At the end of July 2021, the Biden administration announced that, in addition to federal government employees, onsite federal contractor employees will be required to attest to their COVID-19 vaccination status. Visitors to federal buildings or federally controlled indoor workspaces and other individuals interacting with the federal workforce also will be required to submit a signed Certification of Vaccination form.
Any onsite contractor employee or visitor who declines to respond or responds that they are not fully vaccinated must (i) wear a mask regardless of the level of community transmission; (ii) physically distance; and (iii) provide proof of having received a negative COVID-19 test from within the previous three days if not enrolled in the applicable agency’s testing program. Federal agencies are required to establish a weekly or twice-weekly testing program for individuals not fully vaccinated. In addition, all onsite contractor employees and visitors, even those fully vaccinated, will be required to wear a mask in areas of high or substantial transmission.
June 2021 marked the five-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Kingdomware decision, which is best known for broadly interpreting the so-called “Rule of Two” requirement flowing from the Veterans Benefits, Health Care, and Information Technology Act of 2006 (the “VBA”). The Rule has been criticized for delaying Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) procurements and increasing the prices the government pays for goods and services. However, the importance of the Rule’s purpose—to prioritize and increase the government’s use of small businesses owned by veterans—cannot be credibly challenged.
Over the past five years, the Federal Circuit, Court of Federal Claims, and Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) protest decisions have created some bright-line rules interpreting the VBA’s Rule of Two. After a brief summary of the Rule of Two, this post lays out these bright-line rules, and concludes with predictions regarding future VBA Rule of Two protests.
On April 10, 2020, the President issued a Memorandum to the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (“DVA”) authorizing the exercise of authority under Public Law 85-804, 50 U.S.C. §§ 1431-35. (See Memorandum on Authorizing the Exercise of Authority under Public Law 85-804.) This is a significant action that contractors must understand and be prepared to use for their benefit.
P.L. 85-804’s expansive powers are rarely invoked, used only in unique circumstances that require “extraordinary contractual actions.” See FAR Part 50. President Obama relied on P.L. 85-804 in 2014 when he granted the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (“USAID”) the authority to indemnify companies from lawsuits related to contracts performed in Africa in support of USAID’s response to the Ebola outbreak. Because there are now other legal authorities the U.S. Government may use to offer liability protection in certain circumstances (e.g., the SAFETY Act of 2002; the PREP Act of 2005), conferring liability protection under P.L. 85-804 is uncommon. The use of the law to broadly expand the U.S. Government’s contracting powers is truly extraordinary. Continue reading “Veterans Affairs Granted Unprecedented Procurement Authority under P.L. 85-804”
In response to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) has relaxed procurement rules and regulations to facilitate purchases from VA federal supply schedules (“FSS”). On March 20, 2020, the VA National Acquisition Center (“NAC”) informed all VA FSS holders that, based upon the President’s invocation of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. 5121-5207 (the “Stafford Act”), state and local governments, territories, and tribes have full access to VA FSS contracts. See Presidential Declaration of National Emergency COVID-19 – State and Local Government Ordering Procedures.
On August 15, 2019, the Defense Health Agency (“DHA”) and Defense Logistics Agency (“DLA”) agreed upon a joint approach to healthcare logistics. Under the Memorandum of Agreement (“MOA”), DLA will be responsible for materiel acquisitions, while DHA will take the lead on medical services acquisitions. The MOA clarifies the agencies’ complementary roles and responsibilities and avoids duplication of effort. The MOA covers all aspects of medical logistics support provided by DLA to DHA, and DHA’s consideration for that support in performance areas including pharmaceuticals, medical-surgical supplies, healthcare technology equipment, cataloging, and Class VIII surge and sustainment materiel required by the services to meet the demands of the national military support strategy.
On October 17, 2018, the Federal Circuit ruled that the Department of Veteran Affairs (“VA”) must give priority to veteran-owned small businesses (“VOSB”) when awarding contracts. PDS Consultants Inc. v. U.S., et al., Nos. 17-2379 and 17-2512, 2018 WL 5019735 (Fed. Cir. Oct. 17, 2018). At first blush, no one would argue with the foregoing statement. But, this mandate became less clear when the VA was faced with awarding a contract to a VOSB or following an otherwise mandatory requirement for all federal agencies to buy a specific list of items made by nonprofits employing the blind and significantly disabled.
Here is the source of confusion. More than 40 years ago, Congress enacted the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act (“JWOD”), which required federal agencies to buy certain items and services from nonprofits that employ the blind or people with other significant disabilities. Today, this mandatory procurement policy is implemented through the AbilityOne program. In 2006, Congress passed the Veterans Benefits, Health Care, and Information Technology Act (“VBA”). As the U.S. Supreme Court stated in Kingdomware, the VBA made it mandatory in almost every procurement for the VA to follow the “Rule of Two.” The “Rule of Two” requires the VA to award a contract to a VOSB whenever at least two VOSBs can perform the work at a reasonable price. Continue reading “In Department of Veterans Affairs Procurements, Veteran-Owned Businesses Trump All Other Contractors”
Effective October 1, 2018, verification of Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (“VOSBs”) and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (“SDVOSBs”) now rests with the Small Business Administration (“SBA”). (See, VA Veteran-Owned Small Business (VOSB) Verification Guidelines.) Previously, the SBA and the Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) had concurrent jurisdiction over VOSB/SDVOSB “ownership” and “control” determinations. This led to the confusing and inconsistent results. Now, the VA will no longer vet (pun intended) contractors to determine if they are eligible VOSBs or SDVOSBs. Exclusive authority to verify these businesses is now with the SBA. The new rule clarifies the VA verification process and makes VA and SBA regulations concerning VOSB and SDVOSB joint ventures consistent. The new rule stems from the Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, Public Law 114-840, which called for the SBA and VA to eliminate inconsistent regulatory interpretations of “ownership” and “control” requirements for VOSBs and SDVOSBs. Continue reading “New Rules Affecting Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (Important to Large Businesses, Too)”
The Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) National Acquisition Center (“NAC”), which administers the VA Federal Supply Schedule (“FSS”) Program, has already had a busy year. Among other procurement streamlining activities, the NAC currently is in the process of refreshing all nine (9) of its FSS solicitations to incorporate the most recent regulations and provide updates and clarifications.
Last month, the NAC updated the open and continuous Solicitation for Pharmaceuticals—Schedule 65 I B Pharmaceuticals FSS contract. The NAC issued Mass Modification 0006 and Solicitation Refresh 8. The Modification and Refresh update and incorporate procurement regulations and update or clarify FSS Program policy changes since the last refresh in February 2014, as amended. Refresh 8 applies to all companies submitting FSS proposals (for new contracts and renewals) after June 21, 2018. The Mass Modification is a standard bilateral modification to existing FSS terms and conditions, which the NAC is requesting manufacturers sign and return by July 30, 2018. Continue reading “Department of Veterans Affairs Updates Pharmaceutical Federal Schedule Supply”