VA SDVOSB Reconsideration Success Rate At 48%–And Other Highlights From The GAO SDVOSB Report

VA SDVOSB reconsideration requests were approved in 48% of cases resulting in a decision, according to a GAO report released on Monday.

In the lengthy report, which weighs in at 63 pages, the GAO broadly concludes that the VA CVE has made progress when it comes to the verification of SDVOSBs, but has a ways to go in order for the SDVOSB verification process to be quick, effecient and effective.

This broad conclusion is not in the least bit surprising to anyone who has followed the evolution of the VA SDVOSB verification program.  However, the report is also packed with a great deal of interesting information about SDVOSB verification at the VA–including statistics on applications, reconsideration success rates, and more.

A few especially interesting nuggets from the GAO report:

  • As of September 20, 2012, the VIP database listed 6,257 verified SDVOSBs and VOSBs.
  • At the same time, there were 691 new verification applications pending, 131 verified firms seeking re-verification, and 165 firms seeking reconsideration.  I expected the number of firms seeking reconsideration to be higher, given the VA’s statement to reconsideration applicants that it may take 90 days to receive a decision on reconsideration.
  • Along the same lines, the VA CVE told the GAO that the 60-day reconsideration goal was not practicable and that its “interim goal” is to issue a decision in 90 days.  It seems that 90-day reconsiderations will be the norm in 2013.  Indeed, if 90 days is the new goal, I wouldn’t be surprised to see reconsideration decisions taking even longer.
  • As of October 2012, it took approximately 85 days for the VA CVE to make a determination on a new SDVOSB verification application.  According to VA CVE officials, this was significantly shorter than the 130 days it took in mid-2011.  The VA CVE should be congratulated for its improvement, although 85 days is still nothing to brag about.  Moreover, the 85-day processing period begs the question: why does it take longer to process a request for reconsideration than an entire new SDVOSB verification application?
  • If the VA CVE was tasked with verifying SDVOSBs government-wide, instead of merely for VA contracts, the GAO expects that 3,600 self-certified SDVOSBs with recent non-VA federal contracts would likely apply for verification, and another 12,800 SDVOSBs with older non-VA contracts might also apply.  The GAO  stated that the VA CVE would “need to continue to address existing program weaknesses to stabilize and improve its verification program” before taking on such a challenge.
  • Between November 2011 and September 2012, 560 SDVOSB applicants submitted requests for reconsideration.  Of the requests that had received a determination as September 30, 2012, 48% were approved, while 52% were denied again.
  • During the same period, the VA CVE evaluated 690 applications for re-verification.  Of those receiving a determination as of September 30, 2012, 80% were approved, while 20% of these previously-verified firms were denied.
  • As of October 2012, the VA CVE verification program had 28 full-time equivalent federal employees and 174 contractors.  This was an increase of about 3 full-time equivalent staff and 64 contractors since December 2011.

Interestingly, the GAO report also stated that the VA “has begun a process to revise the verification program’s regulations.”  The planned revisions are being undertaken partly in response to applicants’ and veterans’ organizations concerns about the current eligibility standards.  For instance, veterans have questioned the VA’s current interpretation of “unconditional ownership” as preventing any restrictions on a service-disabled veteran’s ability to transfer his or her ownership interest.

However, SDVOSB verification applicants shouldn’t hold their breaths: no formal proposal on revised verification standards is expected until mid-2014.

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