The Veterans Benefits, Health Care, and Information Technology Act of 2006 changed the way veteran-owned and service-disabled-veteran-owned small businesses are treated as far as being awarded VA contracts. The Act demands the VA give these specific businesses preference when giving contracts to small businesses.
Where there is the opportunity for money, however, fraud is sure to follow. There is a database on which businesses eligible for these set-aside contracts list themselves in order to be considered. The VA did not verify businesses’ credentials before they were listed on the website so they have to go back and do that now. Therefore, companies not veteran owned were being awarded contracts.
As of April of this year, the VA has only been able to verify 14% of the companies listed on the website, which equates to approximately 2,900 businesses, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released at the end of May.
The GAO was able to uncover fraud in not only the set-aside program but also in quite a few other programs. According to the GAO at least 10 counterfeit companies stole approximately $100 million from the set-aside program since they did not qualify for the funds to begin with . The GAO report highlighted numerous ways the VA is failing with respect to its verification process.
According to the report, the VA was actually missing files of required information in order to qualify the applying businesses. Additionally, the VA has an increasing backlog of site visits and only established their verification methods in February. Lack of personnel and leadership has prevented the progress the VA hoped to accomplish.
The GAO study recommended the VA discover some way to overcome their backlogs and at the same time, develop safeguards to prevent non-eligible companies from being listed. The VA agreed with the recommendations and is currently hiring more workers to make sure the verification process operates as it should. Further, the VA has started to remove the webpage featuring the unverified businesses from public access.
If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, contact Veterans Help Group. You may be entitled to certain programs and benefits so contact our veterans disability rights firm today.