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New VA Leaders Must Fix Obama-Era Mistreatment of Veteran Entrepreneurs

New VA Leaders Must Fix Obama-Era Mistreatment of Veteran Entrepreneurs
President Donald Trump speaks during the swearing-in ceremony of Robert Wilkie (R) as Secretary of Veterans Affairs in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., July 30, 2018. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

Wednesday, 22 August 2018 03:48 PM Current | Bio | Archive

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been in a state of major political turbulence since the ousting of General Eric Shinseki over the 2014 wait-list scandal, and subsequent political removals under President Trump.

The Trump Administration’s early executive management indicates signs of light in the war to reform the troubled agency. Having successfully worked with Congress to reform union laws allowing increased accountability, Trump installed a Secretary who fundamentally shares his reform agenda in Robert Wilkie. However, one lesser reported — but serious problem — that newly installed Secretary Wilkie has the opportunity to remedy, is this shadow abuse of Service Disabled Veterans Small Owned Businesses (SDVOSBs) occurring within the agency.

The sole purpose of the VA's Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) is to provide veterans with earned benefits to aide in their economic success and achieve career goals. Among the veterans in this cohort are those that begin small businesses and serve to strengthen the American economy and achieve success after service. Despite the laws intended to promote their growth and opportunity, the very mothership that disperses their benefits and is intended to foster their success, has in too many cases violated its oath and hung them out to dry. This needs to be exposed and corrected and I am confident President Trump can get it done the same way he fixed the union issues that Obama lacked the political will to correct.

The key example I point to is the conference scandal during the Obama Administration. During this time, reports surfaced of lavish spending and conference activities that did not conform to congressional laws. The laws mandate positive and cost-effective fiscal controls designed to ensure that taxpayer resources contribute to VA's mission. Inconsistent and incomplete reporting by VA required further congressional involvement in their methods of managing conference business cases. Without the ability to improve their own conference management errors, VA enlisted veteran-business owners to fix them. These veterans fixed the errors, but then VA project managers took credit for the work and refused to pay for the veterans’ services.

The problem is very serious and sets a horrible precedence in how VA treats veteran entrepreneurs. To make matters worse, after declining to pay the bills for these veteran entrepreneurs, hired to solve the agencies’ spending scandal and management errors, the VA then acts as an agitator and adversary to the very veterans it exists to support. This is outrageous that veteran businesses working with VA to solve political and avoidable crises must then fight the agency just to get a square deal for work they performed. My investigation of the problem suggests that this is not an uncommon abuse of bureaucratic power over veteran entrepreneurs.

The good news is President Trump has been guns blazing on both the campaign trail and now as president to reform the VA in meaningful ways. He has busted the union that was standing in the way of practical accountability reforms and has expanded healthcare options for veterans. This president and Secretary Willkie possess the leadership brand to take on the big issues. This issue can be solved with the implementation of a few policy recommendations designed to curtail future cases of bureaucratic mistreatment of our veteran entrepreneurs.

Firstly, VA needs a small business Ombudsman, empowered to advocate for contract corrections or to remedy variations early during project work to avoid adversarial and counterproductive engagements.

Secondly, the agency needs to conduct an annual anonymous survey of the fleet of veteran business owners to track how VA is treating them.

Lastly, software projects should be managed by the Office of Information and Technology, and not business program managers. Veteran small businesses should be empowered to work with VA and have clear channels of support when issues arise. Having the shadow abuse and hypocritical conduct of VA bureaucrats will not work any longer. VA managers and officers should be open allies and teammates to our veteran businesses and not an adversary.

The Trump Administration has made major reforms in its initial service to our veterans, and I am encouraged that with the right policy approach the issue of veteran small business mishandling within the agencies walls can be remedied, and be successfully worked through in order to empower and support our veteran small business community.

Christopher Neiweem is the Founder of Neiweem Group, an Iraq War Veteran, and Political Strategist. He has testified in both the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate as an expert witness numerous times in front many congressional committees. These topics range from defense, veterans, commerce, education, and military personnel. He regularly appears on Fox News Channel and other news shows as a guest commentator and has worked on several political campaigns. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been in a state of major political turbulence since the ousting of General Eric Shinseki over the 2014 wait-list scandal, and subsequent political removals under President Trump.
veterans administration, va, robert wilkie
Wednesday, 22 August 2018 03:48 PM
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