. My daughter, 100% disabled due a TBI while serving in the Air Force, is a 5th Generation Disabled Veteran in our family. We have served and died, but the VA chooses to do business with Office Depot! Very Angry and Sad!
    Jerry

    • Mr. Martin,

      We’re listening and we do read these comments. I’m sorry to hear that you’re running into problems with respect to your business relationship with your local VA facility. While I don’t know all the details of your specific situation, I can say that at times VA does enter into agreements with larger businesses in order to save taxpayer dollars. While our strategic sourcing initiative for office supplies actually has resulted in more money flowing to service-disabled Veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSBs) in aggregate, in some instances contracts that previously went to firms such as yours have gone to a large business. We try to focus on small businesses – specifically SDVOSBs like yours – but it is not always feasible in every case. I’m happy to have someone from my office reach out to you to determine what happened in your case, and how we can best move forward together.

      Scott

      • Nate says:

        Don’t waste your time , Mr. Martin. I’ll bet the only thing Mr. Gould’s office will do is tell you no nicely (lip service) or throw you a crumb or two. The VA really isn’t about the veteran. It’s a cold bureaucracy only interested in self preservation. (And, I bet he didn’t respondrespond but some low level employee on the blog team did.) I get the sense that Mr. Gould is willing to do anything for the VA except make tough personnel decisions with career employees.

  13. Pawtucket says:

    Does anyone else think this blog post was written by an alter ego of FEMA’s (“Heck of a job, Brownie”) Michael Brown? It comes across as slavishly political and makes me doubt the sincerity and competence of senior VA leadership. I am, by the way, a Democrat and an Obama supporter.

  14. WHERE IS THE LOVE says:

    I AM A WIDOW OF A VETERAN WHO PASSED AT 25. HE DIDNT EVEN HAVE TIME TO BUILD UP CREDIT OR TIME TO FIX IT, NOR DID I. WE WERE BOTH 21 WHEN WE GOT MARRIED. I WAS 26 ALMOST 27 BEFORE I STARTED RECEIVING MY WIDOWS PENSION OR DIC. THIS IS THE ONLY BENEFIT I GET. I HAVE 2 DAUGHTERS HAVE LOST EVERYTHING, BEEN EVEICTED CANT GET MARRIED TILL I AM 57, CAN’T MAKE MORE THAN 7 HUNDRED SOMETHING A MONTH OR THEY START DEDUCTING FROM MONTHLY CHECK. IT EXTREMELY DIFFICULT ONCE YOU GET CAUGHT UP IN THE SYSTEM TO GET OUT. I CAN NOT EVEN GET THE HOME LOAN BECAUSE OF MY CREDIT SCORE TO PURCHASE A SAFE AND STABLE HOME FOR MY GIRLS TO GROW UP IN. IN MY OPINION THEY NEED TO EXTEND THE BUSINESS LOAN TO WIDOWS OR WIDOWERS OT THOSE WHO SACRIFICED THEIR LIVES. ONLY FOR THEIR LOVED ONES TO WHOM SACRIFICED JUST AS MUCH AND MORE FIGHTING TO GET HELP. MORE IMPORTANTLY THIS CREDIT SCORE REQUIREMENT SHOULD BE EXEMPT TO THOSE WHO SERVED ARE SERVING, DISABLED IN WHATEVER WAY THAT MAY BE AND TO THE NEXT OF KIN, SPOUSES, AND CHILDREN SO WE MIGHT ALL HAVE A CHANCE TO BENEFIT AND STILL LEAD A QUALITY OF LIFE THAT IS WORTH LIVING FOR. INSTEAD OF WAKING UP PRAYING YOU CAN FIND A WAY TO FEED YOU KIDS, PRAY THE LIGHTS DO NOT GET DISCONNECTED, SO ON AND SO FORTH. IT IS EXTREMELY DIFFICULT TO MYSELF AND OTHER WIDOWS WIDOWERS WHO HAVE A DISABILITY OF THEIR OWN. I HAVE HAD GRANDMAL SEIZURES SINCE I WAS 17. I HAVE STILL CONTINUED TO TRY AND WORK EVERY TIME LET GO DO TO HAVING SEIZURES AT WORK. I CAN NOT DRIVE AND BEING LEFT ALONE WITH MY 2AND A HALF YEAR OLD SCARES ME TO DEATH. SOMEONE SOMEWHERE NEEDS TO TAKE MY THOUGHTS AND EVERYONE ELSES INTO CONSIDERATION AND START CHANGING THINGS. STARTING WITH THE CREDIT SCORE THAT CONTINUES TO RISE TO MAKE IT HARDER.

  15. Chad says:

    Pawtucket: you are on the right track. In the scheme of VA, the veteran is simply bait to get more money from congress. Service to the veterans stops at lip service.

    Look how their employees act. VA is corrupt to its core. Read the IG reports. They don’t want to do business with veteran businesses; they only do so to the extent that they don’t attract negative attention. Mr. Gould probably isn’t going to go work at a SDVO when he leaves government and neither is his wife over at DoD likely to do so. They probably are going to go make big bucks at big companies. So, they may have an incentive to help the big guy and may do just enough for the SDVO to get a resume bullet.

    To change this corruption, VA political leadership would have to make fundamental changes in senior career leadership. Simply put, they would have to fire people. Like the people who allowed an OI&T employee to collect localality pay for DC while living in a lower cost area. He spent his days sending Anthony Weiner like photos of himself to others using his VA account. Not only should this senior employee be fired but so should his boss.

    http://www.va.gov/oig/51/FY2011rpts/VAOIG-10-02858-102.pdf

    So, General Shinseki, Capt Gould, who have ya fired since you came on board? Your legacy is dependent on who you hire to run the VA after you leave. You have not made enough tough calls to get rid of dead weight or corruption at the senior levels. Any improvements you make beyond improvements in who is running the place will be short lived. Don’t fool yourself. Make tough calls and start cleaning house.

  16. Recommended Websites…

    [...]below you’ll find the link to some sites that we think you should visit[...]…