OHA Denies First-Ever VA SDVOSB Status Protest

The Small Business Administration Office of Hearings and Appeals has denied a protest of the service-disabled veteran-owned small business status of a company seeking to perform work for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The decision was not particularly controversial or otherwise notable in and of itself. What is notable is that this was the first VA-status SDVOSB protest decision ever issued by OHA.

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SDVOSB Eligibility Update: SBA Issues New Rule

Earlier this week, Steve updated SmallGovCon readers on a very important SDVOSB eligibility change: beginning October 1, the VA will begin using the SBA’s eligibility rules to verify SDVOSBs and VOSBs.

The SBA has now followed suit—in a final rule published today, the SBA has amended its eligibility rules for SDVOSBs. These rules provide important clarity into SDVOSB eligibility going forward.

Let’s take a look at some of the most important changes.

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VA Proposes Elimination of SDVOSB Ownership & Control Rules

The VA has formally proposed to eliminate its SDVOSB and VOSB ownership and control regulations.

Once the proposed change is finalized, the VA will use the SBA’s regulations to evaluate SDVOSB and VOSB eligibility, as required by the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act.

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Court Upholds “Draconian and Perverse” SBA SDVOSB Ownership Rules

The SBA’s strict SDVOSB ownership rules can produce “draconian and perverse” results, but are nonetheless legal, according to a federal judge.

In a recent decision, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims condemned the SBA’s SDVOSB unconditional ownership requirements, while holding that the SBA was within its legal rights to impose those requirements on the company in question.

The Court’s decision emphasizes the important differences between the SBA and VA SDVOSB programs, because the Court held that although the company in question didn’t qualify as an SDVOSB under the SBA’s strict rules, it was eligible for VA SDVOSB verification under the VA’s separate eligibility rules.

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GAO Can’t Resolve SDVOSB Eligibility Protests

The GAO lacks jurisdiction to determine whether an offeror is a service-disabled veteran-owned small business.

In a recent bid protest decision, the GAO rejected the protester’s creative attempt to convince the GAO to take jurisdiction, and confirmed that, for non-VA acquisitions, the SBA has sole authority to determine whether an offeror is an SDVOSB.

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SBA Required To Dismiss Unspecific SDVOSB Status Protest

A protester’s failure to be specific enough in an SDVOSB status protest will result in dismissal of the protest.

The decision of the SBA Office of Hearings and Appeals in Jamaica Bearings Company, SBA No. VET-257 (Aug. 9, 2016), reinforces the SBA’s rule concerning specificity in filing a service disabled veteran-owned status protest. The rule provides, “[p]rotests must be in writing and must specify all the grounds upon which the protest is based. A protest merely asserting that the protested concern is not an eligible SDVOSB, without setting forth specific facts or allegations is insufficient.”

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SDVOSB Protests Versus Bid Protests: SBA OHA Provides Some Clarity

A protest challenging a company’s status as a service-disabled veteran-owned small business is not the same as a protest challenging other aspects of an agency’s award decision (such as the evaluation of the protester’s proposal)–and these differences can determine whether a protest is timely and correctly filed.

In a recent case, the SBA Office of Hearings and Appeals provided some clarity on key differences between SDVOSB protests and bid protests, including important limits on the SBA’s jurisdiction.

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