BULLY BOY PRESS & CEDRIC'S BIG MIX -- THE KOOL-AID TABLE
CELEBRITY IN CHIEF BARRY O IS A LITTLE BITCH BOI AND, AS SUCH, HE CAN'T HELP BUT BRING OUT THE BITCH IN OTHERS.
CASE IN POINT, HARRY REID WHO HAS DECIDED THAT HE DOESN'T WANT TO BE SENATE MAJORITY LEADER, HE WANTS TO BE A FISH WIFE, A GOSSIPY SHREW WHO GOES AROUND REPEATING FALSEHOODS.
REACHED FOR COMMENT, REID EXPLAINED TO THESE REPORTERS, "IT'S SO MUCH FUN TO BE CATTY. I WISH I HAD DISCOVERED THIS YEARS AGO. NOW, IF YOU'LL EXCUSE ME, THAT MAN IN THE WINDOW OVER THERE LOOKS LIKE AN IDIOT AND THOSE DOUBLE CHINS! I NEED TO GO INSULT HIM."
WITH THAT, HARRY REID HURRIED OFF BEFORE THESE REPORTERS COULD INFORM HIM THAT WASN'T A WINDOW, IT WAS A MIRROR ON THE WALL AND HE'D BEEN LOOKING AT HIS OWN REFLECTION.
FROM THE TCI WIRE:
With the non-stop wars of the last years, there are a large number of veterans in the US population. Some of them would like to start their own businesses. Gordon Block (Watertown Daily Times) reports on "soldiers and veterans" who turned out for a seminar on that topic that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was behind. Those attending were able to ineract with "Empire State Development; the Departments of State, Labor, and Taxation and Finance; the state Liquor Authority and the Workers' Compensation Board." Governor Cuomo's Deputy Secretary for Civil Rights, Alphonso B. David, explains, "We want them to understand there are these resources." This week the Deputy Administrator of the US Small Business Administration Marie C. Johns explored the topic at The Huffington Post and noted, "In fact, over nine percent of veterans start or purchase a business once they return home. And the ripple effect of their entrepreneurial spirit is evident in the rate of small business ownership across the nation. Currently, there are over two million veteran entrepreneurs employing close to six million people across the nation."
Veteran businesses, Congress was told today, that apply for to be recognized as such by the VA suffer from a 60% initial rejection rate and there is a 40% rejection rate for those who apply a second time. The VA's Leney stated that the VA believed, this year alone, 59 businesses had fraudulently applied for veteran status and that they had referred those 59 to the Office of Inspector General. This is more than double the 2011 numbers (25 referred) and 2012 is not yet over.
Chair Marlin Stutzman: Everyone here knows about the problems VA has had implementing the small business provisions of a series of public laws beginning Public Law 109-461 and we'll hear more about it today, I'm sure. While addressing those continuing issues is important, especially those that may include criminal activity, the past is not my focus today. I want to know how and -- equally important -- when VA will put in place the systems and the policies that will shorten the time, decrease the level of effort needed to pass muster to lower the costs and finally create a community of veteran owned businesses that is reasonably free from unqualified companies. This is not just a VA task. There are issues we in Congress need to deal with as well.
"We have patiently waited for signs of progress following the installation of a new Executive Director of Smll and Veteran Business Programs at the VA," declared Chair Bill Johnson this morning. "And while some improvements have been made, unfortunately the goals established nearly a year ago have yet to be achieved. This Committee has an oversight responsibility to the American people to ensure that tax dollars administered by the VA are going to legitimate, qualified, veteran owned businesses. I am hopeful that today's hearing will encourage and assist the VA in reaching their goals of improving the CVE [Center for Veterans Enterprise] once and for all."
Stutzman and Johnson were co-chairing a joint hearing of two House Veterans Affairs subcommittees -- the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity (Johnson) and the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation (Stutzman).
The first panel was the Executive Director of VA's Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, Thomas Leney. That's what we're emphasizing today because I want it on the record here that the Congress believes the VA is not in compliance with the law. In addition, we're going to note the most puzzling and troubling moment of the hearing. This also took place on the first panel. If you're a veteran wanting to start a small business, you may need money. One way to get money for your business is to bring in investors. But while, in the real world, doing that will not penalize you, in the faux world of VA classifications, it turns out many veteran owned businesses are not getting recognized as such -- which can mean that they are not allowed to bid for VA contracts. VA is operating under a defintion of ownership and control that is unique to the world of VA and clearly puzzled the members of Subcommittees -- Democrats and Republicans.
First up, the issue of the law. Excerpt:
Chair Bill Johnson: Mr. Leney, you heard the quote I read just a little bit before from the Federal District Judge for the District of Columbia. He said "several of the groups cited by the CVE as a basis for denying the application for inclusion in the VetBiz VIP database are described in such generalized and ambiguous terms that the Court is essentially left to guess as to the precise basis for the agency's decision." So what steps has the CVE taken to ensure that decisions for appeals are sufficiently reasoned so that, if the issue does go to court, a judge can properly exercise judicial review.
Thomas Leney: Uh -- sir, I find that, uh, judicial concern, uh, troubling --
Chair Bill Johnson: Okay, I know you find it troubling. And we've got a lot of witnesses to hear from today. I don't want to -- I don't want to spin our wheels. Have you made any improvements as a result of that District Judge's findings and the input that we've given you from this Committee -- Subcommittee -- to make sure that appeals are sufficiently reasoned to make sure that they can be understood? Has any action been taken?
Thomas Leney: Yes, sir. As I mentioned in my oral statement every request for reconsideration receives a legal review from our Office of General Counsel on the basis of are we prepared to defend it in court?
Chair Bill Johnson: Have you made any changes to your process to make sure that they are --
Thomas Leney: That is the change to the process. Every one of our requests for reconsideration receives a legal review.
Chair Bill Johnson: Okay. And that wasn't being done prior to --
Thomas Leney: That was not being done prior.
Chair Bill Johnson: Does -- does VA possess the necessary expertice in making determinations of ownership under their current process?
Thomas Leney: Yes, sir.
Chair Bill Johnson: Okay. Does -- VA does not allow for affiliatons whereas because you testified a few minutes ago that because your processes are consistent, your regulations are consistent with SBA regulations if I heard you correct.
Thomas Leney: Yes, sir.
Chair BIll Johnson: The VA does not allow for affiliatons whereas government-wide rules do allow for affiliatons. Why is there a difference between SBA and VA's interpretation?
Thomas Leney: Sir, in response to engagement with this Committee, we undertook a review of our regulation with respect to 13 CFR 125 and 13 CFR 124 which are the SBA regulations. We found that not only are our regulations similar, our interpretations are similar as well. In fact, based on our review to date the SBA regulations routinely reaches similar if not identical decisions as the VA. We have -- We have undertaken a review of the regulation. We're doing that in collaboration with the SBA and, in fact, one of the elements, if you compare the two regulations, our regulation is much more detailed than 13 CFR 125.
Chair Bill Johnson: What about 13 CFR 121, Mr. Leney, that's also a part of this disccusion that describes the intent of the Congress? How do you -- how do you involve 13 CFR 121 in your process?
Thomas Leney: Sir, the 13 CFR 121 is one of the regulations we are now looking at as part of our review of our regulations.
Chair Bill Johnson: But it's been for a long time and we've suggested that you include it for a long time. And you're just now looking at it?
Thomas Leney: Sir, our focus -- my focus has been to implement the regulations that the VA utilizes for the verification program.
Chair Bill Johnson: But shouldn't the regulation be based on the law, Mr. Leney?
Thomas Leney: The regulation, we believe, is based on the law, sir.
Chair Bill Johnson: But not if you exclude, uhm, 121.
Thomas Leney: Sir, like I say, the Secretary [of the VA Eric Shinseki] has directed us to review the regulation. We are doing so in conjunction with the SBA and stakeholders. I cannot -- I cannot speak to why it was not being done previously. But it is being done now.
Chair Bill Johnson: How long have you been here, Mr. Leney?
Thomas Leney: Sir, I've been here a year.
Chair Bill Johnson: And this is not the first time that you've testified before this Subcommittee.
Thomas Leney: This is not the first time.
Chair Bill Johnson: We've talked about 121 before.
Thomas Leney: Yes, sir.
Chair Bill Johnson: Okay. So why are you waiting for the Secretary to tell you to do something that the law clearly requires?
Thomas Leney: Sir, as I stated, my focus has been to implement the regulation that is in place with the VA. That regulation has been long standing and it has been tested. We are now reviewing that regulation based on an extensive series of stakeholder engagements. And I'll be happy to come back and report --
Chair Bill Johnson: You'll get a chance to come back, Mr. Leney, because it's a violation of the law. 121 is part of the process and that's what this Subcommittee demands, it's what the American people demand. That's why we're losing patience with the process -- because we keep making these suggestions and we keep spinning our wheels and chasing this same rabbit around the corner over and over again. So I'm sure I'll have more questions but I'm going to go now to Mr. Stutzman for his questions.
Chair Marlin Stutzman: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I believe the VA has a fairly robust statistical analysis section. Is that correct?
Thomas Leney: Sir, I can't speak to that. I don't know.
Chair Marlin Stutzman: You don't know that --
Thomas Leney: I don't know the extent of the statistical analysis.
Chair Marlin Stutzman: You do have -- You do have one?
Thomas Leney: I can't speak to that. I do not know.
Now let's move over to issues of ownership and control and, again, we're just on the first panel and the one witness, Thomas Leney.
US House Reps Jerry McNerney and Phil Roe asked about veterans who are turned down despite owning 51% of their company. They can't get a veterans small business contract if they own 51% because that's not "control." Roe explained that if you owned 51% of GM stock, you control General Motors. However, that's not the VA definition. The VA definition is that the owner must have 100% control. There can be partners, but they can't have control or even voting rights because, as the VA is interpreting it, even voting rights waters down control. No, that doesn't make any sense at all.
Chair Bill Johnson: You said you're going towards lines of clear delineation. Give us the definition of control. You ought to be able to do that. You're the Director of this department. Tell this Subcommittee right now, tell the people that are listening today what is the defintion of control if 51% ownership doesn't qualify. What is it?
Thomas Leney: The definition of 100% control is that you can do anything you want with that business, make any decision concerning that business to include selling that business for a dollar and no one else in that business to include other owners -- other minority owners -- can do anything to prevent you from doing so.
Chair Bill Johnson: Mr. Leney, do you know of any business in the world that has more than one owner where that defintion would qualify? Can you name me one business? One?
Thomas Leney: I can name you thousands of businesses
Chair Bill Johnson: Where that definition qualifies?
Thomas Leney: Yes, sir.
Chair Bill Johnson: Under a court of law?
Thomas Leney: Yes, sir.
Chair Bill Johnson: I'd like to see them. Would you write them down and submit them to this Committee?
Thomas Leney: Yes, sir.
Chair Bill Johnson: I'd like you to do that. I'd like to see that.
Those were among the big moments in the hearing today. Time and space permitting, we'll note some other moments from the hearing tomorrow.
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