House passes Bergman’s veteran legislation

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The House of Representatives unanimously passed H.R. 2749, Protecting Business Opportunities for Veterans Act of 2017, on Monday.

Congressman Jack Bergman’s legislation provides the Department of Veterans Affairs with the tools it needs to correct a persistent problem in contracting under the VA’s Vets First Program.

House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations chairman Bergman  (MI-01) released a statement on Tuesday.

“H.R. 2749 strengthens the VA’s Vets First Program — a program designed to protect veteran-owned and service disabled veteran-owned small businesses,” he said. “For too long, bad actors have been abusing the system and wasting taxpayer dollars by finding loopholes within the program. This bill protects those veterans who play by the rules and work hard to support their small businesses. To make sure this loophole is not exploited in the future, H.R. 2749 also directs the VA to work with the Office of Inspector General to more effectively find, stop, and punish these improper contracting practices. The solution to this problem is overdue.”

The Committee on Veterans Affairs receives complaints nearly every week from veteran-owned small businesses regarding “improper pass-throughs, ” where a small business obtains a certain contract but then gives all, or substantially all of the work, to a larger company while still collecting the profit. In some instances, multiple companies will pass through the work while adding price markups, according to a press release.

Even though this has long been prohibited by the law, in practice the federal government has little ability to stop it from occurring. This improper practice by some bad actors in the system leaves many veterans, who abide by the law, unable to receive the contracts they are willing and capable of doing.

The Protecting Business Opportunities for Veterans Act of 2017 requires participants in the Vets First Program to certify they are performing the percentage of work already required by law and directs the VA to refer suspected violators to the Office of the Inspector General for investigation.

The bill also directs the VA Secretary to consider whether existing administrative and criminal penalties for fraudulent representation would apply in each case.

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