The Office of the National Ombudsman shares information for small business owners struggling with regulations

Following NCRA President Nancy Varallo’s testimony at the National Regulatory Fairness hearing before the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Office of the National Ombudsman has shared information on how small business owners can report “unfair or excessive federal regulatory compliance or enforcement.” Varallo’s testimony was specifically directed at the new HIPAA regulations on keeping personal information private, but the National Ombudsman can help small business owners with other regulatory issues as well.

The National Ombudsman: Protecting small businesses and promoting government accountability

Who is the National Ombudsman?

The Office of the National Ombudsman assists small businesses facing unfair or excessive federal regulatory compliance or enforcement issues such as repetitive audits or investigations, excessive fines, and retaliation.

As an impartial liaison, the Office of the National Ombudsman directs reported regulatory fairness matters to the appropriate federal agency for high-level fairness review and works across government to address those concerns, reduce regulatory burdens, and help small businesses succeed.

Congress established the Office of the National Ombudsman in 1996 as part of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA). The Act ensures that businesses, small government entities, and small nonprofit organizations have a means to comment if they experience unfair regulatory enforcement actions by federal agencies.

The National Ombudsman can help

  • If you’re a small business or represent one, a nonprofit organization, or a small government entity (population 50,000 or less), and
  • If your comment or complaint directly involves a federal agency and federal regulation

How to file a comment or complaint with the National Ombudsman’s office

Interested in filing a comment or complaint? Follow these three easy steps:

1. Visit sba.gov/ombudsman/comment

2. Complete the form as instructed. Here are a few tips:

  • Describe the enforcement, inspection, or compliance taken by the federal agency and the results.
  • Briefly state the specific action or outcome you are seeking.
  • Provide documentation of the action taken if available, such as correspondence, citations, or notices.

3. Submit the form directly online OR download the form and submit it by email, fax, or regular mail:

  • Email: ombudsman@sba.gov
  • Fax: 202-481-5719
  • Mail: U.S. Small Business Administration
    Office of the National Ombudsman
    409 3rd St, S.W.
    Washington, DC 20416

Keep in mind!

This process is not a substitute for any other action you may take regarding specific federal enforcement activity, so you should continue to pursue all legal and administrative remedies you believe are in your company’s best interest.

Need help?

There are two ways you can contact the Office of the National Ombudsman:

Read more or submit a comment.

 

Varallo urges action from the Small Business Administration’s National Ombudsman on HIPAA regulations

In June, NCRA President Nancy Varallo testified at the National Regulatory Fairness hearing before the National Ombudsmen at the U.S. Small Business Administration on the potential impact new compliance regulations regarding HIPAA, or Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, pose to court reporting professionals. These HIPAA regulations came into law specifically under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, commonly known as the HITECH Act. In addition to her testimony, Varallo has formally requested action from the SBA’s National Ombudsman on behalf of court reporters. She requested that “the Department of Health and Human Services exempt court reporters from provisions of HIPAA regulations, specifically the HITECH Act effective as of Sep. 23, 2013, when they are hired to provide verbatim court reporting services in the courtroom or in litigation-related forums, such as depositions, administrative hearings, arbitrations.”

Varallo’s letter to the National Ombudsman explains that court reporters have long been accustomed to keeping impartial confidentiality, and that protecting private information, including health information, is “a matter of routine business practice.” She further warns that since most court reporters are self-employed, and even most agencies which employ the services of court reporters are smaller than the SBA’s definition of a small business, “compliance with these regulations would be unduly burdensome” not just for court reporters, but also for subcontractors like proofreaders, production assistants, and scopists. The role of these subcontractors is also unclear under the current regulations. Varallo also expressed concern over a potential “abuse of intent” from lawyers or law firms who hire court reporters, who could each draft their own versions of a compliance document, “enabling the proliferation of a minefield of conflicting obligations.”

Varallo concluded her letter by saying, “With regard to court reporters, the HITECH Act will not ensure the sort of outcome envisioned by the law.” Compliance may be feasible for big business that “can undertake the cost and assign the manpower necessary,” but the nature of the court reporting field would make compliance a “significant burden.”