First of all, obviously, you have to be a legitimate veteran!
According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, in order to be considered a veteran in the eyes of the law, at least one of the below statements must be true:
- You have served on active duty in either the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, or Air Force, for any length of time, and were not discharged dishonorably
- You have served as a member of the National Guard or as a Reservist and were either called to federal active duty
- You have served as a member of the National Guard or as a Reservist and were disabled from a disease or injury that started or worsened whilst you were on duty or during the training period
If you were discharged and it was not considered honorable, there are two things you can try to do in order to be eligible for the benefits offered:
- Read about the VA’s Character of Discharge review process
- Find out if you are eligible to apply for a discharge upgrade
Next, determine whether you’d register as a veteran-owned or a service-disabled veteran-owned business. Either way, you’re eligible for support thanks to the 1999 Veterans Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development Act.
To register simply as a Veteran-Owned Small Business, you or a different veteran at your company must:
- Own a majority share of the business (more than 51%), holding the highest officer position the company has
- Have the highest salary at the company, or be able to provide a written statement explaining why you do not
- Oversee and control all managerial roles, including making decisions, declaring policies, and day-to-day running of the business
- Possess all relevant managerial experience required to successfully run the business, working full time
In order to be considered a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business, you or another employee must meet all of the criteria established for all veterans above, as well as be able to provide one or more of the following:
- A disability rating letter from the US Department of Veteran’s Affairs that confirms your service-connected disability rating, between 0 and 100 percent
- A determination of disability from the official Department of Defense
Once you’ve decided whether you qualify for either or both of the above, then it’s time to apply online!
If you’re worried about the process or not sure where to begin, it’s possible to get in touch with one of the official VA-certified Verification Assistance Counselors or attend one of their Verification Program webinars, both of which are useful guides.
These are helpful not just for first-time applicants, but also any applicants who have applied before but were rejected, allowing for a potential re-verification and possible acceptance. If you’re not sure where you went wrong, this is a good place to start!
By seeking the assistance of a certified VA verification and utilizing their pre-qualification resources, you may well speed up the process of a decision being made on your application, which is always appreciated!
How do I get VOSB certified?
It’s possible to get certified as a Veteran-Owned Small Business (or if appropriate, Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business) in a couple of different ways, each offering different levels of benefit.
In order to qualify for national, government agency level business contracts, or what’s known as the official certification process, you must get VOSB or SDVOSB certified specifically through the official Vets First Verification Program.
This involves providing paperwork that proves your majority ownership in the business, papers demonstrating your honorable discharge, as well as the entire business undergoing a federal review.
For those looking for perks without a lengthy verification process, you could choose to simply be included on any and all national registers of veteran-owned businesses by registering with the National Veteran-Owned Business Association.
In doing so, you’re listed as a Certified Veteran’s Business Enterprise (VBE) and will be able to attract clientele or work from other private businesses, without having to go through the longer, slightly arduous verification process via the government.
You could also list your business as veteran-owned yourself, taking advantage of the free advertisement that social media provides, as well as making your business available to find on websites such as buyveteran.com.
Outside of the programs developed specifically for veteran business owners, you would also be eligible for some of the wider assistance or resources that the US government provides - have a look at the Small Business Association website.
How do I get a contract with the VA?
In order to qualify for a Veteran’s Affairs Federal Supply Schedule contract, also known as the VA FSS Program, you must meet several criteria:
- Have the ability to demonstrate that your business is a responsible firm
- Have completed the GSA “Pathway to Success” education seminar
- Have a copy of your certificate of completion for the PAS seminar, to be submitted alongside your proposal (this is only required for applicants without an existing FSS contract)
- Successfully fulfill all contract obligations outlined in the solicitation you choose, which are available to look at via the VA Schedule Programs webpage
As long as you can provide evidence for all of the above, you’ll be able to put in an application. Once you’ve figured out if you’re eligible for an FSS contract and confirmed you’re going to submit a proposal, these are the next steps:
1. Select Your Appropriate Solicitation
Have a look at the VA Schedule Programs and identify which of the nine Schedule Programs managed by the VA FSS Program is right for your business, making sure to read all of the information thoroughly
2. Be Certified, Get Registered
Now you’ve chosen your solicitation, it’s time to complete, or check you have all the necessary evidence for, this checklist:
- Register for a Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number, a nine-digit code that uniquely identifies companies globally, if you do not already have one
- Register with System For Award Management (SAM) - this is a requirement in order to be awarded your contract initially and must be maintained if you want to extend your contract or apply for a follow-on award if you have not already
- Be able to submit all of the required documents stipulated on the Compliance Requirements page, including but not limited to:
- Sales Reports & IFF
- Manufacturer Letter Of Commitment
- VETS 4212 Federal Contractor Reporting
- Affirmative Action Plan/EEO-1 Report
- Insurance Certificates
- Service Contract Reporting
- Small Business Subcontracting Plan
- eSRS Reports
3. Check Out Proposal Advice
Before you submit your application, the VA recommends that you write up a business plan.
This is because “being a VA Schedule contractor does not guarantee sales,” as well as the fact that “contractors are expected to market their company and Schedule contract to the federal marketplace.”
As a result, you need to make sure your business is ready to take on this work, including in your plan “an estimate of the expected return on investment, marketing plan and staff allocation in support of this new venture.”
If this all sounds a bit confusing, don’t worry. You can check out the Getting on Schedule webpage of the VA’s website which provides advice on preparing the best possible application, as well as an overview of the entire process.
Plus, if you’ve got any concerns or questions, simply get in touch with the VA FSS Help Desk and they can talk you through anything you might need to know about your eligibility.
How do I qualify for veteran-owned business status?
There are several key criteria that your business needs to meet in order to qualify for veteran-owned small business certification. This can be met by yourself or another veteran, as long as either way the following statements are true:
- Over 51% of the business - which is more than a majority - must be owned by a veteran
- The veteran owner must have an established role in the managing, operation, and daily running of the business, working full time
- The veteran owner must be qualified with the relevant managerial experience in order to successfully run the business
- The veteran owner must be the highest-paid employee of the business, or else be able to demonstrate through a written declaration why their being paid less is good for the business, as well as hold the highest officer position
- The veteran owner has to have been honorably discharged from service in order to quality
All of these requirements must have been met before certification can be awarded.