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How to Get Certified as a Veteran Owned Business

May 2, 2019

Business owners are always on the lookout for added business benefits. More than 3 million businesses are veteran owned. For veteran-owned businesses, a certification can be the best way to push your business forward to consumers and get government contracts. This isn’t as easy as registering for a woman-owned small business, or any other minority-owned business. One of the major reasons is that if you’re looking for government opportunities, the only office that is available is the Veteran’s Affairs Office.

Veteran Owned Business Certification
The United States Veterans Affairs Office, Washington D.C.

Why should you certify your business?

Several small business owners hesitate when it comes to applying for certification because it can be an exhausting and long process. Depending on the nature of the business, several owners want this to queue them up for government opportunities. Having a service-related disability and registering can increase the chance of receiving up to 3% of federal contracts and subcontracts. This is according to The Veterans Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development Act of 1999.

However, according to Chris Hale, the president of NaVOBA, a certification alone doesn’t guarantee that business will come pouring in. It’s better to have something the government needs and actively market your business, so the government sees it.  When marketing remember that the veteran-turned-entrepreneur is a strong business story that sells. A study from National Veteran-Owned Business Association (NaVOBA) shows that 70% of Americans would prefer to purchase goods and services from veteran-owned businesses over other business types. Advertising your business as veteran-owned and certified as such is advantageous.

Are you eligible to get certified?

Once you have realized that certification is what your business really needs, you must check your eligibility. A veteran is defined by either of two terms:

  1. served in the Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard or Marine Corps for any period of time and were not dishonorably discharged
  • Served as a member of the National Guard and were called to serve as federal active duty

Veteran Owned Small Business (VOSB) Requirments

Your business is eligible if you’re a veteran and you or another veteran meet all the requirements below:

  1. Own 51% or more of the business you want to certify
  2. Have full control over the management, decision-making, and strategic policy of the business
  3. Has the experience needed to manage the business
  4. Is the highest-paid in the company (or can provide a written statement explaining why taking lower pay helps the business)
  5. Works full-time for the business

How to register as a Veteran Owned Business:

If you’ve decided you can meet government requirements for eligibility, the last thing left to do is register your business! The first way to register as veteran-owned is with the VA. Again, the Veterans Affairs Office is the only government agency with a structured certification process. Businesses certified through the VA also have a greater chance to win government contracts, as they have a $3 billion budget set just for this initiative.

The first step to register with the VA is to register with the VetBiz Registry, on the Vendor Information Database. This is a way of self-certifying your business as VOSB or SDVOSB. Once you’ve joined this database, you should apply for the Veterans First Contracting Program. From here the verification process begins – evaluating partnerships, inventory, service providers, bank statements and tax information. Few businesses will also be subject to on-site visits, both announced and unannounced, during the verification process but be prepared for the possibility.

Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSM)

To qualify for the service-disabled veteran-owned small business certification, you must meet all the requirements listed above and at least one of the following:

  1. A disability rating letter from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) confirming you have a service-related disability ranging from 0% – 100%
  • A disability statement from the Department of Defense

**Please note that any veteran who has been discharged on other than honorable may not be eligible for these certifications.**

How to register as a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business:

To register with the VA, you’ll need to prove your disabled veteran status with your military status records with a DD 214 form from the Department of Defense. You will also need the disability status letter from the VA mentioned in the requirements above. After this, you will need to apply to the Veterans First Contracting Program as well. You will notice the process continues similarly as that for a veteran-owned small business.

Other than through government channels, there are other private entities that can certify your business as; Veteran-Owned. Although these won’t give you the advantage of preference for government contracts, these are great avenues to push your business to your regular consumers and investors. Simply being veteran-owned comes with its own benefits. Marketing your business to either audience can be a challenge but targeting the government can be costly. Making use of  veteran-owned business financing options can help you create an effective marketing strategy and improve your overall business growth.


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