Date of Conferral





Public Policy and Administration


Hilda Shepeard


U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) leaders created a Veterans First Contracting Program (VFCP) under Public Law 109-461 to provide procurement opportunities for veteran-owned small businesses (VOSBs) and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSBs). However, DVA leaders established a preference hierarchy that increased opportunities for SDVOSBs and decreased opportunities for VOSBs. Research was lacking regarding the effects of the preference policy on VOSBs as a distinct small business category. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore and understand the experiences of 20 VOSB owners actively enrolled in the VFCP from Maryland, Virginia, and District of Columbia. Through the lens of distributive justice theory, this study examined the perceptions of VOSB owners about seeking access to VFCP procurement opportunities. These perceptions were examined within a framework of fairness. Qualitative data was collected through semistructured interviews resulting in coding and thematic analysis according to Moustakas modified van Kaam method. Findings uncovered 3 major themes: (a) VOSBs perceived a benefit to VFCP enrollment, (b) preference afforded SDVOSBs affects VOSBs motivation and VFCP competition structure (c) VOSBs perceived an unfair opportunity distribution between SDVOSBs and VOSBs. The study informs government leaders of the need to improve VOSB standing as a small business group. Implications for positive social change may be realized with a policy adjustment designed to strengthen VOSB access to federal procurement opportunities because increased competition has the potential to promote DVA cost savings.