VVA Testimony VVA Testimony
VVA Testimony

STATEMENT

OF

VIETNAM VETERANS OF AMERICA

 

SUBMITTED BY

RICHARD WEIDMAN
DIRECTOR, GOVERNMENT RELATIONS

 
BEFORE THE


SUBCOMMITTEE ON WORKFORCE EMPOWERMENT AND GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS COMMITTEE ON SMALL BUSINESS

REGARDING

H.R. 3263 THE VETERANS' SMALL BUSINESS RELIEF ACT OF 2001

MAY 21, 2002

 
 

Good Afternoon, Mr. Chairman.  My name is Rick Weidman, and I currently serve as Director of Government Relations for Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA).  I also have the honor of serving as Chairman of the Task Force on Veterans Entrepreneurship (TFVE), which is a united effort by virtually all of the major veterans groups as well as veteran entrepreneurs to seek proper opportunities for veterans, particularly disabled veterans, to get assistance to succeed in small business and self-employment.  I thank you for the opportunity to present brief remarks here this afternoon in regard to veterans’ entrepreneurship. 

VVA and all of us in the veterans’ community remain grateful to the members and the staff of this committee for your diligent efforts in drafting and passage/enactment of Public Law 106-50, the “Veterans Entrepreneurship and Small Business Act of 1999.”  We salute your strong leadership and vision.  We also thank you for your diligence and leadership in holding two oversight hearings last year that dealt with the implementation (or lack thereof) of P.L. 106-50. Finally, both the Vietnam Veterans of America and the Task Force for Veterans Entrepreneurship thank you for your leadership in holding this hearing today. 

After almost a two year struggle subsequent to the enactment of P.L. 106-50, we finally got procurement regulations that were substantially correct published in January of 2002.  We believe that is only because the TFVE, many Members of Congress, and others pressed hard to make this finally happen.  Even then, one of the service disabled veteran business owners that works with TFVE paid significant legal fees to a major Washington law firm experienced in regulatory matters to help make it happen.  This process has just taken too long, Mr. Chairman, and is now still not resulting in any significant procurement activity on the part of agencies in regard to ensuring that at least 3% of all contracts and all subcontracts are awarded to service disabled veteran owned and operated businesses. 

As reported here last year, the Office of the Associate Administrator for Veterans Business Development has been created at the Small Business Administration (SBA) as required by the law. However, that appears to be the sum total of all activity by any of the areas at the moment, except for the efforts of the Honorable Thomas Sullivan, the Small Business Advocate.  You will recall that P.L. 106-50 required that veterans and disabled veterans be recognized and provided required additional assistance in each and every SBA program run by or through the SBA. Not only do I have to report (again) that this has not happened, but there is virtually no reference to veterans or disabled veterans at all on the SBA web page or in their brochures.  They seem to continue to be either willfully ignorant of the law, or incredibly contemptuous of the Congress and the Congressional intent of P.L. 106-50. 

There still has been no one named to the Advisory Committee on Veterans Business Development, after three years. There has been no invitation whatsoever by the current Administrator for the TFVE or the major veterans organizations to meet with him. While the Associate Administrator for Veterans Business Development is supposed to answer directly to the Administrator, we can only assume that the contact is infrequent and generally not substantive, as it became clear to many veteran advocates at the social contacts during Small Business Week that this Administrator is not knowledgeable about the needs of veterans, much less actively engaged in the management of this program. We suspect the problem is that he is being “protected” by some at SBA who are not committed to the success of the veterans business development program. We would guess that he has no idea that he should be issuing an Administrator’s Order in regard to veterans.  Given the fact that we are at war, now might be an appropriate time to actually proceed with this action, particularly to send a message to those serving today that their Nation will not abandon them if they are wounded or injured. 

We point out that there has been little or no activity by anyone, for instance, in the Women’s Program to reach out to disabled veteran women owned business owners or would be entrepreneurs. In fact there has never been any effort by the SBA in the programs devoted to women’s programs to reach women veterans, despite the fact that this year the women’s program received well over $100 million and the veterans’ business office received only $750,000 for all activities. Clearly most staff at SBA have never read the relevant section of the law, nor has anyone in authority told them that they have responsibilities toward veterans, especially disabled veterans. 

There has been some activity by the Small Business Development Centers that has greatly aided veterans, particularly disabled veteran entrepreneurs.  We have had good cooperation and very active commitment from the Association of Small Business Development Centers, and their Executive Director Don Wilson.  

The relationship with SCORE, as mandated in the law, has been more problematic, as there has been no full time veterans coordinator appointed, which is required in the law.  In large measure this is because the S BA has never asked for the money for such a position, but rather asked SCORE to absorb the cost of this position in an already inadequate budget. A recent breakthrough in this regard is that the Executive Director of SCORE has agreed to sit down with TFVE to work out a memorandum of understanding that will actually result in something getting done for veterans. 

In fact, all of our contact with SBA, and hence our appraisal of their performance has to be generally anecdotal, as the SBA has not delivered a single written report to the Congress on the status of veterans and disabled veterans as required by the law that took effect in August of 1999.  There are rumors the report for FY 2000 has been written for more that a year, that the report for FY 2001 has been written for almost six months, but are stuck somewhere in the “concurrence” mechanisms of the bureaucracy at SBA. 

There are, of course, seemingly always frustrations in dealing with the SBA in regard to veterans.  I had always assumed that this was because there were not enough outstanding managers at the SBA.  However, VVA has discovered that out of the 36 Senior Executive Service personnel at the SBA, that none were rated as unsatisfactory or minimally successful, six were superior in their performance, and 29 were just outstanding.  In fact, 25 of them got bonuses that totaled $396,000, which is more than half of the total operating budget of the Office of the Associate Administrator for Veterans Business Development (which seems to be the sum, total of activity that assists veterans at the SBA, contrary to the law.)  

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony Principi deserves credit for moving ahead to establish the Center for Veterans Enterprise (CVE) at the Department of Veterans Affairs.  While there is a long way to go in regard to making CVE a truly substantive and useful entity, it is a very visible commitment and a good start toward something that can be truly extraordinary. 

The really bright spot in all of this is that the National Veterans Business Development Corporation is finally on track toward becoming the kind of force that it should be in regard to assisting veterans.  The Veterans Corporation (as they are often referred to now) has a full complement of Board members, and at last has a Chief Executive Officer who appears to have the imagination, integrity, strength, and drive to make the Corporation into something like this Committee first envisioned almost three years ago.  By next Autumn, there will be a number of tools available to assist veterans available all across America. 

Unfortunately, due to difficulties in the Executive branch the Corporation is over two and one half years behind where it should be at this juncture.  Therefore, we urge the Committee to take action now to authorize another two years of Federal funding for the Corporation at the $4 million level.  VVA further urges that the Certification program be moved to another entity to house it.  VVA believes that anything that detracts from the central mission of the Corporation should be moved, whether by MOU or by changing the statute. 

Lastly, Mr. Chairman, attached please find a copy of the prospective legislative and policy goals of the TFVE for the remainder of the 107th Congress.  The attached has interim approval from our participants, that will be finalized on June 11.  In the interim, we ask you and your distinguished colleagues for your support in examining what needs to be changed and “fine tuned” in P.L. 106-50, based on almost three years experience.  With your permission, we will begin work with staff at the earliest possible time. 

Thank you for this opportunity to present our views, Mr. Chairman.


VIETNAM VETERANS OF AMERICA
Funding Statement
May 21, 2002

            The national organization Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is a non-profit veterans membership organization registered as a 501(c)(19) with the Internal Revenue Service.  VVA is also appropriately registered with the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of Representatives in compliance with the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995.

            VVA is not currently in receipt of any federal grant or contract, other than the routine allocation of office space and associated resources in VA Regional Offices for outreach and direct services through its Veterans Benefits Program (Service Representatives).  This is also true of the previous two fiscal years.

For Further Information, Contact:

            Director of Government Relations

            Vietnam Veterans of America.

            (301) 585-4002 extension 127


RICHARD WEIDMAN

Richard F. “Rick” Weidman serves as Director of Government Relations on the National Staff of Vietnam Veterans of America. As such, he is the primary spokesperson for VVA in Washington. He served as a 1-A-O Army Medical Corpsman during the Vietnam war, including service with Company C, 23rd Med, AMERICAL Division, located in I Corps of Vietnam in 1969.

Mr. Weidman was part of the staff of VVA from 1979 to 1987, serving variously as Membership Service Director, Agency Liaison, and Director of Government Relations.  He left VVA to serve in the Administration of Governor Mario M. Cuomo (NY) as statewide director of veterans employment & training (State Veterans Programs Administrator) for the New York State Department of Labor.

He has served as Consultant on Legislative Affairs to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV), and served at various times on the VA Readadjustment Advisory Committee, the Secretary of Labor’s Advisory Committee on Veterans Employment & Training, the President’s Committee on Employment of Persons with Disabilities - Subcommittee on Disabled Veterans, Advisory Committee on veterans’ entrepreneurship at the Small Business Administration, and numerous other advocacy posts in veteran affairs.

Mr. Weidman was an instructor and administrator at Johnson State College (Vermont) in the 1970s, where he was also active in community and veterans affairs. He attended Colgate University  (B.A., (1967), and did graduate study at the University of Vermont.

He is married and has four children.


Attachment 1

 

Task Force for Veterans’ Entrepreneurship

Legislative Goals for 2002/03

 

  • Extend NVBDC funding to FY2006, at the rate of $4 million per year due to late start of corporation.
  • Push for at least a $3 million budget for the SBA Office of Small Business Development for FY 2003 (President’s request is only $750,000)
    • Encourage full funding for FY 2004.
  • Find methods to aid and encourage success for contracting officers who meet the 3% goal (greater than $100,000 to be used as a benchmark).
    • A1% performance and integrity bonus for contractors.
    • At a certain contract level, prime contractors identify subcontractors by name and category (i.e. veteran, women, minority, disabled, etc.).
  • Ensure that all Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) have measurable objectives in accordance with the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA).
  • Push for legislation to include service-disabled veteran-owned businesses as disadvantaged business enterprises (DBEs) in federal contracts
    • Encourage methods to easily locate disabled veteran-owned businesses.
    • Encourage Mentor Protégé programs.
  • Create the Service-Disabled Veterans Competitive Research Program that creates contract accessibility to service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses.
    • Key to the program would be its prioritization as the highest ranking among procurement assistance programs.
  • Encourage an open system of GSA schedules to give credit to agencies, which purchase from GSA schedules (and other government schedules) when they purchase from small businesses owned by veterans, women, minorities, and HUBZones.
    • Ensure compliance within two fiscal years.
  • Target the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, particularly Inouye (D-HI), McCain (R-AZ), Cleland (D-GA), and Kerry (D-MA), for support in working with DOT for targeted assistance with fair and equal competition.
  • Encourage SBA to sponsor a Summit for Veterans Entrepreneurship in FY 2003 to foster networking and mentoring/protégé programs.
  • Ensure involvement and participation in the White House Conference on Small Business.
  • Amend Chapter 31 to enable service disabled veterans enrolled in a rehabilitation program to pursue self-employment goals, and benefit from inventory, equipment, and other small business start-up assistance from the VA without requiring the veteran to establish that he or she is unable to be employed in a regular job as current policy prescribes.
  • Authorize the National Veterans Business Development Corporation to have access to all federal small business and veteran databases, and change all relevant statutes for conforming amendments. 

 

Attachment II

 

 

Task Force for Veterans’ Entrepreneurship

 Mission Statement

 Background:  On August 17, 1999, The “Veterans’ Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development Act of 1999,” H.R. 1568 was signed into law, as P.L. 106-50.  This piece of legislation is one of the most significant pieces of veterans’ legislation to be passed in years, and is going to greatly expand and improve SBA’s small business assistance services to veterans and disabled veterans.  The enactment of P.L. 106-50 was the culmination of months of closely coordinated and integrated efforts by many various veterans’ service organizations and other veterans grassroots groups. This group, presented a cohesive, united front to Congress and the Small Business Administration, and effectively advocated for the passage of P.L. 106-50.  Without a doubt, the benefits of advocating as one unified front, in contrast to a disparate and uncoordinated effort by individual groups, paid off.

Purpose:  P.L.  106-50 is now officially enacted.  However, much work remains to be done.  Veterans’ groups and other interested groups must now work to ensure that P.L. 106-50 is properly implemented and enforced.  Certain programs under 106-50 have yet to be implemented or to receive funding. The SBA Office of Veterans Affairs is currently developing initiatives and programs to be carried out under the auspices of 106-50, and the SBA Veterans Advisory Committee has also yet to be named.  In order for 106-50 to be implemented in the manner that it was intended, it is imperative that veterans’ groups and our friends take on a leadership role in the implementation process.

Mission:  The Task Force for Veterans Entrepreneurship aims to once again present a strong unified veterans’ voice in this critical process.  All veterans and military groups, and veterans’ advocates who wish to participate on this Task Force are encouraged to do so.  The Task Force will meet on a fairly regular schedule to coordinate P.L. 106-50 activities; members will keep in close contact with one another and correspondence will be sent out on Task Force letterhead, listing all member groups.  Actions of the Task Force will be taken by consensus, and hopefully augmented by efforts of the various participants.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the Task Force for Veterans Entrepreneurship please call Rick Weidman at 301-585-4000 ext. 127, Bill Truitt at 202-543-1942, or Vernessa Franklin 301-585-4000 ext.118.


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