Headline: The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 increase in the simplified acquisition threshold and micro-purchase threshold “simplifies” the federal acquisition process.
Anything that has to do with government matters can change, either sporadically, or through a lengthy legislative process. Veteran Administration Federal Acquisition legislation is no exception. The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) System creates uniform policies and procedures organizations must follow when doing business with the government. Additionally, in order to provide contracting guidance and programs specifically for Veterans—the Veteran Administration Acquisition Regulation system was created.
As expected, the FAR and the VAAR are constantly modified and changed, and although we are able to rapidly communicate digitally today, these updates are slow to be disseminated or translated to the key stakeholders in federal acquisitions.
Even the most astute Contracting Officer (CO) may find it challenging to remain up-to-date with FAR. It is even more difficult for those who focus on Veteran Administration (VA) and Department of Defense (DOD) acquisitions as they have an additional layer of legislation to adhere to. Federal contracts that involve the VA or DOD serve two purposes: they are to both provide quality products and services to Veterans and Active Duty Military members, as well as support the businesses of those individuals who have served our country and may have been injured in the process. The VAAR is important as it supports Veterans who own small businesses—essentially giving back to those who have served our country. Yet, the VAAR creates additional complexities that COs must be knowledgeable about, and this can become problematic with unstable legislation and insufficient communication.
For instance, following the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision in Kingdomware Technologies, Inc. v. United States, June 16, 2016, the Department of Veteran Affairs issued a memorandum to VA heads of contracting citing changes to the VAAR. Mainly, new policies were implemented giving precedence to Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSBs) for both above and below the simplified acquisition threshold VA acquisitions. Essentially, this means that the “rule-of-two” is mandatory and applies to all VA procurements. Although the determination of what is a “fair and reasonable expectation that two or more SDVOSBs are able to offer fair and reasonable prices to the VA is still unclear, the changes to the VAAR did tighten up on the responsibility of the VA to put SDVOSBs first in their search for a vendor who can fulfil a request and even set-aside opportunities for only SDVOSBs.
While the July 25, 2016 changes to the VAAR issued by the Department of Veteran Affairs is fairly well-known, notable changes were recently issued that raise the stakes for all VA acquisitions. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 (NDAA FY18), made official on December 12, 2017, increased the simplified acquisition threshold to $250,000—a nice increase from the previous $150,000. However, when some products needed, for instance, at a hospital, cost in the ballpark of $100,000 or more, the total is already approaching the threshold when more than one item is requested.
That said, an even bigger win for the VA is Public Law 115-91, Section 806, whereby the NDAA FY18 raised the micro-purchase threshold to $10,000. Now, any federal acquisitions that exceed $10,000 and come in under $250,000 must be automatically reserved exclusively for small businesses. Likewise, VA facilities are able to procure products and services quicker on their government-issued credit card with the increase of the micro-purchase threshold. Previously, any purchases that exceeded $3,500 had to go through contracting, which can be a lengthy process. Now federal facilities are able to purchase up to $10,000 worth of products and services on their government-issued credit card. This is markedly significant for VA hospitals and U.S. Military Treatment Facilities when clinicians need to get a specific medical or surgical item for a veteran or Active Duty Military member. Logistics or clinician buyers can simply call suppliers, such as Geo-Med, LLC, a SDVOSB medical and surgical supplier, and purchase the items they need with their government-issued credit card, allowing the items to be shipped to them quicker.
Despite these celebrated changes to the VAAR, they have yet to be fully implemented. Only recently did the Civilian Agency Acquisition Council (CAAC) issue a memorandum for civilian agencies making them aware of the changes and providing documentation for deviations from the existing language in the FAR and VAAR that have not been changed yet.
The changes to the VAAR are a step in the right direction in affording COs more agency in awarding contracts to SDVOSBs and allowing VA and DOD facilities to procure needed products and services quicker using their government-issued credit card. It is with anticipation that with increased awareness and education provided by the CAAC, the DOD, and other federal agencies, that the VAAR changes will be implemented at the VA and DOD facility level soon so they can take full advantage of new opportunities.
Jessica Lynn Campbell is Geo-Med’s Sales and Marketing Operations Manager. Jessica holds a Bachelor’s in Psychology, a Master’s in English-Technical Communication, and is currently obtaining a PH. D. in Texts and Technology. Jessica is an experienced technical writer and has been published in both scholarly and media publications. Her primary research is health and medical communications. Jessica can be reached at Jessica.firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-810-7542.
Geo-Med, LLC is a verified Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) medical and surgical supplier to the Veteran Health Administration and Department of Defense Medical Facilities. Our primary focus is on providing high-quality products and exceptional customer service to our VHA and DOD customers.