VetLikeMe September 25, 2014

0
886

VLM logo1 vlm

Déjà Vu All Over Again?

 

By: Edward T. DeLisle

 

edward-t-delisleAs a child growing up just outside of New York City, I was a big New York Yankees fan. My grandfather used to love telling me stories about how far Mickey Mantle could hit a ball and what a tremendous pitcher Whitey Ford was, not just for his time, but for all time. And then there was Yogi Berra. My grandfather loved Yogi Berra. He loved Yogi as much for his colorful nature, as he did for his catching prowess. His absolute favorite Berra quote was “It’s like déjà vu all over again.” It happens to be my favorite as well (although “The future ain’t what it used to be” is a very close second) and it immediately came to mind as I recently reviewed the initial pleadings in Ambuild Company, LLC v. The United States Department of Veteran’s Affairs, Court of Federal Claims, Civil Action No. 14-786C.

Back in February of 2013, the Court of Federal Claims issued its ruling in Miles Construction, LLC v. United States, No. 12-597C (February 14, 2013). Miles was a case that I litigated on behalf of a service-disabled veteran-owned company that nearly lost a contractual opportunity, along with its SDVOSB status, following a protest.

The facts were as follows: Miles Construction was a SDVOSB that had been previously verified by the VA. A few months after being verified, Miles submitted a bid on a solicitation set-aside for SDVOSB concerns. A disappointed bidder filed an agency protest with the VA, challenging Miles’ eligibility. Specifically, the protestor alleged that Miles’ service-disabled veteran owner did not “unconditionally control” the company, as required by 38 C.F.R. § 74.4. OSDBU notified Miles of the protest, asking it to “respond directly to the allegations made in the status protest.” Miles promptly responded and addressed each of the allegations. OSDBU accepted Miles’ position regarding each of the allegations lodged by the protesting party, yet sustained the protest anyway. Why? Not because of issues relating to “unconditional control,” but, rather, based upon an alleged failure of the service-disabled veteran to exhibit “unconditional ownership” over Miles, something never brought to Miles’ attention. Miles lost both the contract and its verified status based upon this decision.

We challenged OSDBU’s decision in a proceeding before the Court of Federal Claims and ultimately prevailed. Miles was reinstated as a verified SDVOSB and was later awarded the contract at issue in the case. One of the more important aspects of that decision pertained to due process. Citing to the Administrative Procedures Act, the court stated that where an agency performs an investigatory function, as OSDBU did in Miles, an interested party (like Miles) must be given notice of what’s happening so that it can meaningfully participate in that process. That did not happen. Miles was not given an opportunity to address the “unconditional ownership” issues that led to its immediate dismissal from the VA’s SDVOSB program. The court concluded that an agency cannot proceed in such a manner. It cannot issue what amounts to a death sentence without first allowing the accused a chance to defend itself. The court said it best: “an interpretation of 48 C.F.R. § 819.307(c) [the regulation pertaining to SDVOSB/VOSB eligibility protests] that does not allow this basic procedural due process is plainly erroneous and cannot be upheld.” That sounds about as straight forward as it gets, but not so fast. Let’s consider Ambuild, which was filed last month.

Ambuild Company, LLC was the apparent low bidder on a construction project at a VA Medical Center in Syracuse, New York. The second lowest bidder protested, challenging Ambuild’s SDVOSB eligibility. It alleged that Ambuild was affiliated with another company from which it was obtaining impermissible financial assistance. Both the SBA (strictly on issues relating to size) and the VA investigated the allegations and Ambuild was given the opportunity to respond. Ambuild did respond. Shortly thereafter, the SBA issued its decision. It found that there was no affiliation between Ambuild and the other company identified in the protest, meaning that Ambuild was, in fact, small. About a month later, the VA issued its decision. While it rejected each of the allegations lodged by the protesting party, it upheld the protest anyway. It did so based upon an independent review of Ambuild’s Operating Agreement and an ownership issue that it found as part of that review. Ambuild was unaware of this issue and, as such, did address issues of ownership as part of its response to the protest. The VA’s finding left Ambuild ineligible for award and resulted in its removal from the CVE database as a verified SDVOSB company. Sound familiar?

Despite the Miles decision, the VA believes that its position in Ambuild is justified. You see, following Miles, the VA revised its regulations. Ambuild has characterized that change as follows:

“They VA [] relies on an amendment to 48 C.F.R. § 819.307, which went into effect September 30, 2013, apparently in direct response to this Court’s decision in Miles I. In an effort to circumvent the due-process protections mandated in Miles I, this amendment gives the CVE the ability to ‘determine the SDVOSB or VOSB status of the protested concern based upon a totality of the circumstances…’ 48 C.F.R. § 819.307(e). According to the VA, this language permits the CVE to ‘consider facts or issues not specifically raised by the protesting party that impact the SDVOSB/VOSB status…’ 78 FR 59861-01, Rules and Regulations of the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, by Robert C. McFetridge, September 25, 2013. Under this interpretation, and as evidenced by the OSDBU Decision, a protest against a SDVOSB for any reason permits the VA to conduct a full-blown compliance review examining every potential status issue, each and every time a protest is filed.”

In other words, the VA attempted to address some of the issues raised in Miles by revising the regulations governing eligibility protests. In this regard, it seems clear that the VA would like to conduct a “full-blown compliance review” in each case where such a protest is filed. While this, in and of itself, may not be objectionable, it is unclear how the VA will address the issue of due process. The Miles case was quite clear that procedural due process, that is, the right to meaningfully respond to an agency inquiry that could result in the loss of something legally tangible, must be afforded. Based upon an initial review of the facts in Ambuild, the protested party was not given the process to which it was entitled. Moreover, it appears that if due process was, in fact, given to Ambuild, it could have allayed the VA’s concerns. It’s still early and more facts could emerge, but this certainly does appear to be déjà vu all over again.

Edward T. DeLisle is a Partner at Cohen Seglias Pallas Greenhall & Furman, PC in Philadelphia and a member of firm’s Federal Contracting Practice Group. Ed frequently advises contractors on federal contracting matters including bid protests, claims and appeals, procurement issues, small business issues and dispute resolution.


Execs at Kinston-area construction firm plead not guilty to fraud-scam-theft_~k9549532fraud charges

Lauren K. Ohnesorge

(Sep 9, 2014) – Prosecutors say executives at a Kinston-area construction firm made false statements to get federal contracts – a crime that could mean decades in prison and millions of dollars forfeited to the feds.

http://www.bizjournals.com/triangle/news/2014/09/09/execs-kinston-construction-firm-plead-not-guilty.html?page=all


 

Owner, companies plead guilty to US contract fraud

 

By – Associated Press – Monday, August 25, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – A Nebraska businessman and two construction companies he controlled pleaded guilty to criminal charges, admitting to a scheme to obtain millions of dollars in contracts that were meant to go to companies run by disabled veterans.

Ram Hingorani pleaded guilty to major program fraud Friday under an agreement that is expected to resolve a long-running case in federal court in Des Moines. Midwest Paving, Inc., pleaded guilty to money laundering, while Midwest Contracting, Inc., pleaded guilty to major program fraud and wire fraud.
Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/aug/25/owner-company-plead-guilty-to-us-contract-fraud/#ixzz3E5UTHdGa


Major milestones ahead for West Point grad’s brewery

beercans

Cans of Ground Pounder Pale Ale and Compass Rose IPA from a former Army officer’s brewery are hitting stores in Georgia this fall. (Manufacturer images)

After a successful summer launch party netted nearly $5,000 for charity, the former Army officer behind the Service Brewing Co. has two more big events on his calendar.

First, the grand opening of the Savannah, Georgia-based brewery for tasting and tours, set for Sept. 13. Then, a development that’s better news for Kevin Ryan’s many far-flung investors, battle buddies and well-wishers who aren’t exactly within walking distance:

The cans are coming.

http://www.armytimes.com/article/20140908/NEWS/309150024/Major-milestones-ahead-West-Point-grad-s-brewery


 

SBA “Safe Harbor From Fraud” Policy Gets Thumbs Down From Public

 

American Small Business League (ASBL) Discloses Overwhelming

asbl

Public Opposition to SBA’s Safe Harbor From Fraud Policy

By Lloyd Chapman – American Small Business League

September 10, 2014 – PETALUMA, Calif., Sept. 10, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Small Business Administration (SBA) has concluded taking public comment on a controversial new policy that would create a “safe harbor from fraud penalties” for large businesses that commit fraud to illegally land federal small business contracts.

Not surprisingly over 90 percent of the public comments the SBA received on the “safe harbor fraud penalties” policy were strongly opposed to it. The SBA only received two comments that favored the new policy and both of those were from law firms that represent large businesses.

SBA “Safe Harbor From Fraud” Policy Gets Thumbs Down From Public


SBA administrator faces a tough crowd at House Small Business Committee

Dangerfield

By Kent Hoover

SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet got a taste Wednesday of what awaits her from the House Small Business Committee, which doesn’t want the Small Business Administration to do anything that it hasn’t authorized.

Contreras-Sweet got off relatively easy since it was her first appearance before the committee. Chairman Sam Graves, who will step down as head of the committee at the end of this year, scolded the SBA for making policy changes, such as a new credit scoring model for loans of under $350,000, without going through the normal rulemaking process.

http://tinyurl.com/mqwgp4t


 

Think small business lending is in the dumps? Think again.

in the dumps

By Chelsey Levingston

An economy slowly improving every year is growing the appetite of small businesses for loans to fuel expansions and investments in building improvements and new equipment, local small business experts say.

And whereas credit standards stiffened in the worst of the national economic crisis, surviving banks now flush with cash are competing to win the best loan applications, say leaders of the U.S. Small Business Administration and Access Business Development & Finance Inc.

http://tinyurl.com/mjj89kp


jump boot7 Things the Army Taught Me About Running a Company

 

Like all entrepreneurs, I know that success requires strategic thinking, risk-taking, and leadership skills. But unlike most people who start their own businesses, I was trained by the greatest institution on Earth: the United States Army, where I served as an intelligence officer.

Trading my uniforms for a pair of jeans and sneakers, then going to work for Amazon, Etsy and other leading technology companies, I realized just how applicable are the lessons I learned while in the service to the constant, joyful struggle of running a business.

http://tinyurl.com/mk397fu


‘Shark Tank’ meets eBay as new Reston lender aims to help veterans, other small business owners

 

By Mark Holan

StreetShares, a new Reston-based online lending platform to connect investors and small business owners, is described by co-founder Mark Rockefeller as “‘Shark Tank’ meets eBay.”

The new company has made 14 commercial loans since June totaling about $200,000, Rockefeller said. Most are to small businesses in Greater Washington, many of them owned by military veterans such as Rockefeller, 37, who served as a U.S. Air Force JAG attorney in Baghdad.

http://tinyurl.com/muxvhk2


PETALUMA, Calif., Sept. 10, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Small Business Administration (SBA) has concluded taking public comment on a controversial new policy that would create a “safe harbor from fraud penalties” for large businesses that commit fraud to illegally land federal small business contracts.

Not surprisingly over 90 percent of the public comments the SBA received on the “safe harbor fraud penalties” policy were strongly opposed to it. The SBA only received two comments that favored the new policy and both of those were from law firms that represent large businesses.

PETALUMA, Calif., Sept. 10, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Small Business Administration (SBA) has concluded taking public comment on a controversial new policy that would create a “safe harbor from fraud penalties” for large businesses that commit fraud to illegally land federal small business contracts.

Not surprisingly over 90 percent of the public comments the SBA received on the “safe harbor fraud penalties” policy were strongly opposed to it. The SBA only received two comments that favored the new policy and both of those were from law firms that represent large businesses.

PETALUMA, Calif., Sept. 10, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Small Business Administration (SBA) has concluded taking public comment on a controversial new policy that would create a “safe harbor from fraud penalties” for large businesses that commit fraud to illegally land federal small business contracts.

Not surprisingly over 90 percent of the public comments the SBA received on the “safe harbor fraud penalties” policy were strongly opposed to it. The SBA only received two comments that favored the new policy and both of those were from law firms that represent large businesses.

How Many Big Contractors Are Actually Posing As Small Businesses?

In the sixth of its annual studies, a small business advocacy group has again blasted the government for allegedly awarding contracts to major corporations when policy intends for them to go to legitimate small businesses. The Small Business Administration offered other possible explanations for the apparent discrepancies.

The Petaluma, Calif.-based American Small Business League’s new study of fiscal 2013 procurement data concluded that of the top 100 companies receiving the highest-valued small business federal contracts, “79 were large companies that exceeded the SBA’s small business size standards, five were anomalous and 16 were legitimate small businesses.”

http://tinyurl.com/n9xbstm


SBA proposes revisions to size standards

 

September 15, 2014 by The Suburban Times Leave a Comment

The U.S. Small Business Administration published two proposed rules to revise small business size standards in North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) Sector 31-33 (Manufacturing) and industries with employee-based size standards that are not a part of NAICS Sector 31-33, Sector 42 (Wholesale Trade), and Sector 44-45 (Retail Trade). The proposed rules were published in the Federal Register today.

http://tinyurl.com/kwde99p


Miller: Did VA pressure investigators to alter report?

 

By LAUREN SAGE REINLIE | Daily News

Jeff Miller HS Com on Vet Affairs ChairPublished: Tuesday, September 16, 2014 at 06:11 PM.

Congressman Jeff Miller is questioning whether the Veterans Affairs administration watered down an independent investigator’s report on the agency.

“This matter deserves further study and review,” Miller said in a statement on Tuesday. “We will ensure that happens.”

Today, as chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Miller will preside over a hearing on an Inspector General’s report regarding misconduct at VA healthcare facilities in Arizona.

http://www.nwfdailynews.com/military/top-story/miller-did-va-pressure-investigators-to-alter-report-1.373962


Q&A with SBA administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet

by HANAH CHO- Staff Writer

SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet has a new interpretation of the acronym for the federal agency tasked with supporting U.S. small businesses: Smart, Bold and Accessible.

Contreras-Sweet was sworn in as the new head of the Small Business Administration in April. The former banker has made it a priority to modernize the agency and make resources such as access to capital more obtainable for entrepreneurs.

http://www.dallasnews.com/business/small-business/20140920-qa-with-sba-administrator-maria-contreras-sweet.ece


American Small Business League (ASBL) Discloses Overwhelming

Public Opposition to SBA’s Safe Harbor From Fraud Policy

 

By Lloyd Chapman – American Small Business League

September 10, 2014 – PETALUMA, Calif., Sept. 10, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Small Business Administration (SBA) has concluded taking public comment on a controversial new policy that would create a “safe harbor from fraud penalties” for large businesses that commit fraud to illegally land federal small business contracts.

Not surprisingly over 90 percent of the public comments the SBA received on the “safe harbor fraud penalties” policy were strongly opposed to it. The SBA only received two comments that favored the new policy and both of those were from law firms that represent large businesses.

One comment from Edward Kinberg describes, “This rule will open the door to government sanctioned fraud. Rather than take any action to ensure a business meets the size standard for a procurement, they would be able to “guess” that they do, win the contract and IF their fraud is discovered claim it was an innocent mistake.”

The American Small Business League (ASBL) sent the SBA a comment that was strongly opposed to the policy they believe will actually encourage fraud in federal small business contracting programs and protect fraudulent firms.

Under current federal law, the penalty for any large business that misrepresents itself as a small business to illegally land federal small business contracts is up to ten years in prison, a $500,000 fine per occurrence or both. Under the proposed “safe harbor from fraud penalties” policy, a large business that commits felony federal contracting fraud can avoid all penalties by simply claiming they “acted in good faith.”

A survey of over 2000 Chambers of Commerce across the country by the American Small Business League found the overwhelming majority of Chambers were strongly opposed to the policy.

Every year since 2005 the SBA’s own Office of Inspector General has named the diversion of federal small business contracts to large businesses as the number one problem at the SBA. In Report 5-15 the SBA Inspector General described the problem as, “One of the most important challenges facing the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the entire Federal government today…”

Report 5-16 from the SBA Inspector General found large businesses were committing fraud to hijack federal small business contracts by making “false certifications.”

Even President Obama recognized the magnitude of fraud in federal small business contracting programs when he released the statement, “It is time to end the diversion of federal small business contracts to corporate giants.”

Dozens of major newspapers along with ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, RTTV, Fox News and CNBC have all reported on the issue.

The SBA Office of Inspector General began finding widespread fraud in federal small business contracting programs as early as 1995.

It is unclear what the SBA’s next step will be in attempting to adopt the “safe harbor from fraud penalties” policy considering the overwhelming public opposition to the policy.

To view full press release, click here: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/sba-safe-harbor-from-fraud-policy-gets-thumbs-down-from-public-274584001.html


Talk Backfeedback3

 

by Hardy Stone Filed Under: All Articles, Back Talk, VetLikeMe Weekly

I don’t agree and find it very upsetting that the CVE verification process scrutinize personal tax forms. IRS accepts previous year filings but CVE reviews these same docs and finds error???!!

This organization appeared to have taken on the process and responsibility of the IRS, which further complicates this renewal process. As a small disadvantaged business this serves as another device to hinder our ability to compete for needed contracts and revenue to sustain operations; and provide workers with meaningful employment. Unbelievable!

In response to:

One Pricey Band-Aid: VA Wants $17.6 Billion to Fix Healthcare

Sarah, right on target! As near as I can tell, all the VSOs were calling for more money for the “underfunded” VA, too, except maybe for AMVETS. The VA has been gorging on the money Congress has been giving it over the past 10 years for more health care professionals, more mental health providers, more construction, yet now they need $17.6B more? What they need is better leadership and management, top to bottom, to spend the funds they have more effectively and to eliminate the toxic environment where their best providers leave too quickly.

That doesn’t take more money – in fact it will save them money. When they have people who enjoy their work again, when they are doing research on problems that really affect veterans’ care, when they are building facilities that are done on time and on budget, when leaders can reward their top performers and get rid of their worst, the entire enterprise will function better. Sloan Gibson … is part of the same old problem; unfortunately, he was Mr. McDonald’s USMA classmate, so he likely won’t be pushed aside. That will likely provide protection for too many of the other “old guard” senior civilians who are big parts of the problem, too. I hope I’m wrong, but this latest money grab sure looks like more of the same to me.

In response to:

Testimony of Mr. Robert A. McDonald Nominee to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs

“I hardly ever comment on these posts, but … this one deserved a
big thank you.”

In response to:

Talk Back

“I have found the SDVOSB verification process to be truly onerous. The two year [gap] between re-verifications is a joke. For the last 4 years I have had to submit all of my documentation again as the rules were changed in the middle of the process. The CVE is a route step outfit but the SBA is worse! Seems like this program doesn’t help SDVOSBs get any of the 3% contracting goal … why only 3% for folks who have fought & bled for our nation!”


Can Educators Win the Battle Against Veteran Drop-out Rates

Kaplan (3)

in Higher Education?

 

by Michael I. Kaplan

Armstrong State University’s “Green Zone” program proves the answer can be YES.

One of the greatest benefits afforded to US military veterans is a paid education. Regardless of the form it takes – an academic degree or a vocational certificate program – there is little doubt that higher education increases the probability of successful career outcomes. In theory, offering our veterans a fully paid education virtually guarantees their success.

The reality, however, is quite the opposite.

Despite the access to a quality higher education, national statistics show that 88% of veterans drop out within their first year of study. Of those who stay beyond one year, only 3% graduate their intended program of study.

Obviously, access to higher education – and the ability to pay for it – isn’t the panacea it was intended to be by the planners in the Department of Defense. There seems to be a missing variable in the “veteran success equation” when it comes to higher education.

Phil Gore, the Military & Veterans Program Coordinator at Armstrong State University, is making it it his personal mission to “solve for X.” As an army veteran, Gore knew access and financial support weren’t enough, and in 2013 helped to spearhead the Green Zone program at Armstrong State University in Savannah, GA.

The mission of the program is to increase student veteran retention through faculty awareness programs and a wide variety of veteran support initiatives. The calculus proves it: it’s working.

At a time when veteran retention in higher education seems like a losing battle, Gore’s numbers show that the student veteran demographic is increasing at a rate of 7%. Impressed by both his efforts and his demonstrable success, I had the chance to sit down with Phil Gore and get valuable insight into how and his Green Zone program is so successful.

Michael: Veterans often encounter a number of challenges when transitioning out of the armed forces; what specific challenges do service members face while transitioning to university life?

Phil: Transitioning out of the military is largely an independent experience. Veterans often have difficulty switching gears to a new focus outside of their military training and become frustrated when their skills do not translate into college credits. They can feel alienated because the vast majority live off campus, and they come from an intense, tight-knit community where everyone has common goals into an environment where relationships are much more casual.

Statistically, Veterans are much older than traditional students, are married with children, and work full-time jobs, making it difficult to relate to their classmates. Finally, Veterans often face difficult questions about their service in a combat zone and can feel like they are being “attacked” about their past experiences.

Michael: How can university faculty, staff, and administrators help veterans make the difficult transition from military to university life?

Phil: Educators need to be educated. Programs have to be developed that create awareness about this part of the student population that provide support focused towards enabling students to achieve their academic goals. The university’s faculty, staff, and administration need to demonstrate their dedication to serving those that have served.

Michael: What skills do Veterans bring to campuses that are different from traditional students?

Phil: Veterans bring a different perspective to a college campus. They have already established an identity, have a worldly view, and possess life experiences unmatched by anyone else on campus. They also bring military skills such as stress management, leadership, motivation, time management, and a strong work ethic.

Michael: What are the traits of a truly military and Veteran-friendly institution?

Phil: To create a military and Veteran-friendly campus culture, a University has to increase awareness of Veteran’s programs on and off campus and provide staff members with a core set of Veteran cultural competencies. The Institution also has to implement best practices and policies designed to foster social support, acceptance, and a setting that meaningfully acknowledges the contributions of Veterans.

Michael: How is success measured for support programs created to aid Veteran students?

Phil: Traditionally, 71% of Veterans begin using their GI Bill benefits, but only 6% exhaust them. The Post-9/11 GI Bill has the potential to have as significant an impact on higher education and the workforce as the original legislation did in 1944. The only way to achieve that same impact is to have transition programs on campuses that use enrollment, participation, re-enrollment, and certificate and or degree completion as measures for success.

The proven success of the Green Zone program warrants a wide variety of discussions on many levels. If you’re involved with veterans in higher education on any level or in any capacity, the model created at Armstrong State University serves as a standard of excellence to be emulated and replicated. I encourage anyone who is passionate about veteran success in higher education to speak with Phil Gore and find out more about the program.

Can you solve for “X”? X = Green Zone

ATTENTION READERS
Due to the nature of independent content, VT cannot guarantee content validity.
We ask you to Read Our Content Policy so a clear comprehension of VT's independent non-censored media is understood and given its proper place in the world of news, opinion and media.

All content is owned by author exclusively. Expressed opinions are NOT necessarily the views of VT, other authors, affiliates, advertisers, sponsors, partners or technicians. Some content may be satirical in nature. All images within are full responsibility of author and NOT VT.

About VT - Read Full Policy Notice - Comment Policy