What Is the Vets First Verification Program? Do You Need It?

5 min read • Mar 18, 2020 • Jesse Sumrak

Nearly 50% of all American veterans decided to ditch the corporate career route after World War II and forge their own entrepreneurial paths. With their training, discipline, and willingness to sacrifice, these military members made fantastic small business owners. But since the Korean War, the percentage of military veterans starting businesses has dwindled.

Why? Because starting a business wasn’t easy, and the US economy made it nearly impossible for veterans to get access to the financing and resources they needed. That’s far from the case today.

The government noticed the issue and did something about it (if only they’d do the same thing about the DMV). By introducing veteran-specific educational programs, financing opportunities, and set-aside contracts, the US government has finally given military members an even playing field.

One business-changing advantage the government has given veterans is the Vets First Verification Program. Qualifying for this program could change the way you do business forever. If you’re a veteran small business owner, don’t do business another day without learning the ins and outs of this program—it’s a game-changer for anyone who is targeting government contracts.

What Is the Vets First Verification Program?

The Vets First Verification Program is a government program that allows your business to bid on federal set-aside contracts and get exclusive access to resources and support. To do any business with the US Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), you’ll need to register your business with the Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU), which isn’t as easy as it should be. More on that later.

Government contracting can open up millions of dollars of new opportunities for your business—that’s why securing a contract is so tricky. Fortunately for you, The Veterans Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development Act of 1999 guarantees up to 3% of quality federal government contracts and subcontracts will be set aside for veteran-owned small businesses (VOSB) and service-disability veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSB). That 3% might not seem like a lot, but since the government spent $550 billion on contracts in 2018, rest assured—there’s a whole lot of business to be had.

Advantages of Being a Veteran-Owned Small Business

While qualifying and registering your VOSB can be a pain in the you-know-what, it’s definitely worth it. Here is a taste of the benefits and advantages you can expect:

  • Ability to Work with the VA: The VA only works with VOSBs and SDVOSBs, so you’ll be part of a smaller pool for any work they have to offer.
  • Set-Aside Government Contracts: Be first in line to win federal contracts reserved just for military veterans. These contracts could make up the entirety of your entire business.
  • Educational Resources: The VA offers training on everything from building a successful business plan to strategies to win government work.
  • Mentorship and Networking: You’ll be connected to individuals who have the know-how to guide you in the right direction. The VA will also help you build relationships and connections with large private-sector firms and those in charge of government procurement.
  • Special Financing Terms: The SBA offers small business loans to the general population, but they provide lower rates, better terms, and financial support to VOSBs.

How to Register Your Business as a VOSB

Before you try and register your business as a VOSB, make sure you meet all the VA’s qualifications:

  • Be considered a veteran, meaning (a) you’ve served on active duty in the military and have not been dishonorably discharged or (b) served as a Reservist and were called to federal active duty or were injured in the line of duty.
  • Own at least 51% of the company you register and be in charge of the day-to-day operations and management.
  • Have the necessary experience to make business decisions.
  • Must be the highest-paid person at the company.
  • Work full-time for the business you’re registering.
  • Hold the highest position at the business.

If all of these conditions are true, then you qualify to register your business as a VOSB.

Next, you’ll need to apply online through the Vets First Verification Program. The application will walk you through all of the necessary steps.

If you have questions about your eligibility or how you can ensure your application will be accepted, the Center for Verification and Evaluation (CVE) hosts free webinars to answer all of your questions. You can also find a local Verification Assistance Counselor to give you one-on-one support by using the VA’s state-organized list.

Get Registered—It’s Worth the Hassle

Even if you don’t want access to set-aside government contracts or educational resources, it’s still a good idea to register your business as veteran-owned. Studies show that 70% of Americans prefer to do business with a VOSB than a non-veteran-owned one. This is a free, fantastic opportunity you can’t pass up!

The process can be a hassle, but it’s worth it in the end. Don’t wait to get the help you need—these exclusive resources are invaluable, especially for new business owners. Thank you for your service—we wish you the best of luck in this next important stage of your career. 

Jesse Sumrak

Jesse Sumrak is a Social Media Manager for SendGrid, a leading digital communication platform. He's created and managed content for startups, growth-stage companies, and publicly-traded businesses. Jesse has spent almost a decade writing about small business and entrepreneurship topics, having built and sold his own post-apocalyptic fitness bootstrapped startup. When he's not dabbling in digital marketing, you'll find him ultrarunning in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Jesse studied Public Relations at Brigham Young University.