January 2023 is right around the corner, and huge changes are in store for the VOSB and SDVOSB certification programs as it moves from the purview of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to the Small Business Association (SBA). The federal government has a goal to spend 23% of its contracting dollars with small businesses, and 3 of those percentage points are supposed to be for SDVOSB companies. There are over 15,000 total Veteran-Owned Small Business (VOSB) and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) certified businesses in the United States. If you’re one of them, and rely on your certification to access contracting opportunities, you might be a bit concerned and curious about what’s changing, when, and what you can do right now to ensure you put your business in the best position possible.
The SBA held an online tech demonstration December 6th, showing off their new portal scheduled to go live on January 9th. Bunker Labs was in virtual attendance to make sure veteran entrepreneurs have all the important details. If you want to see the demonstration for yourself, it is available on the SBA’s YouTube Channel.
Is this the first you’re hearing about this? Here’s a quick breakdown of the most important points:
- The SBA will be taking over VOSB and SDVOSB certifications from the VA beginning January 1st, 2023. Collectively, SBA is referring to both as the Veteran Small Business Certification Program.
- The Final Rule was officially published November 29th, 2022, governing the program transition to the SBA and policy changes about who is eligible.
- Self-certification is going to sunset as a path toward sole source or set-aside government contracts nationwide in January 2024. For 2023, self-certified companies can still pursue contracts so long as they have applied for an SBA-verified SDVOSB or VOSB.
- Businesses can apply for VOSB and SDVOSB certifications in a new online portal that goes live January 9th, 2023, at https://veterans.certify.sba.gov/. The portal is not yet up, and the link currently redirects to a veteran contracting assistance page (Update: The portal is now live!).
- If you are applying for SDVOSB certification, the application happens simultaneously with your VOSB, it’s a single process you only go through once to get both certifications.
- On January 9th the SBA will launch its searchable database for government contracting officers and the general public that lists companies that have VOSB, SDVOSB, Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSB), and 8(a) firm certifications all in one search engine.
- The government surplus purchasing program afforded to VOSB and SDVOSB certified businesses will continue.
What Does All This Mean for Me?
Well, that depends on your current VOSB or SDVOSB certification status. Below, you’ll find a summary of information based on if you already have an active VOSB or SDVOSB certification, have one pending, or are interested in applying.
Already Have a VOSB or SDVOSB?
If your business already has a VOSB or SDVOSB certification that is verified by the VA Center for Verification and Evaluation (VA VCE), you do not have to worry immediately. On January 1st, your current certification’s expiration date is getting a 1-year extension, to ease the initial load on the new application portal. If you’re not certain of your current VOSB or SDVOSB status, you can check it at https://vetbiz.va.gov/vip/ for the moment, but that site will sunset shortly after the SBA portal and search tool goes up January 9th. You should be able to confirm your extension in the new search tool.
If you’re self-certified, you’re fine for the moment, but that designation is going away in 2024. For 2023, you can continue pursing government contracts so long as you have applied for your VOSB or SDVOSB through the SBA portal at https://veterans.certify.sba.gov/.
Already Applied for a VOSB or SDVOSB?
You already applied with the VA, but don’t have a response yet? The VA stopped taking new applications back in October, and are currently working their way through the backlog of applications. Ideally, you should hear back before January 9th, or your application should get transferred over to the SBA. If your application is transferred, you should be contacted and be able to track the status in the new portal on January 9th.
You can double-check the status of your application at https://vetbiz.va.gov/vip/ for the moment, but that site sunsets shortly after the SBA portal goes up January 9th.
If you’re having difficulty, the SBA encourages you to reach out to your VA contact to check the status. Many personnel have moved from the VA to SBA in relationship to this program, and if you’re looking for a particular contact that has moved over to the SBA, you can email CVEtransfers@SBA.Gov to get back in touch.
If you once had a VOSB or SDVOSB certification with the VA, but it expired or lapsed, you will have to apply with the SBA as a new applicant January 9th.
Interested in applying for VOSB or SDVOSB?
The VA is no longer accepting applications for VOSB or SDVOSB certifications. If you’re seeking certification, you need to wait until January 9th and use the new SBA portal at https://veterans.certify.sba.gov/.
If you already have a WOSB or 8(a) firm certification with the SBA, you will experience a simplified process in the new portal applying for your VOSB or SDVOSB. Think you qualify but don’t have either certification? You can get started on your WOSB or 8(a) firm certifications now, and make your VOSB and SDVOSB process easier next month.
In the meantime, the SBA suggests you go to Sam.gov, and register there, or confirm information in your profile. You want to double-check your NAICs codes, and ensure you’ve been issued a UEI (unique entity identifier) and MPIN.
If you do not first go through the process at Sam.gov, you will hit an insurmountable roadblock in your application with the SBA. The SBA portal talks directly with SAM.gov and pulls information about your business directly from it.
You might also check with the VA regarding your veteran status if you’ve had issues in the past, as the SBA portal draws directly from their database to confirm your veteran and service-disabled status.
The two key pieces of information to determine your certification are:
- Is your business “small”? This has a relationship with the NAICs codes you operate under (where at least one must designate you as “small” in your SAM.gov profile)
- Are you a veteran/are you a service-disabled veteran? The VA is the ultimate arbiter of your veteran and service-disabled statuses
While you wait for the new SBA portal to go live January 9th, you have a month to ensure these two vital pieces of information are good to go.
Why Do I need a VOSB or SDVOSB, Anyway?
There are a few reasons to get this certification or your company:
- It allows you to compete for federal and/or state government contracts. If your business is in this field, this is a requirement.
- It allows you to purchase government supply surplus items that can be vital to growing your business
- It allows you to officially signal the veteran-owned or service-disabled veteran-owned status of your company to consumers.
The tech demonstration of the SBA’s portal revealed a clean, uncluttered layout and design, responsive buttons, and a smart application system that builds your next steps based on your answers to questions, pulling information from SAM.gov and the VA database to reduce tedious data entry.
The move from the VA to the SBA promises closer integration with SAM.gov and other certifications you might have that are eligible for sole-source and set-aside government contracts. The more unified portal promises an easier time for both business owners and government contract officers.
Want to meet other Veteran Entrepreneurs?
Bunker Labs offers programming for veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs, and can be a great place to network with others running VOSB or SDVOSB certified businesses. Check out our programmatic offerings today, and join our community of entrepreneurs!