VA Doubles Down on Contractors
The Veterans Administration has opened the digital door to additional contractors, even those who have never done business with the federal government before.
“For those that are interested in trying to help break that – that black hole mold of trying to figure out how to do business, we’re rolling out — and it’s ready to use now, there’s still some processes that we have to go through on the [operational technology] side for compliance — but there’s a new website, it’s a single entry point into VA, both for innovation and selling,” chief acquisition officer Michael Parrish remarked.
The VA has launched a new Pathfinder site to streamline the process for contractors to find work with the agency. The site helps vendors who have not previously worked with the VA get certified through SAM.gov, which essentially registers and keeps track of entities who want to do business with the government.
The new Pathfinder site is labelled a “demo site,” but Parrish confirmed it is operational and “open for business.” The site should be fully completed by the fall of 2022.
“This is just the beginning,” according to Parrish. He added the “next generation” of the site would include future forecasting, which would let vendors know what future opportunities may be available. There may also be a question submission function which would provide answers from VA employees within seven days.
VA Doubles Down on Contractors, Why?
Usually, government agencies like to hire as many contractors as possible, for economic, political, and ethical reasons. Temporary arrangements are much cheaper than permanent arrangements. Additionally, many conservative lawmakers champion privatization as a way to end “government waste.” Finally, if misconduct allegations or other issues arise, it is difficult to fire employees, but it is easy to tell contractors not to come back.
Financially, contractors can earn more per paycheck than most employees. However, the trade-off is non-employee contracts do not receive government benefits, nor do they enjoy the same level of job security as government employees.
VA Doubles Down on Contract Medical Professionals
The VA embraced the contracting trend a long time ago, especially in terms of medical professionals. Historically, the VA has a hard time luring top doctors away from higher-paying and more prestigious jobs in the private sector.
Unfortunately, this trend is not great news for veterans. The VA has very little control over contractors. So, when a veteran schedules a C&P (compensation and pension) medical examination, the veteran may not know who the doctor will be. In fact, if the contract is extremely short term (and it usually is), the VA may not know, either. This lessens accountability and causes inconsistency in quality of medical examinations.
On a related note, not all VA doctors, especially VA contractors, are fully qualified to evaluate all disabilities. If a doctor focuses on brain trauma, the doctor may be unfamiliar with knee and joint disabilities. The right information might not make it into the report. Alternatively, important information could get lost in translation if the contractor is not well-versed in disability claim terminology or standards of proof.
If a medical contractor did an inadequate job, a VA disability attorney can arrange for an Independent Medical Examination. IME physicians will sometimes charge little to nothing up front for VA disability claims.
Non-Employee ALJs (Administrative Law Judges)
A lesser-known fact is the VA also hires contract administrative law judges (ALJs). ALJs preside over veterans’ disability appeals hearings.
For ALJs who are permanent VA employees (i.e., not contractors), a close financial and professional relationship exists between the ALJ and the VA. This could affect the ALJs independence, as most employees want to keep their employer happy. Thus, in a close case, an ALJ may naturally sympathize with VA lawyers. ALJs are often former government lawyers themselves.
Some contractors do not enjoy as close a relationship with the VA as their permanent counterparts. Even though , though some of them are former government lawyers. However, many contractor relationships are extremely short. Thus, an ALJ contractor could have very little experience when it comes to adjudicating disability claims. This ultimately harms the veteran, especially if the claim is complex.
Nobody knows beforehand whether an individual involved with a claim from the VA side is a contractor or permanent employee. Either way, an experienced VA disability attorney can articulate the specifics of a claim. Or. appeal as clearly as possible so that a good result can eventually be obtained no matter who is involved.
Contact Hard-Hitting Attorneys
An attorney is a valuable partner in all phases of a disability claim. For a free consultation with an experienced Veterans disability lawyer, contact the Cameron Firm, P.C. at 800-861-7262 or fill out the contact box on our website. We are here to represent Veterans nationwide.
This article is for educational and marketing purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship.