Veteran-Owned Small Businesses: VA Improved Its Verification Program but Lacks an Effective Operational Plan for Ongoing Efforts

Since GAO’s 2013 report, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) took significant steps to improve how it verifies and communicates with veteran-owned small businesses, consistent with several of GAO’s previous recommendations. VA reported that due to process improvements, it reduced average application processing times by more than 50 percent—from 85 days in 2012 to 41 in 2015. VA reported that it generally met its regulatory goals for application processing, and GAO’s review of randomly selected application files generally corroborated this statement. VA refined the program’s quality controls and implemented an internal audit process. Veterans’ organizations and verification counselors with whom GAO spoke noted improvements in VA’s communications and interactions with veterans, although three of the four verification counselors with whom GAO spoke suggested the program’s website could be clearer and all four said the agency’s letters to veterans could be clearer. In response, VA officials said they have been redesigning the website to make documents easier to locate. Officials also said the regulatory language in the letters was necessary and they encourage veterans to obtain free assistance with their applications from VA-certified counselors.

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