Jamie Herzlich Newsday columnist Jamie Herzlich

Herzlich writes the Small Business column in Newsday.

Last year, Michael D’Antoni, president of Versa-Tel TS Inc., an Amityville telecommunications firm, won a $2.67 million contract to work on technology infrastructure and fiber optic installation at the new hospital pavilion at Stony Brook University.

Versa-Tel is certified at both the state and federal level as a service-disabled veteran-owned business, which D’Antoni says gives him a competitive edge when competing for government contracts.

“The certification was key, along with my extensive training in the field, in securing the contract,” says D’Antoni, who is retired from the U.S. Air Force, where he spent 20 years working on fiber optic technology systems and data network systems.

The Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Business Act was signed into law by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in 2014, allowing eligible veteran business owners to become certified as a New York State Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Business (SDVOB).

“There is a mandate . . . to allocate 6 percent of New York State contracts to Service Disabled Veteran-Owned businesses,” says Dave Chiaro, the veteran business adviser at the Small Business Development Center at Farmingdale State University.

Eligibility for both state and federal certification for SDVOB requires receipt of a disability rating document from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, he says. Criteria and submission details can be found at ogs.ny.gov/Veterans and va.gov.

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Nassau County has mirrored the state’s certification process and 6 percent goal, Chiaro says. And a Suffolk County spokesman said Suffolk is “reviewing the state proposal to determine if this is something Suffolk County can pursue in the future.”

On the federal level, there’s a 3 percent goal for Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned businesses, Chiaro says.

The disabled-veteran program is generally a self-certification program, with a protest process if an unsuccessful bidder believes a firm isn’t eligible, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. (To do business specifically with the VA, you must get certified by the VA, Chiaro says.)

Beyond the government sector, there are good supply-chain opportunities within the private sector, says Barbara Carson, associate administrator for the SBA’s Office of Veterans Business Development and a colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserves.

There are Fortune 500 and even Fortune 50 companies that want to increase their spending with veteran-owned, service-disabled, and military spouse-owned companies, says Carson, noting some organizations are developing criteria for private-sector certification for veteran-owned businesses and military spouse-owned businesses.

For example, the Pennsylvania-based National Veteran-Owned Business Association is in the process of piloting a veterans business enterprise and service-disabled veterans business enterprise certification program, says Matthew Pavelek, the association’s vice president of membership.

It would help when competing for contracts with corporations that have diversity goals for spending, he says.

The pool of veteran-owned businesses is large. According to a recently released report by the SBA’s Office of Advocacy, in 2012 2.52 million businesses nationwide were majority-owned by veterans, representing 9.1 percent of all U.S. firms.

The number of veteran-owned businesses in the 2012 report was up about 3 percent from what had been reported five years earlier, says Joe Sobota, assistant chief counsel in the Office of Advocacy and the report’s author.

But it’s unclear whether this reflects an actual increase or the fact that the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Small Business Owners, from which the data are pulled, modified a question in the 2012 survey to include business owners who had served in the National Guard or Reserves, Sobota says.