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Other SBA challenges charges amid recent changes

Veteran's Business Journal
September 3, 2006

The SBA recently reported that between 2001 and 2005 it doubled the number of small business loans made through the main SBA loan office, and cited a steady increase in clients receiving counseling, technical assistance and education. It also claimed all-time highs in steering small businesses to federal procurement contracts. But as reflected in 2005, with Lewis' job position in the SBA and the ACVBA actively involved in assisting SDVOBs, the earmarked dollars were far from meeting the 3 percent mark. Why?

"We made it very clear that we were pleased very pleased, with what Teresa (Lewis) was doing and trying to do for veterans at the SBA," Weidman said. "As time went on, we realized there were more and more things put in her way. I believe very strongly that she was told to take a new job position offered her or she was out the door. We're not pleased at all."

Almost too coincidentally for some people, SBA Administrator Hector V. Barreto, surrounded by sharpshooters sniping at his handling of the SBA's responses to hurricanes Katrina and Rita, submitted his resignation in April. According to a report published by the National Association of Government Contractors (NAGC), some folks inside the beltway believe Barreto's resignation and President Bush's nominee for replacement, Steven Preston, is an effort to " place more importance on the administration of a large government agency and less on the value of experience in an actual small business." According to the NAGC, Preston has never owned or managed a small business.

In June, the American Small Business League released a report reflecting statistics on federal contracts with all small businesses during FY 2005. It marked the lowest participation by small businesses in the past 20 years (23.09 percent in 2004 to 17 percent in 2005). The release also points to an SBA fraught with fraud and systemic abuse, citing 11 federal investigations and two private studies that have found fraud, abuse, and lack of oversight in small business contracting. Lloyd Chapman, president of the American Small Business League, called the diversion of federal contracts from small businesses "One of the biggest problems facing the SBA and the entire federal government today."

Barreto failed to reply to a letter dated May 26, 2006, from Weidman. The letter asked for straight answers regarding the removal of Lewis' office and its impact on maintaining an effective program that best represents the interests of SDVOBs. The letter also addressed the SBA's decision to permit the ACVBA's charter to expire. The letter was courtesy copied to the White House as well as key members of Congress.

In his letter of resignation to the president, Barreto does not mention either successes or failures with veterans' SBA programs administered during his tenure. He served as the SBA's chief executive since 2001. Barreto accepted an appointment to become the national chairman of the Latino Coalition, an organization based in Washington, D.C. To date, DeMolet has not received a response to his many questions for veterans dealing with the SBA. A Marine Corps veteran who served two tours in Vietnam, he is dismayed at these recent events and the lack of answers, particularly because the ACVBA was an all-volunteer force serving on their own time without compensation.

"I'm a veteran who wants to help other veterans," DeMolet said. "Our veterans will not go away we've had them since June 17th of 1775 and we will continue to have them as long as this country maintains an existence. George Washington said "A country is measured by what it does for its veterans.' That's very true."



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