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Opening Statement of Chairman Mike Coffman, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations

Thank you, Chairman Hanna, for yielding, and thank you also to your subcommittee for holding this joint hearing.  

The problems with VA’s SDVOSB certification program are, sadly, not new ones.  The Veterans’ Affairs Committee had several subcommittee hearings during the last Congress on the issue, but improvements within the program seem to be slow in coming.  

My subcommittee continues to frequently hear from SDVOSBs and their advocates regarding what should be a straightforward process for veterans attempting to do business with VA.  While the verification process at CVE has improved and helped weed out some bad actors, it is abundantly clear that there’s still a long road ahead.  

One topic discussed at length in the 112th Congress was VA’s definition of ownership and control of a small business.  Despite the Committee’s bringing this problem to VA’s attention, VA’s definitions retain some key differences from the Small Business Administration, and the effect of these differences has been a self-induced backlog of legitimate companies attempting to get certified through CVE and do business with VA.  

The fact that VA’s different interpretations of what constitutes ownership mean that an individual could be recognized as a veteran small business owner with one government agency but not with VA should raise everyone’s eyebrows.  However, that’s the reality that some veterans face today, including service-disabled veterans.  SBA has had commonsense requirements for what constitutes an SDVOSB in place for a long time.  While VA’s intent may be in the right place, its regulatory and interpretive actions have put many eligible veterans at a disadvantage.

We still need to get this right.  If we are going to enable our veterans who sacrificed for this country to do business with the federal government, and if VA is going to set the standard for recognizing the commitment of these same veterans, then a straightforward, common-sense process needs to be in place.  

It is my sincere hope that, down the road, we are not still discussing the same issues.  The time for conversation is past, and it is time to take action, fix the problems, and move on.  I understand that the system will never be perfect, nor is there one simple answer.  However, after all the years that have passed since this program was set up, and the resources that have been added to CVE, it is reasonable to expect that we would be further along than we are today.  

I yield back.