Supporting Veterans at Home

Federal procurement dollars for businesses owned by service-disabled veterans

Fact: Federal and state governments pay for the majority of healthcare. Taxpayers fund governments. That includes all of us, along with the principals and stockholders of all kinds of companies, such as those that are publicly owned, small and historically underutilized, as well as those owned by minorities, women and service-disabled veterans. As such, all should receive a piece of the pie as far as healthcare supply dollars are concerned.

With a pace a little more than a crawl, steps were taken in 1999 to give service-disabled, veteran-owned business enterprises (SDVEs) special status in the eyes of federal government procurement. Public Law 106-50 (Veterans Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development Act of 1999) set a minimum 3 percent goal as the dollar value of all federal contracts and prime subcontracts that should be awarded to small, service-disabled, veteran-owned businesses. The federal government is far behind in reaching its goal, and most federal prime contractors are not doing much better in establishing subcontracting awards with SDVEs.

Public Law 106-50 offers buyers an opportunity to help an underutilized group in our society: service-disabled veterans. Group purchasing organizations (GPOs), hospitals and health systems should embrace it wholeheartedly.

A service-disabled, veteran-owned small business is a U.S. small business concern, not less than 51 percent of which is owned by one or more service-disabled veterans or, in the case of any publicly owned business, not less than 51 percent of the stock of which is owned by one or more service-disabled veterans. The management and daily business operations of a service-disabled, veteran-owned small business are controlled by one or more service-disabled veterans or, in the case of a veteran with permanent and severe disability, the spouse or permanent caregiver of such veteran.

The term “service-connected” means, with respect to disability, that such disability was incurred or aggravated, or resulted from a disability incurred or aggravated, in the line of duty in the active military, naval or air service. A disabled, veteran-owned business is a U.S. business that is at least 51 percent owned, controlled and operated by an individual or individuals who are U.S. citizens and U.S. veterans who have been at least 10 percent disabled due to U.S. military service.

As it stands today, databases of SDVE businesses are self-certified by simple “box checking.” To avoid federal felony misrepresentation and other disruptions resulting from procurement award challenges, buyers may consider seeking assistance in designing legitimate certification processes, thus ensuring they are dealing with reputable service-disabled veterans.

An issue of fairness
Much ado is made about fairness and equal access in our society. Federal and state governments took the lead and established objectives, thus opening the doors to historically underutilized businesses and urging them to the table.

Particular attention to awarding government contracts has been directed toward small African-American, Hispanic and women-owned businesses. The National Minority Medical Suppliers Association is an example of a business community uniting to publicize its members’ businesses and to seek not only federal contracts, but also contracts in the private and public healthcare sectors.

Most federal agencies have procurement goals not only for businesses owned by service-disabled veterans, but also for those owned by non-disabled veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs, in particular, has a 7 percent goal for veteran-owned businesses.

There is plenty of opportunity to support all these groups, thus providing equal access to the marketplace. This is especially true in the manufacturing and distribution of medical-surgical supplies as well as the delivery of healthcare. The time has come to recognize and support another group of truly disadvantaged citizens: the businessmen and businesswomen who have become disadvantaged in the service to their country. Businesses should embrace this group quickly and enthusiastically.

About the author: J. Michael O’Connor is founder of the Colonial Group, Rolling Meadows, Ill. He can be reached via e-mail at