Tester, Cassidy Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Protect Veteran-Owned Small Businesses

The Protecting Business Opportunities for Veterans Act would detect and hold bad actors accountable

U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) introduced the Protecting Business Opportunities for Veterans Act of 2020 to protect Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned and Veteran-Owned Small Businesses from bad actors looking to exploit the Vets First Program under the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

“We have an obligation to make sure our uniformed men and women have the resources to provide for themselves and their families when they return home from service,” said Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Our bipartisan bill aims to protect veteran-owned small businesses from bad actors looking to exploit the system, by providing VA the tools to detect and penalize those who aren’t playing by the rules. This commonsense approach gives deserving veterans and their families, who have made great sacrifices on behalf of this nation, a fair and equal shot in the process.”

“Our service-disabled veteran-owned and veteran-owned small businesses that follow the law should not suffer from the actions of those who abuse the system. This bill aims to root out corruption and ensure that legitimate veteran businesses get contracts from the VA,” said Dr. Cassidy.

There is a longstanding problem of improper “pass-through” in the Vets First Program and throughout government contracting, where businesses profit from contracts while performing little or no work and passing them off to other companies to complete. The Protecting Business Opportunities for Veterans Act of 2020 would require participants in the Vets First Program to certify that they are performing the required percentage of work and would direct 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, and requires the VA submit an annual report on violations and suspected violations to Congress.

“DAV (Disabled American Veterans) is a strong supporter and advocate of veteran entrepreneurship. It’s imperative Veteran-Owned Small Businesses and Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses remain on a level playing field when competing for government contracts,” said Jeremy Villanueva, DAV Assistant National Legislative Director. “We are proud to support this legislation as it closes the ‘pass through’ contracting loophole and holds companies accountable for violating the principle and rationale of the Vets First Program. We thank Ranking Member Tester and Sen. Cassidy for their leadership in this matter so that all veteran-owned businesses have equal opportunity to stimulate and create growth for the American economy.”