On December 6, 2022, the SBA held a virtual Q&A session to discuss the roll-out of the Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) and Veteran Owned Small Business (VOSB) certification program. They will be assuming responsibility as of January 2023 and the SBA will begin accepting applications for certification on January 9, 2023. Through the Q&A session, the SBA provided some tips for contractors, an explanation of the processes that are controlling the SBA’s SDVOSB and VOSB certification program, and even gave attendees a preview of the software that will be used. Of course, SmallGovCon was there to get all the details so that we can break them down for you.
The SBA’s Q&A described the proposed processes, a preview of the certification system, and information on how the system will interact with other government websites. As you avid readers know, SmallGovCon has had their finger on the pulse of these changes and provided updates each step of the way (see our posts on the proposed rule, and the final rule). While we will provide a summary of what was presented here, the SBA did state that they would post the webinar on their YouTube page, so if you have a chance, you should give it a watch once it is uploaded. Other resources that the SBA stated may be helpful, in the run up to the grand opening of the SBA certification portal, are the SBA veteran certification website http://www.sba.gov/vetcert and an email address for questions and updates, firstname.lastname@example.org. With that in mind, let’s dive into what SBA told contractors at their Q&A session on December 6, 2022.
The SBA started with a discussion of the goals of the program. The SBA hopes that this new certification program will be seen as the “gold standard” of certification processes and will help enable further veteran business participation in federal contracting. The SBA will call this new certification program, the “Veteran Small Business Certification Program” (shortened to VetCert on SBA’s website) and SBA anticipates that a new certification “badge” will be produced for SDVOSB and VOSB businesses to use in their marketing to show their verified status. As you likely know, the VA has not accepted any new applications for certification since October of this year, leaving businesses with certification hopes, currently without a place to submit their applications. The SBA states that they will be able to start accepting applications for SDVOSB and VOSB certification on January 9, 2023, so applicants wanting to be certified will only have to wait for about another month to submit an application. The SBA also confirmed that they were able to secure funding for the transition of the certification from the VA, and much of the employees at the CVE will now be moving over to the SBA to work on certification for the SBA.
The SBA next moved onto the processes, policies, and roll-outs surrounding the SDVOSB and VOSB certification process.
After January 1, 2023, SDVOSBs will need to be certified by SBA to receive sole-source or set-aside contracts from ANY federal agency.
The SBA will roll-out the certification system, but also a publicly searchable database of SDVOSB certified businesses, that the public and contracting authorities will be able to search. This database will not merge with SBA’s DSBS and will have separate information. As stated earlier, the certification system will be open to receive applications on January 9, 2023.
The SBA also provided some good news for any contractors who are currently certified, and will be certified as of January 1, 2023. If a business is certified as of January 1, 2023, you will get one whole year added to your eligibility, thus pushing your recertification due date out a year. This will allow contractors to adjust to the new system, and SBA to prepare further. Of note, this extension will NOT be reflected in systems until SBA gets its database and search tool in place. The SBA stated that contractors do not need to take any action to receive this extra year, as it will be automatically applied to anyone certified as of January 1, 2023. So, for example, if your SDVOSB certification is due for re-certification January 10th, 2023, the SBA states that your due date for recertification would now be January 10, 2024.
If you are a self-certified SDVOSB, then you can continue to be self-certified for 2023. However, you MUST apply for certification through the SBA for a determination of your SDVOSB status prior to the end of 2023. Also, if you are a certified SDVOSB or VOSB through the VA and are still certified as of January 1, 2023, you will be grandfathered into the SBA program. Any protests of SDVOSB or VOSB certification will go through the SBA’s Office of Hearings and Appeals.
The SBA also clarified that their certification will not be NAICS code specific, or limited to a certain NAICS code. The SBA will focus on if you are small in at least one NAICS listed on your SAM.gov account. If so, you will meet the definition for “currently operates” and be certified, but you must be small and currently operate in the NAICS of any contract which you are claiming SDVOSB status for. The SBA will also be issuing their own documents for certification, so the current VA documents will be obsolete come January 2023.
The SBA then moved on to a demonstration and description of the certification system itself. The SBA’s aim, as one would hope, is for the system to be efficient and user-friendly. As such, the SBA has tried to include multiple reminders of eligibility requirements, avenues to receive information, and have no proverbial “dead ends”. For example, before you even log in, you are greeted with a screen that runs through the basic eligibility requirements for SDVOSB or VOSB status. Once you enter the application program itself, you have a home screen that shows open applications, certification, invitations to applications, and a way to message the SBA. Within the application, you conduct a pre-assessment that will remind you of certification requirements, and throughout, as you input answers or documents, the SBA will provide you with further information on each question asked.
This program will pull much of its information from SAM.gov, and will interface with the VA’s records. So, Form DD214 may no longer be a submission requirement, as the information will be pulled over from the VA. Additionally, SBA will try and make it so that users that have other SBA certifications (i.e. 8(a) or WOSB) will have their previously submitted information or documents pulled into the VA application. Also, if you are forming a SDVOSB or VOSB Joint Venture, you will notate on the SBA certification portal that you are the managing venturer for the Joint Venture. The portal will then interface with other searchable databases to indicate that the Joint Venture is SDVOSB or VOSB, who the venturers are, and their roles. You will need a new login for SBA’s portal, and those with VA CVE log-ins should receive emails with invitations to create an account in SBA’s new system.
One of the most repeated tips in the Q&A was to make sure your SAM.gov profile is up to date. As you may have noted, the SBA plans to have their certification portal interact and pull information from multiple sources. One of the most important is SAM.gov. As the SBA transitions certifications from the VA to the SBA they will be relying on information from SAM.gov for much of the SDVOSB and VOSB business information. The portal will also interface quite frequently with SAM.gov going forward and on applications. Ensuring everything is up to date on SAM.gov now will make any applications on SBA’s portal later much smoother.
It appears that the SBA has truly devoted quite a large amount of time and resources to try and create a smooth transition for SDVOSB and VOSB contractors from being certified through VA, to being certified through the SBA. But as with any change, there are complicated moving parts that must be kept in mind. Contractors should check out SBA’s website, sign up for updates, and look out for any emails from SBA with instructions on their new certification process. Contractors also should keep an eye out for any correspondence from the VA, as the VA continues to work on completing application reviews for those submitted prior to the October deadline. And as always, ensure that your SAM.gov profile is up to date.
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