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LLC v. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

April 29, 2015

CS--360, LLC, Plaintiff
v.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS, Defendant

For CS-360, LLC, Plaintiff: Ralph Charles Thomas, III, BARTON, BAKER, THOMAS & TOLLE LLP, McLean, VA.

For U.S. DEPARTMENT OF VETERAN AFFAIRS, Defendant: Eric Joseph Young, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Washington, DC.

Page 30

MEMORANDUM OPINION

COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY, United States District Judge.

In this action, Plaintiff CS360, LLC, challenges a final decision of the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs denying its application for verification as a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business. More than three years ago, when the Court first considered the merits of this case, the Court concluded that it was " preclude[d] from effectively exercising its review function" because of defects in the VA's written decision. CS-360, LLC v. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 846 F.Supp.2d 171, 192 (D.D.C. 2012). Therefore, the Court remanded this action to the VA for further consideration and explanation of its decision to deny Plaintiff's application.[1] See id. at 192. The VA considered

Page 31

the issue on remand and once again denied Plaintiff's application. Plaintiff's challenge is now ripe for this Court's resolution once again. Before the Court are Defendant's [51] Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment and Plaintiff's [49] Second Motion for Cross-Summary Judgment. Upon consideration of the pleadings,[2] the relevant legal authorities, and the record as a whole, the Court GRANTS Defendant's [51] Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment and DENIES Plaintiff's [49] Second Motion for Cross-Summary Judgment. Although the VA's Revised Final Determination is not a model of clarity, the basis for the VA's decision is now apparent from the VA's written decision. Based on that decision, the Court cannot conclude that the decision is arbitrary or capricious, unsupported by substantial evidence or otherwise contrary to law. To the contrary, the Court concludes that there is an adequate basis in the record to support the decision, and the VA 's decision to deny Plaintiff's application survives this Court's deferential standard of review.

I. BACKGROUND

The pertinent facts in this case were laid out previously by this Court in great detail in CS-360, LLC v. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 846 F.Supp.2d at 174-184, and incorporated as part of this opinion. The Court recites here only the background essential to the Court's resolution of the currently pending motions. The Court reserves further presentation of the facts for the issues discussed below.

On June 30, 2010, the Center for Veterans Enterprise denied CS360's application for inclusion in the VetBiz VIP database in its Initial Determination. CS-360, LLC, 846 F.Supp.2d at 178. Subsequently, on November 2, 2010, the Center for Veterans Enterprise denied CS360's Request for Reconsideration in its Final Decision. As a result, Plaintiff commenced this action. The Court dismissed Plaintiff's Due Process claim (Count II) and Plaintiff's claim that the VA exceeded its statutory authority in promulgating the regulations underlying in this case (Count III). See id. at 174, 196. With respect to Plaintiff's claim that the VA violated the Administrative Procedure Act because its denial of CS360's application was arbitrary and capricious (Count I), the Court explained its conclusion that defects in the VA's decision precluded its review of that decision:

Given the ambiguous relationship between the Initial Determination and Final Decision, the vague and generalized explanations provided by the CVE on the administrative level, and the new explanations proffered by the VA before this Court, the Court cannot say with

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any level of confidence that it knows the precise grounds for the VA's decision to deny CS360's application for inclusion in the VetBiz VIP database and whether those grounds would hold up under review.

Id. 192. The Court remanded the action to the VA for further consideration and explanation because the VA had " failed to provide a satisfactory contemporaneous explanation for its decision to deny CS360's application." Id. at 184. Subsequently, the Center for Veterans Enterprise considered additional documents that Plaintiff submitted. VA00705. On September 26, 2012, the Center for Veterans Enterprise issued a new determination (" Revised Final Determination" ), once again denying CS360's application. VA00705. This action was then stayed pending the resolution of related proceedings before this Court and before the Small Business Administration. See CS-360, LLC v. U.S. Small Business Administration, 20 F.Supp.3d 104, ...


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