Working with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) can be a rewarding, impactful experience. It’s the federal government’s second largest Agency after the Defense Department, employing approximately 400,000 people at hundreds of medical facilities, benefit centers and national cemeteries. The lives of Veterans and their families depend on these services, and VA relies on quality vendors to help deliver those services.
To do business with VA, vendors must first know the department’s mission, priorities and acquisition process. Vendors also need to know the acquisition centers they must go through to successfully do business with VA. I’ve compiled some must-knows and helpful info below to get you started.
- First, Know VA’s Strategic Plan Goals
Much of what VA plans to accomplish in the next five-plus years can be found on its website. This information is critical for any vendor to understand before going through the proposal process.
Ultimately, VA strives to “communicate with customers and partners to assess and maximize performance, evaluate needs and build long-term relationships and trust.” This includes delivering accessible and high-quality benefits, care and services to meet the needs of Veterans and their families; and maintaining trust with those it serves as well as employees and caregivers through transparency and accountability.
VA is also focused on creating sustainable and efficient business operations through governance, systems, data and management to improve experiences and services to veterans.
- Understand VA’s Modernization Priorities
To achieve its mission and commitment to veterans, VA has put in place modernization priorities that are the foundation of many of its contracts and needs from the vendor community. These priorities include customer service, business transformation and electronic health record modernization.
Improved customer service and care are the building blocks to increasing trust in VA. And modernizing business processes and EHRs increase effectiveness and transparency, improve delivery of care and services and ultimately, help VA get things done.
Direct your proposal teams with these priorities and goals in mind and think, How can our vendor services help VA achieve them?
- Familiarize Your Team with VA’s Acquisition Process
This may sound obvious but take the time to familiarize yourself with the workings of VA acquisition. VA’s Office of Procurement, Acquisition and Logistics is a great go-to resource where you’ll find information on regulations, registrations, opportunity portals, required background clearances and more.
Then dig into VA’s major lines of business: Acquisition of Supplies, Equipment and Services; Manage and Administer Interagency Agreements; Represent VA on Intergovernmental Acquisition Groups; and Agency Competition Advocate. Align your outreach and opportunities with the business line that best suits your company and services.
Most importantly, all vendors must go through VA’s acquisition centers in order to do business with the department.
- Get Comfortable with VA’s Acquisition Centers and Why They Matter
VA has a trio of acquisition centers: the National Acquisition Center (NAC), the Strategic Acquisition Center (SAC) and the Technology Acquisition Center (TAC). Here’s a brief rundown of each:
NAC supports VA’s health requirements. Under the Federal Supply Schedule and the National Contract Programs, it awards high-volume, multiple-award schedules, national contracts and Blanket Purchase Agreements for the acquisition and direct delivery of pharmaceuticals, and medical, surgical, dental and patient mobility equipment/supplies. Services under this center can include high-technology medical equipment and temporary allied health care staffing services.
SAC provides enterprise wide solutions, dedicated acquisition support, program management expertise and non-IT life cycle management for VA’s highly complex requirements through the delivery of strategically sound contracts. These types of services cover a range of veteran-based needs such as the suicide hotline, service dog insurance, VA modernization support program, community care programs and more.
TAC is a multi-disciplined organization that provides streamlined business and contracting solutions for major IT programs, and includes engineering, customer service and operations divisions. TAC provides customers with innovative acquisition guidance in support of their complex IT procurement needs, and supports programs including EHR modernization, Financial Management System modernization, veteran employment systems and more.
- Finally, Have a Go-To-Market Strategy
It’s critical that all vendors seeking to do business with VA have a go-to-market strategy. They should also have a preferred Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) partner. The federal government aims to award at least 3% of all federal contracting dollars to SDVOSBs each year. And having a go-to-market strategy will show VA your product or services are ready and effective.