COFC Strikes a Blow to VA-Verified VOSBs and SDVOSBs

A few months ago, GAO confirmed that where VA uses GPO as its buying agent, it still must to comply with the Rule of Two in 38 U.S.C. 8127(d) (see our blog post on the case ). After VA took corrective action, however, another bid protest was again filed, but this time in the Court of Federal Claims. Surprisingly, there, the Court concluded differently, finding that GPO was not required to set aside the procurement for SDVOSBs or VOSBs, despite acting on VA’s behalf. In so doing, it has weakened the Rule of Two.

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VA Agrees that Rule of Two Has Priority Over AbilityOne Procurement List

Statute A tells you to solve Problem X one way. Statute B tells you to solve Problem X a completely different way. How do you reconcile these two conflicting mandates? The Federal Circuit encountered this exact problem in 2018, and in response to its holding, the VA has now issued a class deviation to reflect its decision, confirming that the Rule of Two has priority over the AbilityOne Procurement List.

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Court of Federal Claims Decision Lends Support to VA’s SDVOSB Tiered Evaluation Scheme

In late 2017, we wrote that the VA was considering using tiered evaluations to simultaneously 1) comply with the VA’s statutory Rule of Two (and Kingdomware), and 2) address situations in which SDVOSBs and VOSBs might not offer “fair and reasonable” pricing.

Since then, the VA has instituted the tiered evaluation process for certain solicitations, using one of three approaches:

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COFC: False Information in SDVOSB Application Proper Grounds for VA Removal

While most of the rules for SDVOSB eligibility now reside with the SBA, the VA is still responsible for verification of entities for inclusion into its database of verified SDVOSBs and VOSBs. A recent Court of Federal Claims case describes what sort of conduct might get a business removed from the VA’s database–even if that conduct doesn’t run afoul of the SBA’s SDVOSB rule.

While the conduct in this case is somewhat egregious, it is a good reminder that VA has the power to thoroughly investigate the eligibility of an SDVOSB and can revoke the verified status based on inaccurate statements in an application.

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Federal Judge Suggests Congressional “Kill Switch” For Kingdomware SDVOSB Preferences

In a strongly-worded opinion, a federal judge decried a “labyrinth of legal and regulatory hoops and hurdles” imposed on the VA as a result of the famous Kingdomware Supreme Court decision–and suggested that Congress could exercise a “kill switch” to curtail or even eliminate the SDVOSB and VOSB contracting preferences the Supreme Court unanimously affirmed.

While I have no reason to suspect that Kingdomware is in any danger of being overturned or curtailed by Congress, its certainly not great news for SDVOSBs and VOSBs that a federal judge seems to be pushing for that very thing.

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SDVOSB vs. AbilityOne: Major Court Ruling Stayed Pending Appeal

In May 2017, SDVOSBs and VOSBs lodged another big win in their battle to enforce the statutory preferences for veteran-owned companies: the Court of Federal Claims held that the VA cannot buy products or services using the AbilityOne list without first applying the “rule of two” and determining whether qualified SDVOSBs or VOSBs are likely to bid.

But the AbilityOne vendor in question isn’t going down without a fight.  It’s taking the case to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit–and the Court of Federal Claims just issued a ruling staying its May decision pending the results of the appeal.

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SmallGovCon Week In Review June 20-24, 2016

It’s hard to top last week’s government contracting news, which included the major SDVOSB Supreme Court victory in Kingdomware.  But with the Fourth of July just a week and a half away, there is still plenty going on in the world of government contracts law.

In this week’s SmallGovCon Week in Review, an SDVOSB’s owner speaks out about his important GAO bid protest win, suspensions and debarments of government contractors dropped in 2015, major changes are coming to the GSA Schedule, HUBZone contract awards decline, and much more.

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