[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 132 (Tuesday, July 10, 2012)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 40525-40526]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-16812]


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DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS

38 CFR Part 3

RIN 2900-AO22


Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) Benefits for 
Survivors of Former Prisoners of War Rated Totally Disabled at Time of 
Death

AGENCY: Department of Veterans Affairs.

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is amending its 
adjudication regulation regarding benefits for survivors of former 
prisoners of war who were rated totally disabled at the time of death. 
This amendment is necessary to conform the regulation to the 
authorizing statutory provision. The effect of this amendment is to 
liberalize the eligibility criteria for dependency and indemnity 
compensation (DIC) based on the death of a former prisoner of war whose 
service-connected disabilities had been continuously rated totally 
disabling for at least 1 year when he or she died.

DATES: Effective Date: This final rule is effective July 10, 2012.
    Applicability Date: This final rule applies to an application for 
dependency and indemnity compensation that:
     Is received by VA on or after October 1, 2011;
     Was received by VA before October 1, 2011, but had not 
been decided by a VA regional office as of that date;
     Is appealed to the Board of Veterans' Appeals (Board) on 
or after October 1, 2011;

[[Page 40526]]

     Was appealed to the Board before October 1, 2011, but had 
not been decided by the Board as of that date; or
     Is pending before VA on or after October 1, 2011, because 
the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims vacated a Board decision on 
the application and remanded it for readjudication.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Nancy A. Copeland, Consultant, 
Regulations Staff (211D), Compensation Service, Veterans Benefits 
Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, 810 Vermont Avenue NW., 
Washington, DC 20420, (202) 461-9685. (This is not a toll-free number.)

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: DIC is a monthly benefit generally payable 
to the surviving spouse or child of a veteran who died in line of duty 
during active service or as a result of a service-connected disability. 
Under 38 U.S.C. 1318, however, DIC is payable to the surviving spouses 
or children of certain other deceased veterans. Specifically, until 
recently section 1318(b)(3) authorized payment to those survivors of a 
former prisoner of war who died after September 30, 1999, while 
entitled to compensation for a service-connected disability 
continuously rated totally disabling for a period of not less than 1 
year immediately preceding death.
    Section 603(a) of the Veterans' Benefits Act of 2010, Public Law 
111-275, 124 Stat. 2864, 2885, amended 38 U.S.C. 1318(b)(3) by removing 
the requirement that a former prisoner of war have died after September 
30, 1999, for DIC to be payable under 38 U.S.C. 1318(b)(3). 
Accordingly, VA is removing the language ``who died after September 30, 
1999'' from its implementing regulation.
    In order to conform the adjudication regulation with the statutory 
provision, VA is amending 38 CFR 3.22(a)(2)(iii) by eliminating the 
language ``who died after September 30, 1999.'' The statutory amendment 
was effective October 1, 2011. Public Law 111-275, sec. 603(b), 124 
Stat. at 2885.

Administrative Procedure Act

    The Secretary of Veterans Affairs finds, in accordance with 5 
U.S.C. 553(b)(B) of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), that this 
final rule merely incorporates statutory provisions. Therefore, the 
procedures of the APA regarding notice of proposed rulemaking and 
opportunities for public participation are unnecessary. Further, 
pursuant to section 553(d)(1), as a substantive rule which merely 
relieves a restriction, this final rule is exempt from the APA's 30-day 
delayed effective date requirement.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    This document contains no provisions constituting a new collection 
of information under the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. 3501-3521).

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    The Secretary hereby certifies that this rule will not have a 
significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities 
as they are defined in the Regulatory Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. 601-
612. This rule would not affect any small entities. Only VA 
beneficiaries could be directly affected. Therefore, pursuant to 5 
U.S.C. 605(b), this rule is exempt from the initial and final 
regulatory flexibility analysis requirements of sections 603 and 604.

Executive Orders 12866 and 13563

    Executive Orders 12866 and 13563 direct agencies to assess the 
costs and benefits of available regulatory alternatives and, when 
regulation is necessary, to select regulatory approaches that maximize 
net benefits (including potential economic, environmental, public 
health and safety effects, and other advantages; distributive impacts; 
and equity). Executive Order 13563 (Improving Regulation and Regulatory 
Review) emphasizes the importance of quantifying both costs and 
benefits, reducing costs, harmonizing rules, and promoting flexibility. 
Executive Order 12866 (Regulatory Planning and Review) defines a 
``significant regulatory action,'' which requires review by the Office 
of Management and Budget (OMB), as ``any regulatory action that is 
likely to result in a rule that may: (1) Have an annual effect on the 
economy of $100 million or more or adversely affect in a material way 
the economy, a sector of the economy, productivity, competition, jobs, 
the environment, public health or safety, or State, local, or tribal 
governments or communities; (2) Create a serious inconsistency or 
otherwise interfere with an action taken or planned by another agency; 
(3) Materially alter the budgetary impact of entitlements, grants, user 
fees, or loan programs or the rights and obligations of recipients 
thereof; or (4) Raise novel legal or policy issues arising out of legal 
mandates, the President's priorities, or the principles set forth in 
this Executive Order.''
    The economic, interagency, budgetary, legal and policy implications 
of this rule have been examined, and it has been determined not to be a 
significant regulatory action under Executive Order 12866 because it is 
merely a restatement of the statute.

Unfunded Mandates

    The Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 requires, at 2 U.S.C. 
1532, that agencies prepare an assessment of anticipated costs and 
benefits before issuing any rule that may result in the expenditure by 
State, local, and tribal governments, in the aggregate, or by the 
private sector, of $100 million or more (adjusted annually for 
inflation) in any year. This rule would have no such effect on State, 
local, and tribal governments, or on the private sector.

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Numbers and Titles

    The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance program numbers and 
titles for this rule are 64.109, Veterans Compensation for Service-
Connected Disability; 64.110; Veterans Dependency and Indemnity 
Compensation for Service-Connected Death.

Signing Authority

    The Secretary of Veterans Affairs, or designee, approved this 
document and authorized the undersigned to sign and submit the document 
to the Office of the Federal Register for publication electronically as 
an official document of the Department of Veterans Affairs. John R. 
Gingrich, Chief of Staff, Department of Veterans Affairs, approved this 
document on May 21, 2012, for publication.

List of Subjects in 38 CFR Part 3

    Administrative practice and procedure, Claims, Disability benefits, 
Health care, Pensions, Radioactive materials, Veterans, Vietnam.

    Dated: July 5, 2012.
Robert C. McFetridge,
Director of Regulation Policy and Management, Office of General 
Counsel, Department of Veterans Affairs.
    For the reasons set out in the preamble, VA is amending 38 CFR part 
3 as follows:

PART 3--ADJUDICATION

Subpart A--Pension, Compensation, and Dependency and Indemnity 
Compensation

0
1. The authority citation for part 3, subpart A, continues to read as 
follows:

    Authority:  38 U.S.C. 501(a), unless otherwise noted.


Sec.  3.22  [Amended]

0
2. Amend Sec.  3.22, paragraph (a)(2)(iii) by removing ``who died after 
September 30, 1999''.

[FR Doc. 2012-16812 Filed 7-9-12; 8:45 am]
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