By Laura Walling, GII senior director of government affairs, advocacy & legislative affairs
Nonprofit agencies including many local Goodwill® organizations provide a critical source of employment through the AbilityOne® Program to nearly 40,000 people with significant disabilities, including more than 2,800 veterans with disabilities. The AbilityOne Program uses the purchasing power of the federal government to buy products and services from participating, community-based nonprofit agencies nationwide, dedicated to training and employing individuals who are blind or have significant disabilities. Across the nation, these nonprofits hold contracts with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for services and products on the AbilityOne Procurement List. These VA contracts employ more than 2,000 people who are blind or have significant disabilities, including many veterans.
Some of these contracts are now in jeopardy due to a provision in the Veterans Benefits, Health Care and Information Technology Act known as the “Rule of Two”, which allows the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) contracting officers to restrict competition to veteran-owned small businesses if at least two such businesses will submit offers and the award can be made at a fair and reasonable price.
Goodwill Industries International (GII) and many local Goodwill organizations recently sent a letter to leadership of the Senate Appropriations and Veterans’ Affairs Committees to include and support language in the Fiscal Year 2020 Military Construction-VA Appropriations bill to ensure that the maximum number of AbilityOne jobs are maintained while also supporting contracting opportunities for veteran business owners.
Through the AbilityOne Program, people who are blind or have significant disabilities enjoy full participation in their community and can market their AbilityOne-learned skills into other public and private sector jobs. You can help support our efforts to help protect these jobs by taking action today. Visit the GII Legislative Action Center and ask your Senators to contact the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Senate Committees on Appropriations and Veterans’ Affairs to protect jobs for people with disabilities and veterans (Goodwill CEOs click here to take action).