Despite improvements to its verification process and customer service, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) remains behind in efforts to improve its program for helping veteran-owned small businesses.
Testifying before a joint House subcommittee hearing Nov. 4, Tom Leney, executive director of the VA’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, shared a status update on what’s been done to address problems with the Veterans First contracting program —but lawmakers were critical of the amount of progress that’s been made since the last report.
“VA has made substantial progress in improving the verification program since the last [Government Accountability Office] report of 2013,” Leney said. “In February 2015, GAO began its newest audit of the program. In short, by the end of [fiscal] 2015, applications were being processed within the regulatory time frame 99.8 percent of the time with an approval rate of 94 percent. Initial applications were processed in an average of 41 days, well below the regulatory target of 60 days.”
VA has also started conducting post-verification audits to monitor ongoing compliance, Leney said, and the Center for Veterans Enterprise has established a process for responding to fraud allegations and conducting investigations.
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