[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 135 (Friday, July 13, 2012)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 41273-41276]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-17069]


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DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS

38 CFR Part 0

RIN 2900-AO33


Core Values and Characteristics of the Department

AGENCY: Department of Veterans Affairs.

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: This document amends the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) 
regulations concerning the standards of ethical conduct and related 
responsibilities of its employees by adding a new subpart for VA's Core 
Values and Characteristics. These

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foundational values and organizational characteristics define VA 
employees and articulate what VA stands for, respectively, and they are 
a set of guidelines that will be applied Department-wide to all VA 
employees. This final rule establishes VA's Core Values and 
Characteristics, and ensures their proper application to the VA 
workforce.

DATES: Effective Date: July 13, 2012.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Robert McFetridge, Office of 
Regulation Policy and Management (02REG), Department of Veterans 
Affairs, 810 Vermont Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20420, (202) 461-4902. 
(This is not a toll-free number.)

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This rulemaking amends 38 CFR part 0 to 
establish VA regulations regarding VA's core values for its employees 
and the desired characteristics for the organization. These regulations 
set into place internal guidelines to which VA expects its employees to 
adhere in their interactions with each other and with veterans, their 
families, and their caretakers. The Core Values and Characteristics are 
the product of a 2-year collaborative and comprehensive development 
process, which was motivated by a desire to unite the entire VA 
workforce under one set of guiding principles. VA recognizes that every 
single worker plays a critical role in supporting the overall strategic 
vision and mission of the agency and also contributes to its 
professional reputation as an organization. Beginning in 2009, 
participating representatives from the many different VA organizations 
provided considerable input into the creation of the Core Values and 
Characteristics. VA also considered input from its workforce through 
surveys, feedback, and discussion. Based on these activities, and the 
recommendations of the different panels and groups, the Secretary of 
Veterans Affairs approved the guidelines, and on June 20, 2011, he 
announced them to the entire agency.
    The Core Values define VA employees and describe how VA may be 
distinguished from other organizations. They define VA's culture and 
underscore its commitment to veterans. These Core Values are: 
Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect, and Excellence. The Values 
represent VA's beliefs and provide a baseline for the standards of 
behavior expected of all VA employees. Together, the first letters of 
the Core Values spell ``I CARE,'' a motto which should be adopted by 
every member of the VA workforce.
    The Core Characteristics define what VA stands for and how it would 
like to be recognized as an organization. They help guide the execution 
of VA's mission, shape its strategy, and influence resource allocation 
and other key decisions made within VA. These Characteristics are: 
Trustworthy, Accessible, Quality, Innovative, Agile, and Integrated. 
They are a common set of principles around which VA's actions are 
organized and describe the traits all VA organizations should possess 
and demonstrate. The VA Characteristics are relevant today, but also 
forward-looking. They identify the qualities needed to successfully 
accomplish VA's current missions and also support the ongoing 
transformation to a 21st Century organization.
    The adoption of these Core Values and Characteristics will not only 
reaffirm practices already used by many VA employees, but it will also 
establish one set of guidelines applicable across the entire VA 
workforce. They are not entirely new concepts, and they are in large 
part derived from many values VA has demonstrated throughout its 
existence. Codifying these principles will ensure they receive the 
proper emphasis at all levels within VA, are clearly understood by the 
workforce, and, most importantly, become an enduring part of the VA 
culture. The ``I CARE'' logo will be prominently displayed in all VA 
facilities, as the agency wishes to use these principles to send a 
strong signal to veterans, family members, and other beneficiaries that 
the agency takes pride in what it does and cares deeply about its 
mission. The Core Values and Characteristics demonstrate that VA is a 
``people-centric'' organization.
    In order to maintain these Core Values and Characteristics over 
time, VA may periodically review whether the guidelines are achieving 
their intended purpose and remain relevant in the current environment. 
VA is open to revising the Core Values and Characteristics to adapt 
them to changing times, as necessary. They are not linked to any 
particular person or group, so although people come and go within VA 
all the time, the Core Values and Characteristics are meant to endure. 
There are no immediate plans to change existing formal processes for 
evaluating employees based on the Core Values and Characteristics. 
However, in Fiscal Year 2012, VA will be implementing a formalized 
program to recognize the VA personnel and organizations which best 
exemplify the Core Values and Characteristics.
    The current title of part 0, ``Standards of ethical conduct and 
related responsibilities,'' is being broadened to include the concept 
of ``values'' in the title. That addition reflects the inclusion of 
VA's Core Values and Characteristics as principles that are separate 
and distinct from the standards of ethical conduct for federal 
employees.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    This document contains no provisions constituting a collection of 
information under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501-
3521).

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    The Secretary hereby certifies that this final 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 final rule does not affect any small entities. Therefore, 
pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 605(b), this final rule is exempt from the initial 
and final regulatory flexibility analysis requirements of sections 603 
and 604.

Executive Orders 12866 and 13563

    Executive Order 12866 and 13563 direct agencies to assess all 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, 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,'' requiring review by the Office of Management and 
Budget (OMB) unless OMB waives such review, 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.''

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    The economic, interagency, budgetary, legal, and policy 
implications of this final rule have been examined and it has been 
determined not to be a significant regulatory action under Executive 
Order 12866.

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 given year. This final rule will have no such effect 
on State, local, and tribal governments, or on the private sector.

Administrative Procedure Act

    This final rule establishes internal guidelines relating to agency 
practice or procedure and sets forth general statements of agency 
policy. Accordingly, this rule is exempt from the prior notice-and-
comment and delayed-effective-date requirements of 5 U.S.C. 553. See 5 
U.S.C. 553(b)(A) and (d)(2).

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Numbers

    There are no Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance program numbers 
for this rule.

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 July 5, 2012, for publication.

List of Subjects in 38 CFR Part 0

    Conflict of interests, Employee ethics and related 
responsibilities, Government employees.

    Dated: July 9, 2012.
Robert C. McFetridge,
Director, Office of Regulation Policy and Management, Office of the 
General Counsel, Department of Veterans Affairs.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 38 CFR part 0 is amended 
as follows:

PART 0--VALUES, STANDARDS OF ETHICAL CONDUCT, AND RELATED 
RESPONSIBILITIES

0
1. The authority citation for 38 CFR part 0 continues to read as 
follows:

    Authority:  5 U.S.C. 301; 38 U.S.C. 501; see sections 201, 301, 
and 502(a) of E.O. 12674, 54 FR 15159, 3 CFR, 1989 Comp., p. 215 as 
modified by E.O. 12731, 55 FR 42547, 3 CFR, 1990 Comp., p. 306.


0
2. Revise the heading of part 0 to read as set forth above.

Subparts A & B [Redesignated]

0
3. Redesignate subparts A and B as subparts B and C, respectively.

0
4. Add new subpart A to read as follows:

Subpart A--Core Values and Characteristics of the Department

Sec.
0.600 General.
0.601 Core Values.
0.602 Core Characteristics.

Subpart A--Core Values and Characteristics of the Department


Sec.  0.600  General.

    This section describes the Core Values and Characteristics that 
serve as internal guidelines for employees of the Department of 
Veterans Affairs (VA). These Core Values and Characteristics define VA 
employees, articulate what VA stands for, and underscore its moral 
obligation to veterans, their families, and other beneficiaries. They 
are intended to establish one overarching set of guidelines that apply 
to all VA Administrations and staff offices, confirming the values 
already instilled in many VA employees and enforcing their commitment 
to provide the best service possible to veterans, their families, and 
their caretakers.


Sec.  0.601  Core Values.

    VA's Core Values define VA employees. They describe the 
organization's culture and character, and serve as the foundation for 
the way VA employees should interact with each other, as well as with 
people outside the organization. They also serve as a common bond 
between all employees regardless of their grade, specialty area, or 
location. These Core Values are Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, 
Respect, and Excellence. Together, the first letters of the Core Values 
spell ``I CARE,'' and VA employees should adopt this motto and these 
Core Values in their day-to-day operations.
    (a) Integrity. VA employees will act with high moral principle, 
adhere to the highest professional standards, and maintain the trust 
and confidence of all with whom they engage.
    (b) Commitment. VA employees will work diligently to serve veterans 
and other beneficiaries, be driven by an earnest belief in VA's 
mission, and fulfill their individual responsibilities and 
organizational responsibilities.
    (c) Advocacy. VA employees will be truly veteran-centric by 
identifying, fully considering, and appropriately advancing the 
interests of veterans and other beneficiaries.
    (d) Respect. VA employees will treat all those they serve and with 
whom they work with dignity and respect, and they will show respect to 
earn it.
    (e) Excellence. VA employees will strive for the highest quality 
and continuous improvement, and be thoughtful and decisive in 
leadership, accountable for their actions, willing to admit mistakes, 
and rigorous in correcting them.


Sec.  0.602  Core Characteristics.

    While Core Values define VA employees, the Core Characteristics 
define what VA stands for and what VA strives to be as an organization. 
These are aspirational goals that VA wants its employees, veterans, and 
the American people to associate with the Department and with its 
workforce. These Core characteristics describe the traits all VA 
organizations should possess and demonstrate, and they identify the 
qualities needed to successfully accomplish today's missions and also 
support the ongoing transformation to a 21st Century VA. These 
characteristics are:
    (a) Trustworthy. VA earns the trust of those it serves, every day, 
through the actions of its employees. They provide care, benefits, and 
services with compassion, dependability, effectiveness, and 
transparency.
    (b) Accessible. VA engages and welcomes veterans and other 
beneficiaries, facilitating their use of the entire array of its 
services. Each interaction will be positive and productive.
    (c) Quality. VA provides the highest standard of care and services 
to veterans and beneficiaries while managing the cost of its programs 
and being efficient stewards of all resources entrusted to it by the 
American people. VA is a model of unrivalled excellence due to 
employees who are empowered, trusted by their leaders, and respected 
for their competence and dedication.
    (d) Innovative. VA prizes curiosity and initiative, encourages 
creative contributions from all employees, seeks continuous 
improvement, and adapts to

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remain at the forefront in knowledge, proficiency, and capability to 
deliver the highest standard of care and services to all of the people 
it serves.
    (e) Agile. VA anticipates and adapts quickly to current challenges 
and new requirements by continuously assessing the environment in which 
it operates and devising solutions to better serve veterans, other 
beneficiaries, and Service members.
    (f) Integrated. VA links care and services across the Department; 
other federal, state, and local agencies; partners; and Veterans 
Services Organizations to provide useful and understandable programs to 
veterans and other beneficiaries. VA's relationship with the Department 
of Defense is unique, and VA will nurture it for the benefit of 
veterans and Service members.

[FR Doc. 2012-17069 Filed 7-12-12; 8:45 am]
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