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VA strives to aid veteran-owned small businesses

SUN Columnist

To speed eligibility determinations of veteran-owned small businesses (VOSB) for Department of Veterans Affairs’ “Veterans First” contracts, VA will allow applicants the opportunity to correct minor deficiencies before an initial denial is issued. Starting May 1, VA will begin providing preliminary findings to applicants before completing a comprehensive review of their submissions. This is expected to greatly reduce the number of VA’s initial denials and subsequent requests for reconsideration from companies.

“A large percentage of verification denials are due to single points of failure that can be easily and quickly corrected. This improved process will enable us to bring more deserving veteran business owners into VA’s system,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.  “Our Center for Veterans Enterprise (CVE) will refine and measure the new process through pilot testing that has begun.”

Firms that would be denied based on easily corrected issues will receive a preliminary finding before a determination letter of eligibility is issued.  They will have 48 hours to respond with their intent to correct and resubmit the documents within a specified timeframe. All veteran-owned companies receiving preliminary findings will be encouraged to work with verification-assistance counselors to address identified issues that might result in denial.

CVE has initiated a series of limited pilots to exercise and refine this new process for applying for verification as a veteran-owned small business.  The program is aimed at eliminating a large percentage of verification denials that are due to single points of failure.

As VA has improved the program and processes, the average time to initial determination has been reduced from more than 130 days during the summer of 2011 to an average of 46 days for those applications completed last month.

This is the most recent initiative aimed at improving the verification process.  In June 2012, Secretary Shinseki announced that VA would double the amount of time — from one year to two years — before the owners of service-disabled, veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSB) and veteran-owned small businesses had to reverify their status with VA.

The next generation Verification Case Management System (VCMS) is currently under development, with an estimated contract award for a new system in May 2013.  This will be a phased program with initial operational capability expected in October 2013.

In addition to the current Verification Assistance program elements, a fourth dimension to the program will launch with the pilot of VA’s first Pre-Application workshop for veterans on March 13, 2013, at an event hosted by the SDVOSB Council in Virginia.  This workshop will outline what a veteran needs to know and do to put together a successful verification application.

VA encourages feedback on the process and will post additional information and the listing of easily correctable issues on www.VetBiz.gov.  CVE has also established a help desk service to address questions at (202) 303-3260.

Apology

I extend my apology to the veterans in Arboles. I was scheduled to meet with you on March 7 at the Arboles Community Center. The funeral for Julien Archuleta had been scheduled for Tuesday, but was moved to Thursday.

I had still intended to make it down to Arboles, however, the funeral lasted into the afternoon. I would not have left Pagosa until after 1 p.m. I have scheduled to attend the meeting on March 21 at noon, so we can try this again.

Benefits

For information on VA benefits, call or stop by the Archuleta County Veterans Service Office, located at the Senior Center in the Ross Aragon Community Center.

The office number is 264-4013, fax number is 264-4014, cell number is 946-3590, and e-mail is raytaylor@archuletacounty.org. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Bring your DD Form 214 (Discharge) for applications to VA programs or benefits for which the veteran may be entitled to enroll, and for filing in the Archuleta County VSO office.

Meetings

The following veterans groups meet in Pagosa Springs:

American Legion Post 108: second Wednesday of the month, 7 p.m., 287 Hermosa St.

American Legion Post 108 Ladies Auxiliary: second Tuesday of the month at 4 p.m., 287 Hermosa St.

Veterans for Veterans: every Tuesday, 10 a.m., Quality Inn.

Women’s Group of Spouses of Veterans: every other Monday, 6 p.m., St. Patrick’s Episcopal Parish Hall, 225 S. Pagosa Blvd. Contact Charlotte, 731-1025.

Point Man Ministry (veterans): every Thursday, 9 a.m., Crossroads Church, 1044 Park Ave.

Contacts

Durango VA Outpatient Clinic: 247-2214.

Farmington VA Center: (505) 327-9684.

The Veterans Crisis Line offers free, confidential support to veterans in crisis, as well as their family and friends 24/7, 365 days a year. Call (800) 273-8255, chat online, or text 838255.

This story was posted on March 14, 2013.