Federal Supply Schedules: VA=GSA????

Earlier this year the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released the report, “VA Acquisition Management: Steps Needed to Ensure Healthcare Federal Supply Schedules Remain Useful (GAO-20-132).” (Federal News Network, February 21, 2020)

The report dives into the non-pharmaceutical Federal Supply Schedules and lays out 11 recommendations, nine to the Department of Veterans Affairs and two to the General Services Administration (GSA). The report also outlines how the VA and GSA should address their contracting operations supporting veterans healthcare. (ibid)

For some background, the Veterans Administration manages nine healthcare-related Federal Supply Schedules (VA FSS) that provide medical devices as well as services. Included in the VA FSS are medical-surgical equipment, pharmaceuticals, patient mobility devices, laboratory testing, and analysis services. The VA FSS accounts for about $15.4 billion in annual purchases, the pharmaceutical schedule making up $12.6 billion, with the additional eight schedules coming in at about $2.8 billion. For the last four years, sales under the eight non-pharmaceutical schedules have been somewhat flat. (ibid)

It turns out that the VA and GSA have a few areas where they are lacking a “team” mentality. The GAO also finds there is limited guidance and training of the VA contracting staff and it seems the VA FSS and the VA’s Medical-Surgical Prime Vendor program are duplicating efforts. This means longer processing times for contract awards, contract mods and higher admin costs for the VA and industry as a whole. (ibid)

GAO recommends the following:

  1. The VA provide comprehensive FSS guidance and training to the FSS contracting staff
  2. The VA and GSA improve collaboration, including the potential use of GSA’s procurement tools to support the VA FSS
  3. The VA evaluate timeliness goals and barriers to achieving them in the contracting process
  4. The VA assess FSS and MSPV-NB duplication to resource utilization and leverage its buying power (ibid)

The Coalition’s “VA Multiple Award Schedule White Paper” gives recommendations to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the VA FSS. The recommendations are:

  • Recognize commercial practices when possible
  • Consistency with GSA/FSS policy
  • Streamline the evaluation processes
  • Reduce contracting costs for the government as well as industry (ibid)

The white paper goes on to make specific recommendations to align the VA’s price negotiations strategy with GSA’s approach. Additionally, the white paper touches on the use of GSA’s e-Offer and e0Mod systems to streamline the procurement process. As it turns out, the VA and GSA have very different approaches to contract audit support for their FSS programs. The white paper recommends the two align with GSA’s approach. (ibid)

Will there be more opportunities to work with the VA once their processes are synced up to GSAs? Give us a call.

Veterans Affairs is Getting Cloud-y

The Department of Veterans Affairs is moving all of its new and current applications to the cloud. At the recent ACT-IAC’s Health Innovation Summit, a spokesman said, “the target is 350 applications, which is about roughly half of our portfolio, [to be] moved to the cloud by 2024.”(Fedscoop, April 10, 2019)

This announcement follows the VA’s recent move toward a modernized electronic health record and secure tele-health capabilities. Each of these actions will give veterans the ability to access their information faster and more efficiently. (ibid)

At the recent summit, an example of the importance of moving to the cloud was provided: in 2017  Hurricane Harvey left a number of Veterans Benefits Administration regional offices closed in southern Texas. VA “had just migrated some Veterans Benefits resources and materials into the cloud, and when all of those regional offices and sub-offices were shut down, every one of those rating specialists and the folks in Veterans Benefits Administration was able to continue their work without the facility being in operation.” (ibid)

The Subcommittee on Technology Modernization, within the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee continues to closely watch VA modernization efforts. As recently as last week, the House committee asked about the progress of the tool being developed to give veterans better access to non-VA community care. The representative testified that the tool will be ready by June. (ibid)

Have questions about the Department of Veterans Affairs move to the cloud? Give us a call at 301-913-5000.