For SDVOSBs and VOSBs, June 16, 2016 was a monumental day. That morning, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its unanimous decision in Kingdomware Technologies, Inc. v. United States, holding that the VA must follow the law by putting “veterans first” in VA contracting.
Koprince Law LLC was honored to submit an amicus brief to the Supreme Court supporting Kingdomware, and my colleagues and I were thrilled with the Court’s 8-0 decision. Click here to check out my post from June 16, 2016 proclaiming “Victory!” for SDVOSBs and VOSBs in this watershed case.
The Kingdomware decision didn’t (and couldn’t) solve every problem that some SDVOSBs and VOSBs have had with VA’s contracting practices, but five years later there is no doubt in my mind that the Court’s decision has been the driving force behind a large increase in VA’s SDVOSB and VOSB contracting. Happy anniversary!
If you think you heard this before, you’re not going crazy or living your own personal Groundhog Day. The court’s ruling is just the latest in a long-running debate about how the VA should balance the SDVOSB and AbilityOne contracting preferences.
As recently as May, the Department of Veterans Affairs told a nonprofit helping to employ blind workers that it intended to renew its contract. The organization was shocked, therefore, when on July 30, the VA issued a notice of award to a service-disabled veteran-owned small business. To make matters worse, the nonprofit’s GAO protest of the award was promptly dismissed for being untimely.
It’s no secret that the VA has tried to find ways around the statutorily-mandated rule of two–i.e. VA must set aside procurements for VOSBS if it has a reasonable expectation that it will receive fair and reasonable offers from two or more veteran-owned small businesses.
Although the U.S. Supreme Court has already told VA, in Kingdomware, that it cannot circumvent the rule of two, VA apparently is still seeking ways to avoid it.
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:
Ever since the Supreme Court’s Kingdomware decision was handed down in 2016, an important question has remained: who has priority at the VA for items on the AbilityOne List?
Yesterday, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals provided the answer. The VA is required to prioritize service-disabled veteran-owned or veteran-owned small businesses when the Rule of Two is met, even when it buys items on the AbilityOne List.