In 1960, the General Services Administration (GSA) delegated the management and operation of the Federal Supply Schedules (FSS) for medical supplies, pharmaceuticals, and services to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA FSS program and its contractors provide vital products and services to VA hospitals, medical facilities, and professionals, directly supporting the healthcare needs of veterans. Accounting for more than $14 billion in purchases in FY2018, the VA FSS program currently is the largest integrated market within the Federal government for medical products and services.
There is no responsibility more sacred than supporting our nation’s veterans. To this end, the Coalition is encouraged to see the recent efforts between VA and the Defense Health Agency (DHA) to enhance care for veterans by leveraging resources across agencies and programs. The Coalition believes that GSA has a similar opportunity to improve service for our nation’s veterans through heightened cooperation with the VA.
GSA’s ongoing Federal Marketplace initiative involves the consolidation of all Multiple Award Schedules (MAS) into a single Schedule. This consolidation will streamline processes, increase competition, and reduce transactional costs for both government and industry. The end result will be improved vendor access to the market and improved government access to innovative solutions. In light of this effort, now appears to be the right time to harmonize and streamline the policies and procedures of the VA and GSA Schedules. Indeed, considering its responsibility for the Schedules program, GSA should provide the policy support necessary to align VA’s policies with GSA’s current framework.
In addition, GSA’s electronic tools are a potential game changer for the VA. Working together, GSA and the VA have the opportunity to create and leverage a shared services model to provide the VA with access to, and use of, those electronic tools to support the VA FSS contracting process. By so doing, the agencies could promote the use of best practices, as well as increase consistency, enhance compliance, and reduce costs.
Putting aside the many other additional process improvement opportunities worthy of consideration, such as GSA’s Global Supply program, collaborating and leveraging policies and resources across the Schedules program makes good business sense for GSA, the VA, the Federal government, and, most importantly, our nation’s veterans. The efficiencies that derive from this effort yield, not only unrealized savings, but also process efficiencies that will ensure that veterans have access to the latest innovations in medical products, services, and pharmaceuticals.
For this reason, the Coalition supports collaborative efforts between the VA and GSA towards improving the care of veterans, and it stands ready to work with the agencies. It is our national responsibility, and no words better express that responsibility than those of Abraham Lincoln:
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”