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 approximately $14 billion in purchases in FY2015, the VA FSS program is currently the largest integrated market within the federal government for medical products and services.
The VA FSS program is managed by the National Acquisition Center located in Hines, Illinois. The Coalition has been encouraged to see increased communication and coordination between GSA and the VA regarding the shared operation and management of the VA FSS program. The Coalition strongly believes this heightened cooperation between the two organizations provides an opportunity to improve service to our veterans.
In particular, 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. As will be noted in the Coalition’s soon-to-be-released VA Multiple Award Schedule White Paper:
GSA uses a web-based application that allows companies to prepare and submit electronically GSA Schedule contract proposals and modifications to the government. The purpose of the system is to create an interactive, secure electronic environment that simplifies the contracting process, from submission of proposal to awards. VA does not have a similar system; although, it is considering changes that would move away from its current paper-based environment… A collaboration between the stakeholders could enhance the use of best practices. Moreover, for companies that hold both GSA and VA contracts, use of the same system could increase consistency, enhance compliance, and reduce costs.
Looking beyond GSA’s e-offer and e-modification applications, GSA and VA also should examine opportunities to leverage other electronic tools to facilitate hosting electronic catalogs for customer facilities across the VA. Collaborating and leveraging shared services across the FSS program makes good business sense for GSA, the VA, the federal government, and, most importantly, veterans.
In closing, it is fitting that this column discusses ways to improve support for our veterans, as Memorial Day weekend is upon us. In the spirit of this hallowed day, we pause to reflect on the words of Katherine Lee Bates in America the Beautiful:
O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!
The Coalition and its members join their fellow citizens in offering a prayer of remembrance and gratitude to all who have served and made the ultimate sacrifice. Let it never be forgotten that there is no higher moral obligation of a nation than to honor and support those who have kept it safe and free.