As reported in Washington Business Journal by Jill R. Aitoro, Senior Staff Reporter on March 19th, once again the Department of Veterans Affairs has ignored a recommendation by the Government Accountability Office, maintaining its right to not set aside work for veteran-owned small businesses awarded under the General Services Administration’s schedule contracts.
On March 15, the GAO for the third time submitted a protest that claimed the VA violated a 2006 law when it failed to set aside a contract solicitation for service-disabled, veteran-owned small businesses.
“VA respectfully declines to follow the [r]ecommendation,” said Dennis Foley, deputy assistant general counsel for the VA, in a March 16 letter to the GAO obtained by Washington Business Journal. He asserted the same argument that the VA gave in the two prior protests: that the federal acquisition regulation exempts from all set-aside requirements any purchases made through the GSA’s schedule contracts, which agencies use to buy goods and services at pre-negotiated, discounted prices.
The GAO and veteran community argue the exemption does not override requirements established in the 2006 Veterans Benefits, Health Care and Information Technology Act, which requires the VA to award contracts to service-disabled, veteran-owned small businesses when there is a reasonable expectation that the agency would receive at least two bids and be able to acquire the goods or services at a reasonable price.
Agencies typically comply with GAO recommendations, but are under no obligations to do so by law.