VA Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem Program

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is amending its regulations concerning the VA Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem (GPD) Program. These amendments provide GPD with increased flexibility to: Respond to the changing needs of homeless veterans; repurpose existing and future funds more efficiently; and allow recipients the ability to add, modify, or eliminate components of funded programs. This rule updates these regulations to better serve our homeless veteran population and the recipients who serve them.

Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Program: Name Change

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) proposes to amend the regulations pertaining to the name of the Chapter 31 Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program. VA provides benefits and services under the program name of “Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment''. VA is proposing to amend the name to “Veteran Readiness and Employment'' (VR&E). VA further proposes that the references to the position of “Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Officer'' be amended to “Veteran Readiness and Employment Officer'' and the position of “Director of Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment'' be amended to “Executive Director of Veteran Readiness and Employment''.

Adopting Standards for Laboratory Requirements

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) adopts as final, with changes, a proposed rule amending its medical regulations to establish standards for VA clinical laboratories. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has established standards for the staffing, management, procedures, and oversight of clinical laboratories that perform testing used for the diagnosis, prevention, or treatment of any disease or impairment of, or the assessment of the health of, human beings. VA is required, in consultation with HHS, to establish standards equal to those applicable to other clinical laboratories. As a matter of policy and practice VA has applied HHS standards to its VA laboratory operations, and this rule formalizes this practice. In response to public comments this final rulemaking amends proposed language to more accurately reflect VA's utilization of CMS-deemed accreditation organizations in the process of inspection, oversight, and operational approval of VA clinical laboratories.

Third Party Billing for Medical Care Provided Under Special Treatment Authorities

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is amending its medical regulations to clarify that VA will not bill third party payers for care and services provided by VA under certain statutory provisions, which we refer to as “special treatment authorities.” These special treatment authorities direct VA to provide care and services to veterans based upon discrete exposures or experiences that occurred during active military, naval, or air service. VA is authorized, but not required by law, to recover or collect charges for care and services provided to veterans for non-service-connected disabilities. This rule establishes that VA will not exercise its authority to recover or collect reasonable charges from third party payers for care and services provided under the special treatment authorities.

Medical Care in Foreign Countries and Filing for Reimbursement for Community Care Not Previously Authorized by VA

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) adopts as final, with no changes, a proposed rule amending its medical regulations related to hospital care and medical services in foreign countries. We simplified and clarified the scope of these regulations, address medical services provided to eligible veterans in the Republic of the Philippines, and removed provisions related to grants to the Republic of the Philippines that are no longer supported by statutory authority. VA also amends its medical regulations related to filing claims for reimbursement of medical expenses incurred for VA care not previously authorized. We provided a 60-day period to receive comments from the public on the proposed changes, and received no comments. VA adopts the proposed rule as final, with no changes.

Authority of Health Care Providers To Practice Telehealth

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is amending its medical regulations by standardizing the delivery of care by VA health care providers through telehealth. This rule ensures that VA health care providers can offer the same level of care to all beneficiaries, irrespective of the State or location in a State of the VA health care provider or the beneficiary. This final rule achieves important Federal interests by increasing the availability of mental health, specialty, and general clinical care for all beneficiaries.

Expanded Access to Non-VA Care Through the Veterans Choice Program

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) adopts as final, with no change, an interim final rule revising its medical regulations that implement section 101 of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014, as amended, (hereafter referred to as “the Choice Act”), which requires VA to establish a program (hereafter referred to as the “Veterans Choice Program” or the “Program”) to furnish hospital care and medical services through eligible non-VA health care providers to eligible veterans who either cannot be seen within the wait-time goals of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) or who qualify based on their place of residence or face an unusual or excessive burden in traveling to a VA medical facility. Those revisions contained in the interim final rule, which is now adopted as final, were required by amendments to the Choice Act made by the Construction Authorization and Choice Improvement Act of 2014, and by the Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015. VA published an interim final rule on December 1, 2015, implementing those regulatory revisions, and we received seven public comments. This final rule responds to those public comments and does not make any further regulatory revisions.

Approval Criteria for Rates Charged for Community Residential Care

This document proposes to amend the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) regulation governing standards applicable to a community residential care facility (CRC) approved by VA. This regulation also addresses the amount that a veteran may be charged for residence in a CRC and how VA determines whether that rate is appropriate. Payment for the charges of CRC care is not the responsibility of the federal government or VA. The cost of community residential care is financed by the veteran’s own resources, and the resident or an authorized personal representative and a representative of the community residential care facility must agree upon the charge and payment procedures for community residential care. VA reviews and has approval authority over this agreement. We propose to amend and update the criteria VA uses to determine whether the rate for care charged to a veteran residing in an approved CRC is appropriate, to clarify how VA determines whether a CRC rate should be approved, and to make the regulation consistent with current VA practice. In addition, we propose to define in regulation the level of care that must be provided to a veteran residing in a CRC.

Definition of Domiciliary Care

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) proposes to amend its rule defining domiciliary care, to accurately reflect the scope of services currently provided under the Domiciliary Care Program. VA’s Domiciliary Care Program provides a temporary home to certain veterans, which includes the furnishing of shelter, goods, clothing and other comforts of home, as well as medical services. In 2005 VA designated its Mental Health Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Program (MH RRTP) as a type of domiciliary care. MH RRTP provides clinically intensive residential rehabilitative services to certain mental health patient populations. We propose to amend the definition of domiciliary care to reflect that domiciliary care includes MH RRTP. In addition, VA domiciliary care, as a matter of long-standing practice, includes non-permanent housing, but this is not clear in the regulation. The proposed rule would clarify that domiciliary care provides temporary, not permanent, residence to affected veterans.