The American Legion is joining in a legal battle against the Department of Veterans Affairs for not setting aside purchasing contracts under the Federal Supply Schedule for businesses owned by service disabled veterans.
The Legion filed a brief this month on behalf of Kingdomware Technologies Inc. of Maryland, a disabled veteran-owned business that first filed a protest against the VA’s contracts policy with the General Accountability Office in 2011.
But the VA has successfully warded off that and similar protests, arguing that the law does not mandate the government set aside contracts under the Federal Supply Schedule for businesses owned by service disabled veterans, according to the GAO. The government watchdog has sustained more than a dozen protests in all only to not receive a response from the VA.
"For an agency completely devoted to veterans’ issues to not even consider the GAO recommendations is hard to believe," Legion Economics Division Director Joe Sharpe said on Wednesday. "This is something we really find egregious because it’s really hurting veterans … and the overall economy, because a lot of these companies can perform services the VA needs, but more cheaply."
"I really believe that we need to continue to apply pressure [on the VA] to change its policies and be more veteran-business friendly," Sharpe said.
The VA did not reply to a request for comment.
The GAO announced last year it would no longer accept protests against the VA such as Kingdomware’s since the department made clear it would not follow its decisions.
Kingdomware filed a suit against the VA with the U.S. Federal Claims Court in July 2012, alleging the department is violating the Veterans Benefits, Health Care, and Information Technology Act of 2006 by awarding FSS contracts without considering set-asides for disabled vets. FSS contracts are those used by federal agencies and departments to buy a wide range of products, from paper to medical and technology supplies.
In November, Judge Nancy Firestone ruled for the VA, stating that the language in the law does not specifically address whether the FSS is subject to the set asides. Firestone sided with the VA’s argument that there is a "traditional exemption of the FSS from set-aside programs," according to the ruling.
Kingdomware, a provider of custom web and software engineering and technology services, has since then brought its case to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, DC.
The Legion, in its Sept. 11 filing, said the earlier court’s decision "empowers the VA to deny 2.5 million veteran-owned small businesses their statutory rights … Unless this Court reverses the Claims Court, the business opportunities that Congress sought to secure and expand for these veteran-owned small businesses through nearly 15 years of legislative efforts will remain unrealized."