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Bosma Enterprises: visionary solutions for the blind and visually impaired.

Bosma Enterprises is a nonprofit organization with a long history of helping Hoosiers who are blind or visually impaired get the skills they need to maintain personal and financial independence. Last year alone, we provided services to approximately 800 people, including veterans.

Besides offering personalized training, we’re also Indiana’s largest employer of people who are blind or visually impaired. More than 110 such employees work at every level of our company, comprising more than half of our workforce. Many workers with low or no vision work within our packaging facility, where they box and ship a variety of goods—especially exam gloves and other medical products, which we supply to hospitals operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Delivering supplies to those who care for our nation’s veterans gives our workers a strong sense of pride. Without our VA hospital contract, the jobs of our workers who are blind or visually impaired would be lost—and without the employment opportunities we offer, it’s likely that many would not find new work (contributing to an already staggering 70% unemployment rate for people who are blind or visually impaired).

Unfortunately, our contract with the VA is now at risk. 

Support from community organizations:
Blided Veterans Association
National Federation for the Blind Indiana

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Details about Bosma Enterprises action
Press release

How our mission has been helped by past legislation, and threatened by recent actions. 

Our contract to provide medical supplies to VA hospitals was originally made possible by the AbilityOne® Program, a Presidential Commission designed to provide employment opportunities for U.S. citizens who are blind and disabled—specifically, in the manufacture and delivery of products and services to the federal government. It is a mandatory source of supply, in compliance with the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act of 1938.

In 2006, Congress passed the Veteran Benefits Act (VBA), intended to expand opportunities for veteran-owned businesses. One component of the VBA—known as the “Rule of Two”—requires the VA to set aside contracts if two or more veteran-owned businesses can submit fair offers. 

In 2010, the VA issued a letter stating that all items on the AbilityOne Procurement List as of January 7, 2010 would continue to receive preference, but the VA would not propose new items for the Procurement List or participate in the Procurement List process unless the Rule of Two was first satisfied. Until recently, the AbilityOne Program and the 2006 Veterans Benefits Act have been able to coexist and successfully create opportunities for people who are blind, as well as veteran-owned small businesses.  

In summer 2016, the Supreme Court decided the case of Kingdomware Technologies v. United States, which held that the VA was required to adhere to the Rule of Two when awarding a contract. In its first response to Kingdomware, the VA issued a Class Deviation from the Veterans Affairs Acquisition Regulation Supplement (VAAR) that still gave mandatory priority to the AbilityOne Program (consistent with the 2010 final rule).

However, effective March 1, 2017, the VA changed course—amending its regulation to require that the Rule of Two be applied to all AbilityOne products and services added to the Procurement List after January 7, 2010, unless the Rule of Two was already applied.  

To protect the jobs of our workers who are blind or visually impaired, we became party to legal action against the VA, in the form of a complaint filed on May 24, 2017 by the National Industries for the Blind (NIB). That lawsuit was stayed as a similar case—PDS Consultants, Inc. v. United States—was decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Unfortunately, the Court of Appeals determined federal statute language, as currently written, favors the Rule of Two above the AbilityOne Program.

On July 11, 2019, more than 30 members of Congress, several from the U.S. Senate and House VA Committees, signed a letter that was delivered to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. The letter offers clarification of the Rule of Two and JWOD Act statutes and reaffirms the federal government’s commitment to jobs for people who are blind or severely disabled. We believe Congress never intended to benefit veteran-owned businesses at the expense of people who are blind and visually impaired, and this letter confirms that position.

Without a long-term solution, the total loss of jobs will be in the thousands—hundreds for those who are blind and visually impaired—including several veterans, many of whom are also blind. Worse still, hundreds of thousands of Americans will also lose access to critical rehabilitative and support services.

We are simply seeking clarification of a complicated procurement ruling.

For years, the VA has been an excellent partner to us, and to other nonprofit agencies of the National Industries for the Blind. We weren’t eager to enter a legal action against them—but because earlier mediation efforts by the NIB were unsuccessful, and because the AbilityOne Program is essential to the employment of our workers who are blind or visually impaired, strong measures were required.

We want nothing more than to continue our longstanding and successful relationship with the VA—and to extend our mission of helping Hoosiers with blindness and visual impairment achieve true independence.  Bosma Enterprises will continue to operate as we have in the past, and we are doing everything in our power to protect the hobs of our employees.