Seth Anderson, IFB Solutions Director of Marketing
336-908-0925 | firstname.lastname@example.org
WINSTON-SALEM, NC (Sept. 10, 2019) – On Aug 31, the Dept. of Veterans Affairs ended the first of three optical contracts with IFB Solutions effectively eliminating 47 positions at the nonprofit agency. IFB had hoped to maintain the contract by filing one last motion in Federal Claims Court requesting a stay of contracting action by the VA until its protest with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) can be heard. On Sept. 4, a judge denied the request and the VA has moved forward with a new vendor.
“We are devastated for our employees whose positions have been eliminated with the loss of this VA contract,” said David Horton, IFB Solutions President and CEO. “From the beginning, we’ve said that we will fight for these jobs all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary. Now, we are doing just that with our official filing.”
IFB Solutions is petitioning the Court to review the judgment of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit from October 2018 giving priority to veteran-owned small businesses over AbilityOne agencies employing people who are blind in VA contracting awards.
In its filing with the Supreme Court, IFB Solutions wrote, “The harms from the Federal Circuit’s decision are deeply disturbing. Already, the VA has canceled numerous contracts held by AbilityOne qualified nonprofit agencies, which will result in the near-immediate termination of employment of hundreds of blind and severely disabled individuals, many of whom are veterans themselves. The injury does not stop there. The loss of those jobs means there will be a corresponding reduction in the ancillary services that these nonprofit agencies can provide to the blind and severely disabled in their communities.
“Only this Court can protect countless blind and severely disabled employees from a devastating loss that Congress never intended. Accordingly, the Court should intervene now to protect those who are most in need of protection.”
According to the U.S. AbilityOne Commission, more than 46,000 people who are blind or have significant disabilities are employed through the AbilityOne program, including more than 7,000 veterans. And, more than 36,000 veterans and their families receive rehabilitation and other services from AbilityOne agencies. The U.S. Supreme Court will decide in October which cases it will hear for the upcoming year.
“The toll on our workforce has been intense, especially for our employees who are blind or visually impaired and who face huge barriers to employment,” said Horton. “Nationally, 7 out of 10 working-age adults who are blind are not in the workforce. In addition, more than half of our employees relocate here to take positions with IFB Solutions as the largest employer of people who are blind or visually impaired in the country. For those employees who’ve just started to put down roots in Winston-Salem, the prospect of losing their positions and possibly leaving our community entirely is heartbreaking.”
VA Moves to End IFB’s Remaining Contracts Set to End this Fall
As IFB Solutions awaits a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, the VA also is moving forward with ending IFB’s remaining two contracts supporting 90 additional jobs in the optical lab. Those contracts are set to end on Sept. 30 and Oct. 31. In total, 137 IFB employees are at risk of losing their jobs, including 76 employees who are blind and 15 employees who are veterans.
Congress Also a Possible Recourse
IFB Solutions along with its fellow AbilityOne agencies and National Industries for the Blind continue to work with members of Congress on a possible legislative solution.
“We’re thankful to our local representatives — Senator Thom Tillis, Congressman Mark Walker and Congresswoman Virginia Foxx — who have shown support, promised action and reached out to the VA directly,” said Horton. “Our shared goal is to find a path forward that enables the VA to maximize contracting awards for veteran-owned small businesses without eliminating or reducing AbilityOne jobs for people who are blind or severely disabled.”
IFB Solutions is not alone in looking to Congress for an answer. In response to prior media inquiries, the VA has stated, “If Congress wants to change the federal laws it has set that govern this process, it can choose to do so.”
“As we have said all along, we simply do not believe that Congress ever intended for people who are blind or severely disabled employed by AbilityOne nonprofits, including thousands of veterans, to lose their jobs or lose access to services in order for veteran-owned businesses to gain contracting opportunities,” said Horton. “Whether we work with Congress on a solution or make our case before the U.S. Supreme Court, we will find a way to maintain life-changing employment opportunities for people who are blind.”
IFB Solutions Impact by the Numbers
137: Total jobs at risk in the IFB optical lab
76: Optical employees who are blind losing their jobs
15: Military veterans in the optical lab losing their jobs
7,600*: Total military veterans employed by AbilityOne agencies nationwide
36,000*: Military veterans and family members receiving rehabilitation and other services from AbilityOne agencies