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CO Should Have Followed Guidelines Giving Priority to Veterans

The Court of Federal Claims found no rational basis for transferring a requirement for laundry services to the AbilityOne Procurement List in violation of guidelines that implemented contracting preferences under the Veterans Benefits Act, because the guidelines were entitled to deference and properly gave priority to the VBA over the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act. In the protest by the incumbent contractor, the government did not dispute the contracting officer's decision to place the requirement on the AbilityOne Procurement List violated the Department of Veterans Affairs' new guidelines, which required COs to research whether service-disabled veteran-owned or veteran-owned small businesses could perform needed services before recommending a new requirement for the AbilityOne Procurement List. The list, established under the JWOD Act, consists of products and services that must be purchased from qualifying nonprofit entities that employ people with disabilities.

Space Between

The court rejected the government's contention the CO was not obligated to follow the guidelines to the extent they required action not required by the VA Act and VA Acquisition Regulations. Although the guidelines did not have the force of law, they were entitled to deference under Skidmore v. Swift & Co. (323 US 134) because they had the "power to persuade." The guidelines reflected agency-wide policy for implementing contracting preferences and "fill[ed] a space" between the VBA and the JWOD Act. In addition, the VA was justified in giving first priority to SDVO and VO small businesses pursuant to the VBA because the VBA was a specific mandate to the VA and was enacted after the JWOD Act, which was a more general procurement statute. The court enjoined the government from proceeding with a contract under the AbilityOne listing. (Angelica Textile Services, Inc. v. U.S., FedCl, 54 CCF 79,453)




(The news featured above is a selection from the news covered in the Government Contracts Report Letter, which is published weekly and distributed to subscribers of the Government Contracts Reporter. )


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