Moving SDVOSB verification from the VA to the SBA would save approximately $5 million annually, according to a recent cost estimate issued by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.
The CBO concludes that implementing the Improving Opportunities for Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Act of 2013 would save money because the SBA would be able to take advantage of systems already in place for other certification programs. The CBO estimate may reignite debate over the potential transfer of the SDVOSB verification program from the VA to the SBA.
Beyond cost savings, adopting the Improving Opportunities Act would have some obvious advantages. Most notably, the Improving Opportunities Act would standardize the requirements for SDVOSB eligibility across the federal government. No longer would SDVOSBs have to wonder whether the VA and SBA, evaluating the very same paperwork, would reach inconsistent results. Additionally, SDVOSBs might benefit from the SBA’s longstanding experience with its other certification programs, as well as some superior internal processes–such as using administrative judges to decide SDVOSB status appeals.
However, any discussion of transferring the SDVOSB program to the SBA ought to include an acknowledgement that the CVE has made major improvements since it initially began verifying SDVOSBs. Application processing times have dramatically improved and the pre-determination findings program has greatly reduced denials based on easily-correctable deficiencies. Additionally, the CVE has shown a commendable willingness to adjust its regulations to improve the program, such as by increasing the effectiveness of a verification from one year to two years, and by adopting a rule allowing SDVOSB status appeals.
As a result of these changes and others, the CVE’s program administration–while still not close to perfect–is much improved. Although there is little doubt that the SBA would have done a better job than the CVE did in the past, it is an open question whether transferring verification to the SBA would significantly improve current program administration.
Although most discussion of the Improving Opportunities Act has focused on which agency will perform SDVOSB verifications, I don’t think that the VA-to-SBA verification transfer is the most important part of the bill. As far as I’m concerned, the most important thing that Congress can do for SDVOSBs is to standardize the eligibility requirements so that SDVOSBs no longer have to play under two sets of rules. The Improving Opportunities Act does that–and may save the taxpayers a few million dollars, as well.