[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 138 (Wednesday, July 18, 2012)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 42230-42238]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-17434]


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DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS

38 CFR Part 64

RIN 2900-AO35


Grants for the Rural Veterans Coordination Pilot (RVCP)

AGENCY: Department of Veterans Affairs.

ACTION: Proposed rule.

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SUMMARY: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) proposes to establish 
a pilot program, known as the Rural Veterans Coordination Pilot (RVCP), 
to provide grants to eligible community-based organizations and local 
and State government entities to be used by these organizations and 
entities to assist veterans and their families who are transitioning 
from military service to civilian life in rural or underserved 
communities. VA would use information obtained through the pilot to 
evaluate the effectiveness of using community-based organizations and 
local and State government entities to improve the provision of 
services to transitioning veterans and their families. Five RVCP grants 
would be awarded for a 2-year period in discrete rural locations 
pursuant to a Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA) to be published in 
the Federal Register.

DATES: Comments must be received by VA on or before September 17, 2012.

ADDRESSES: Written comments may be submitted through http://www.Regulations.gov by mail or hand delivery to the Director, 
Regulations Management (02REG), Department of Veterans Affairs, 810 
Vermont Avenue NW., Room 1068, Washington, DC 20420; or by fax to (202) 
273-9026. Comments should indicate that they are submitted in response 
to ``RIN 2900-AO35, Grants for the Rural Veterans Coordination Pilot 
(RVCP).'' Copies of comments received will be available for public 
inspection in the Office of Regulation Policy and Management, Room 
1063B, between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through 
Friday (except holidays). Please call (202) 461-4902 (this is not a 
toll-free number) for an appointment. In addition, during the comment 
period, comments may be viewed online through the Federal Docket 
Management System at http://www.Regulations.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Karen Malebranche, Veterans Health 
Administration, Office of Interagency Health Affairs (10P5), 810 
Vermont Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20420, telephone (202) 461-6001. 
(This is not a toll-free number.)

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On May 5, 2010, the President signed into 
law the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 
(2010 Act), Public Law 111-163. Section 506(a) of the 2010 Act, 
codified at 38 U.S.C. 523 note, requires VA to establish a pilot 
program to assess the feasibility and advisability of using community-
based organizations and local and State government entities to:
     Increase the coordination of community, local, State, and 
Federal providers of health care and benefits for veterans to assist 
veterans who are transitioning from military service to civilian life 
in such transition;
     Increase the availability of high quality medical and 
mental health services to veterans transitioning from military service 
to civilian life;
     Provide assistance to families of veterans who are 
transitioning from military service to civilian life to help such 
families adjust to such transition; and
     Provide outreach to veterans and their families to inform 
them about the availability of benefits and connect them with 
appropriate care and benefit programs.
    In addition, section 506(c)(2) instructs VA to carry out the 
program in five locations to be selected by the Secretary of Veterans 
Affairs. In selecting locations, section 506 requires VA to consider 
sites in:
     Rural areas;
     Areas with populations that have a high proportion of 
minority group representation;
     Areas with populations that have a high proportion of 
individuals who have limited access to health care; and
     Areas that are not in close proximity to an active duty 
military installation.
    This rulemaking proposes regulations to implement this statutory 
mandate by

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establishing a 2-year pilot program to be known as the ``Rural Veterans 
Coordination Pilot'' and by its acronym ``RVCP.''
    Under the RVCP, VA would award grants to eligible entities that 
propose to provide assistance to certain veterans and their families 
who are making the transition from military service to civilian life in 
rural or underserved communities; specifically, veterans covered under 
the pilot program are those who were discharged or released from 
service up to 2 years prior to the date funds are awarded to the 
grantee.
    In section 506(g) of the 2010 Act, Congress required VA to report 
on the experience of the RVCP, including an assessment of its benefits 
to veterans and the advisability of continuing the pilot program. 
Because VA must make this report within 180 days following the 
completion of this pilot, VA proposes to offer grants that would be 
available for the 2-year period of the pilot and to require strict 
adherence to the reporting deadlines established.

64.0 Purpose and Scope

    Proposed Sec.  64.0 would set forth the purpose of the RVCP and the 
scope of part 64. The purpose of the RVCP is to provide grants to 
community-based organizations and local and State government entities 
to be used to assist veterans who are transitioning from military 
service to civilian life in rural or underserved communities and the 
families of such veterans. Proposed part 64 would apply only to the 
RVCP.

64.2 Definitions

    Proposed Sec.  64.2 would define terms applicable to Sec.  64.0 
through Sec.  64.18 and to the NOFA that will be published in the 
Federal Register, as required by proposed Sec.  64.8.
    We propose to define ``applicant'' as an eligible entity that 
submits an application for a grant as announced in a NOFA. Any eligible 
entity would become an applicant by submitting an application.
    ``Community-based organization'' would be defined as a group that 
represents a community or a significant segment of a community and that 
is engaged in meeting community needs. This definition would ensure 
that grant funds are used to reach smaller groups that are able to 
operate within communities and to reach veterans and/or their families 
in areas that are harder for VA to reach through existing means, which 
is the Congressional intent behind section 506.
    An ``eligible entity'' would be defined as a community-based 
organization or a local or State government entity. These are the 
organizations and entities identified in section 506 of the 2010 Act as 
the possible recipients of grants under the RVCP. An eligible entity 
would be identified as the legal entity whose employer identification 
number is on the Application for Federal Assistance (SF 424), even if 
only a particular component of the entity is applying for the RVCP 
grant. This would help ensure the integrity of the program because it 
would enable VA to evaluate the applicant organization as part of the 
larger entity, and would help ensure a broader distribution of grant 
funds because VA would not award more than one grant to any one 
eligible entity.
    A ``grantee'' would be defined as a recipient of an RVCP grant, in 
other words, an applicant that is awarded an RVCP grant.
    We propose to define having ``limited access to health care'' as 
residing in an area identified by the Health Resources and Services 
Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 
(HHS) as being a medically underserved area or having a medically 
underserved population. HHS defines medically underserved areas or 
populations as having ``too few primary care providers, high infant 
mortality, high poverty and/or high elderly population.'' Areas that 
meet these criteria can be found on HHS's list of medically underserved 
communities published on their interactive Web site at http://muafind.hrsa.gov. This definition would ensure that grant funds assist 
persons in the types of areas contemplated by section 506 of the 2010 
Act, i.e., ``areas with populations that have a high proportion of 
individuals who have limited access to health care.''
    We propose to define ``local government'' as a county, 
municipality, city, town, township, or regional government or its 
components. This definition is consistent with the plain language of 
section 506.
    For purposes of the RVCP, VA proposes to use the definition of 
``[m]inority group member'' found at 38 U.S.C. 544(d). This definition 
includes individuals who are Asian American, Black, Hispanic, Native 
American (including American Indian, Alaskan Native, and Native 
Hawaiian), or Pacific-Islander American. There is no reason to 
interpret ``minority group'' as used in section 506 of the 2010 Act in 
a manner other than as used for other title 38 programs or activities.
    A ``Notice of Funds Availability,'' or ``NOFA,'' would be defined 
as the notice published by VA in the Federal Register alerting eligible 
entities of the availability of RVCP grants and containing important 
information about the RVCP grant application process, in accordance 
with proposed Sec.  64.8.
    A ``participant'' would be defined as a veteran or a member of a 
veteran's family who receives services for which an RVCP grant is 
awarded.
    To define ``rural,'' VA proposes to rely on information compiled 
and provided by the U.S. Census Bureau in identifying rural 
communities. The Census Bureau's classification of ``rural'' consists 
of all territory, population, and housing units located outside of 
urbanized areas and urban clusters. Interested parties are referred to 
the Census Bureau's Web site (http://www.census.gov/geo/www/ua/ua_2k.html) for additional information. Section 506 offers no specialized 
meaning of the term, and therefore, we believe it is rational to use 
the definition provided by the U.S. Census Bureau. This definition 
would ensure that grant funds assist persons in the types of areas 
contemplated by section 506(c)(2)(A) of the 2010 Act.
    The ``Rural Veterans Coordination Pilot,'' or ``RVCP,'' refers to 
the pilot grant program authorized by section 506 of the 2010 Act.
    We propose to define ``State government'' as any of the fifty 
States of the United States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth 
of Puerto Rico, any territory or possession of the United States, or 
any agency or instrumentality of a State government. This definition is 
consistent with the plain language meaning of the term and its use in 
section 506 of the 2010 Act.
    We propose to define ``underserved communities'' as those areas 
that have a high proportion of minority group representation, have a 
high proportion of individuals who have limited access to health care, 
or have no active duty military installation that is reasonably 
accessible to the community. Section 506 of the 2010 Act directs VA to 
consider making RVCP grants available in such communities. We propose 
to refer to these communities collectively as ``underserved 
communities'' because these areas have been identified as lacking in 
medical and other services that are available to individuals in other 
areas. Use of a single term to identify these areas would make 
reference to them in these regulations easier and more efficient.
    Section 506(c)(2)(D) requires VA to consider ``areas that are not 
in close proximity to an active duty military installation.'' We 
interpret ``close proximity'' to mean something other than a mere 
distance. VA recognizes that the geography surrounding any given 
military installation will vary, and

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that geographical and transportation barriers may affect the time that 
it takes to reach a military installation which, by simple mileage 
count, may be in close proximity. For example, some rural areas are 
functionally more remote than others owing to issues such as geographic 
features (e.g., mountainous regions, lakes, major rivers) and seasonal 
restrictions (e.g., limited ferry service, closed roads or bridges, 
reduced flights). Therefore, we would refer in the definition of 
``underserved communities'' to areas that ``have no active duty 
military installation that is reasonably accessible to the community,'' 
in order to emphasize that it is accessibility, not solely distance, 
that would be used to determine whether a particular location is 
appropriate for RVCP funding.
    We propose to define a ``veteran who is transitioning from military 
service to civilian life'' as one who is leaving active military, 
naval, or air service in the Armed Forces to return to life as a 
civilian. To ensure that RVCP funds are used to assist veterans and 
their families who are actively transitioning, i.e., who are 
experiencing the acute effects of the change in lifestyle, we would 
limit the term to veterans who have been discharged or released from 
service not more than 2 years prior to the date on which an RVCP grant 
is awarded. In section 506, Congress directs VA to use this pilot to 
assess the feasibility and advisability of using these organizations 
and entities to assist in providing benefits and assistance to veterans 
and their families ``who are transitioning from military service to 
civilian life.'' We believe that the initial 2 years after discharge or 
release pose the greatest challenge to veterans and their families as 
they relocate and readjust to the civilian way of life.
    We would use ``VA'' to refer to the U.S. Department of Veterans 
Affairs for purposes of ease and readability.
    We propose to define a ``veteran'' as a person who served in the 
active military, naval, or air service and who was discharged or 
released under conditions other than dishonorable. This definition is 
consistent with 38 U.S.C. 101(2) and the use of the term in other VA 
benefit programs.
    We propose to define the ``veteran's family'' as those individuals 
who reside with the veteran in the veteran's primary residence. These 
individuals may include a parent, a spouse, a child, a step-family 
member, an extended family member, and individuals who reside in the 
home with the transitioning veteran but are not a member of the family 
of the transitioning veteran. We believe this definition is 
representative of the family unit of many transitioning veterans today. 
We do not propose to provide services under this pilot program to 
family members who do not reside in the veteran's primary residence, 
such as separated or divorced spouses, surviving spouses, or children 
who primarily reside with the other parent, because these individuals 
are less likely to be experiencing the effects of transition or may 
have other resources available to assist them. Moreover, we note that 
this definition of family is consistent with the definition set out in 
section 101 of the 2010 Act governing assistance and support services 
for caregivers (see 38 U.S.C. 1720G(d)(3)).

64.4 RVCP Grants--General

    Proposed Sec.  64.4 would provide general information pertaining to 
RVCP grants. Section 506(c)(1) of the 2010 Act directs VA to carry out 
the RVCP in five locations. To meet this requirement, in Sec.  64.4(a) 
and (b), we propose to award a total of five RVCP grants to eligible 
entities and to limit the awards to one grant per eligible entity and 
one grant for each pilot project location. For this purpose we hope to 
gather evidence on the effectiveness of community-based organizations 
and local and State government entities in various locations in 
increasing the availability and coordination of care and benefits 
available to transitioning veterans and their families at all levels 
(i.e., at the local, State, and Federal levels) and providing 
assistance and outreach services to these veterans and their families 
to help them transition successfully to civilian life.
    In proposed Sec.  64.4(c), we propose that each RVCP grant award 
would be for a maximum period of 2 years, which is the length of the 
RVCP under section 506 of the 2010 Act. To maximize the effectiveness 
of the pilot, we propose that the date on which the 2 years would begin 
would be the date on which the RVCP grants are awarded. No extensions 
or renewals would be available as the RVCP would end 2 years after the 
date the awards are granted.
    In proposed Sec.  64.4(d), we state that a grantee would not be 
required to provide matching funds as a condition of receiving an RVCP 
grant. Our goal with this pilot is, in part, to assess how eligible 
entities in target areas that currently lack the resources needed to 
assist transitioning veterans and their families might be able to 
provide them with needed assistance were additional resources 
available. Requiring matching funds could negate the ability of 
otherwise eligible entities to qualify for RVCP grants.
    Proposed paragraph (e) would specify that no participant would be 
charged a fee for any services provided by a grantee under the RVCP 
grant and would not be required to participate in any other activities 
sponsored by a grantee as a condition of receiving assistance under the 
RVCP grant. Grantees would be expected to provide the services for 
which the RVCP grants are made to the participant without charge or 
condition.

64.6 Permissible Uses of RVCP Grants

    In proposed Sec.  64.6, we would define the permissible uses of 
RVCP grants. In general, as provided in section 506 of the 2010 Act, 
RVCP grants would be used to increase the coordination of health care 
and benefits for transitioning veterans, to increase the availability 
of high quality medical and mental health services to transitioning 
veterans, to provide assistance to families of transitioning veterans, 
and to provide outreach to veterans and their families. We would 
provide specific examples of each of these purposes in Sec.  64.6(a). 
These examples are intended to be guidance to potential applicants and 
not an exclusive list. We propose to require that at least 90 percent 
of the RVCP grant be used for these purposes. The reason that we 
provide examples is to offer guidance; VA would encourage highly 
innovative RVCP grant projects and would allow use of grant funds to 
evaluate new strategies in each of these areas, and we reemphasize that 
we do not intend these examples to limit applicants' attempts to 
provide creative, innovative ways to reach the goals stated in 
paragraphs (a)(1) through (4).
    Under proposed Sec.  64.6(b), grantees would be required to limit 
the use of the RVCP funds for the indirect costs of doing business to 
no more than 10 percent of the RVCP grant awarded to the grantee. These 
costs would include those expenses of doing business that are not 
identified directly with the services provided using the RVCP grant but 
are necessary for the general operation of the grantee organization. We 
recognize that applicants would incur such costs to fulfill any 
proposal. Limiting the amount that would be used to cover these costs 
would ensure that RVCP grants are used primarily for the benefit of 
transitioning veterans and their families. We believe 10 percent of the 
total grant awarded is fair and reasonable because we anticipate that 
many of the entities who would apply for these grants are already 
actively working to assist veterans and their families in the target 
communities, but

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they may lack the funding necessary to be fully effective or to 
increase the reach of their services. In these cases, by allowing 10 
percent to be used for indirect costs, we provide a mechanism for these 
entities to increase their services and recover any additional costs of 
recordkeeping and reporting necessitated by the terms of the grant 
award.

64.8 Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA)

    Proposed Sec.  64.8 would describe the method VA would use to 
announce the availability of the five RVCP grants. VA proposes to 
publish a NOFA in the Federal Register when funds are available to 
award RVCP grants. The NOFA would direct eligible entities to the 
Grants.gov portal, which is used for Federal grant programs, and would 
indicate the forms available on that site that applicants would be 
required to use. The NOFA also would specify the date, time, and place 
for submitting completed RVCP grant applications, the estimated amount 
of funds that would be available for all RVCP grants, and the maximum 
amount available for an RVCP grant to a single entity. The NOFA would 
state the points required for each category listed in Sec.  64.12 and 
the minimum number of total points necessary for an application to 
qualify for potential funding, and the dates by which scoring would be 
completed and applicants notified. VA would state in the NOFA the 
timeframes and manner in which payments would be made to successful 
applicants. The NOFA would include any additional information necessary 
to complete the application process for an RVCP grant. To ensure that 
applicants have all the resources necessary to them, VA would include 
information in the NOFA informing eligible entities how to contact VA 
for clarification or assistance.

64.10 Application

    RVCP grant application procedures are addressed in proposed Sec.  
64.10. As stated in proposed Sec.  64.8, VA would provide relevant 
information about an available RVCP grant by publishing a NOFA in the 
Federal Register. Under proposed Sec.  64.10(a), applications would be 
accepted only through the Grants.gov Web site. This is the easiest and 
most efficient way to process grant applications and should be familiar 
to many of the types of eligible entities likely to submit an 
application.
    In proposed Sec.  64.10(b), we propose to define the elements of a 
complete application. In general, a complete application requires the 
submission of information contained in this section, using the forms 
identified in the NOFA and available through Grants.gov.
    Proposed Sec.  64.10(b)(1) through (b)(5) would require submission 
of detailed information on the project that is being proposed. In 
particular, applicants would be required to describe the services to be 
provided, including which of the permissible uses in Sec.  64.6(a) the 
proposed services are intended to address, the need for those services 
in the proposed project location, and why the location qualifies as 
rural or an underserved community. The applicants also would be 
required to provide certain information about their experience in 
providing the proposed services, and how they would monitor and 
evaluate their compliance. These elements are critical to VA's ability 
to determine whether the applicant is proposing a project that would 
assist veterans and their families as they transition from military 
service to civilian life, particularly those who are located in rural 
and underserved areas and most in need of this assistance.
    In proposed Sec.  64.10(b)(6), we would require documentation of 
the applicant's ability to administer the project, given the limitation 
on use of funds from the RVCP grant for indirect costs of doing 
business which, under proposed Sec.  64.6(b), can be only up to 10 
percent of the total grant amount. In light of this limitation, VA 
would require each applicant to provide documentation of its capacity 
to manage the project, including a plan to continuously assess 
participant need for the services proposed and the ability to respond 
to any changes by adjusting the services provided within the scope of 
the project. Applicants would also be required to allow coordination 
and customization of services to meet the identified need of the 
participants. Applicants must also clearly define how they plan to 
comply with the requirements of the RVCP, including the submission of 
timely reports. Requiring the applicants to submit this very detailed 
information would provide evidence not only of their ability to follow 
through on the proposed project, but also the extent to which they have 
considered all aspects of planning and providing the proposed services 
and the necessary data management to facilitate timely and accurate 
reports. In proposed Sec.  64.10(b)(7), we would require that 
applicants disclose any assistance received from or any consultation 
with VA or Veterans Service Organizations (VSO) in the preparation of 
the RVCP grant application. Because successful applications for grants 
under the program would depend on the applicant having a working 
knowledge of VA health care and benefits and the means by which those 
benefits are delivered, we realize that applicants may need to work 
closely with numerous sources, including local VSOs, VA Regional 
Offices, and VA Medical Centers, as well as the RVCP office, in 
designing their proposals. Such interactions may help applicants to 
better understand the scope of VA benefits available to veterans and 
their families, to identify areas that need improvement in the 
locations they propose to serve, and to identify necessary procedures 
and documentation that would be required to assist transitioning 
veterans and their families access appropriate care and benefits. 
Notwithstanding the noted value of such contact, we would require that 
all direct communication with VA or VSOs in preparation of the 
application must be disclosed in the application packet to assist RVCP 
managers in identifying any potential conflict of interest on the part 
of application reviewers. These disclosures would also help reviewers 
assess the applicant's readiness and likelihood of project success.
    The NOFA would also provide the Internet address of VA's RVCP 
technical assistance Web page and VA fully expects that applicants 
would take advantage of this assistance to design the strongest 
possible proposals to reasonably meet the expectations of the RVCP. We 
are not seeking disclosure of Web site access (either RVCP Web site or 
other VA developed public sites).
    Paragraph (b)(8) would allow VA to specify additional requirements 
in the NOFA. This would help us tailor the NOFA as VA deems necessary.

64.12 Scoring and Selection

    In proposed Sec.  64.12, we would establish general scoring 
criteria and the method for selection of grantees. Applications must be 
complete, as set forth in Sec.  64.10(b), and received by the deadline 
stated in the NOFA. Scores for each application would be based on the 
criteria set forth in proposed paragraphs (a)(1) through (a)(6). These 
proposed categories are weighted according to their importance in 
ensuring the successful development and operation of a project that 
meets the intent of the RVCP. A maximum of 100 points would be possible 
and the decision of VA regarding scoring and selection would be final.
    Applicants would be scored, under proposed Sec.  64.12(a)(1), on 
experience in providing the services that are proposed in the 
application. An applicant may be awarded up to 10 points by providing 
sufficient information to assure VA of

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its established ability to provide the proposed services to the public 
and/or to veterans and their families. Although we are encouraging 
innovation, we believe that it is appropriate to offer points to 
applicants who have documented success and experience in the provision 
of the proposed services.
    In proposed Sec.  64.12(a)(2), VA proposes to award up to 10 points 
to applicants who clearly identify the need for the proposed project in 
the target location. Projects that provide thoroughly defined and 
researched plans which are innovative and avoid repetition of existing 
projects or ideas would be scored more favorably. The purpose of this 
criterion is to help ensure that grants are offered to applicants who 
understand the specific needs of their target location beyond the basic 
descriptions of the intended participants that may be described in the 
NOFA or in general materials describing the applicant's organization.
    Proposed paragraph Sec.  64.12(a)(3), in which applications may be 
awarded up to 40 points, would evaluate the applicant's concept and 
plan for successful implementation of the proposed project. The project 
description must provide realistic estimates of time, staffing, and 
material needs to provide the proposed services.
    Applicants must design a project which focuses on one or more of 
the four permissible uses of the RVCP for transitioning veterans stated 
in Sec.  64.6 (increasing the coordination of health care for veterans; 
increasing the availability of high quality medical and mental health 
services; providing assistance to transitioning families; and/or 
outreach to transitioning veterans and their families). Applicants are 
scored based on how effectively the proposed project would determine 
and address the local needs of transitioning veterans in the location 
to be served without duplicating effective programs already in place.
    Under proposed Sec.  64.12(a)(4), VA would evaluate and award up to 
10 points for the applicant's plan of self-evaluation and monitoring 
during the grant period, as required in Sec.  64.10(b)(5). Self-
evaluation and monitoring would help VA ensure that the RVCP funds are 
being used appropriately and would also assist in our overall 
assessment of the pilot program required by section 506(g) of the 2010 
Act.
    In proposed Sec.  64.12(a)(5), up to 10 points would be available 
for organizational financial fitness. This information is important to 
ensure that funds are not provided to an organization that is 
financially unstable or to an organization that has been unable to 
manage funds, including Federal funds, in the past. The limited 
duration and amounts of RVCP grants available for this pilot are not 
intended to help ``grow'' a local organization but rather to reward 
innovative projects submitted by local organizations that are already 
established, stable, and immediately ready to provide services to 
veterans and their families. At the same time, however, we believe that 
other application requirements, such as the complexity of the plan 
concept in paragraph (a)(3), would also provide information concerning 
the applicant's ability to complete the project and, therefore, we 
offer only ten points for this criterion.
    Proposed paragraph Sec.  64.12(a)(6) would provide up to 20 points 
for the proposed project location identified. VA would evaluate the 
applicant's proposed location and the documentation provided to ensure 
that the location is rural or underserved, as defined in Sec.  64.2. VA 
is interested in identifying rural and underserved areas with an 
adequate population of transitioning veterans to allow a proposed grant 
project to demonstrate effectiveness in such an area.
    In proposed Sec.  64.12(b), we describe the selection process. 
Using the scoring criteria provided in Sec.  64.12(a), VA would score 
all complete applications submitted by the deadline provided in the 
NOFA. All applications that receive at least the minimum total points 
and minimum points per category as stated in the NOFA would be ranked 
from highest to lowest based on total points received. VA would award 
one RVCP grant to the applicant with the highest total score. Each 
successive grant would be awarded to the application with the next 
highest total, provided the applicant is a unique eligible entity and 
the proposed project is in a different project location than all 
previously awarded RVCP grants. If the next highest ranked application 
was submitted by an entity that was already awarded an RVCP grant or 
proposes to deliver services in the same or overlapping location as a 
previously awarded grant, VA would pass over that application and 
evaluate the next highest ranking application until an application 
submitted by a unique entity and proposing to serve a different 
location is found. VA would repeat this until all five RVCP grants have 
been awarded.

64.14 RVCP Grant Agreement

    Proposed Sec.  64.14(a) would require VA to draft a grant agreement 
that would be executed by VA and the grantee.
    Proposed paragraph (b) would set forth the elements of the 
agreement. Under paragraph (b)(1), the agreement would require the 
grantee to operate the project in accordance with the provisions of the 
RVCP, as set forth in this rulemaking, and in accordance with the terms 
of the grant agreement. Proposed paragraphs (b)(2)(i) and (b)(2)(ii) 
would recognize that VA grants awarded to local and State entities and 
to non-profit entities are also governed by 38 CFR parts 43 and 49, 
respectively, 2 CFR parts 25 and 170, and applicable Office of 
Management and Budget (OMB) regulations and circulars. Particularly, 
the determination of allowable costs which may be charged to or 
accounted as a part of a Federally funded project is controlled by OMB 
Circular A-122, Cost Principles for Non-Profit Organizations (codified 
at 2 CFR part 230), and by OMB Circular A-87, Cost Principles for 
State, Local, and Indian Tribal Governments. These common rules provide 
uniform guidance and government-wide terms and conditions for the 
management of awards and administration of Federal grants.
    Proposed Sec.  64.14(b)(3) would require the grantee to agree to 
comply with any additional recordkeeping requirements, including 
financial records and project monitoring as described in the NOFA, to 
meet the needs of the RVCP. Proposed Sec.  64.14(b)(4) would require 
that grantees agree to timely provide any additional information as 
requested by VA; for instance, VA may require additional information to 
complete its congressional reporting requirements or to complete its 
assessment of the RVCP. Timely and accurate reporting by grant 
recipients is a critical tool by which VA would evaluate the RVCP and, 
as required by section 506(g) of the 2010 Act, report to Congress on 
the advisability and feasibility of continuing this program.

64.16 Reporting

    Proposed Sec.  64.16 would establish grantee reporting requirements 
to obtain information necessary to analyze the performance of a 
grantee's project. Each report would include, as described in proposed 
Sec.  64.16(a), a summary of the time and resources expended in 
outreach activities and the outreach methods used; the number and 
demographics of the participants served by the grantee; the types of 
assistance provided; a full accounting of the grant funds received 
during the quarter, detailing amounts expended and the balance 
remaining at each quarter's end; and results of the grantee's 
monitoring and any variations from the approved

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grant project. Reports would be required quarterly, no later than 15 
calendar days following the close of each Federal fiscal quarter, 
including the final quarter for which funds are awarded, see proposed 
Sec.  64.16(b). These reports would be used to verify that grant funds 
were used appropriately and to assess the overall impact of the RVCP 
program and the advisability of continuing the pilot program.
    Proposed paragraph (c) would allow VA to request other information 
or documentation as necessary to fully assess the success of the 
project or the RVCP. VA would request information to determine whether 
grant funds were used appropriately or to gather additional information 
in the event any part of the required reports submitted by a grantee is 
inadequate.

64.18 Recovery of Funds

    Proposed Sec.  64.18(a) would state that VA may terminate an RVCP 
grant and recover funds from any grantee that does not comply with the 
terms of the RVCP grant agreement. It would also state that VA would 
first notify the grantee in writing of VA's intention to recover the 
grant funds and afford an opportunity for the grantee to respond before 
making any final decision to recover the funds. The grantee would be 
given 30 days starting from the date of the notice to provide 
documentation of compliance with the RVCP grant agreement and avoid a 
recovery action by VA. Proposed paragraph (b) would specify that if VA 
makes a final decision that action would be taken to recover grant 
funds from a grantee, the grantee would be prohibited from receiving 
further grant funds from VA. These criteria would ensure appropriate 
use of RVCP funds, ensure the best use of RVCP funds available from VA 
and protect the RVCP from abuse.

Effect of Rulemaking

    The Code of Federal Regulations, as proposed to be revised by this 
proposed rulemaking, would represent the exclusive legal authority on 
this subject. No contrary rules or procedures would be authorized. All 
VA guidance would be read to conform with this proposed rulemaking if 
possible or, if not possible, such guidance would be superseded by this 
rulemaking.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    Although this rule contains provisions constituting collections of 
information, at 38 CFR 64.10, under the provisions of the Paperwork 
Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501-3521), no new or proposed revised 
collections of information are associated with this proposed rule. The 
information collection requirements for Sec.  64.10 are currently 
approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and have been 
assigned OMB control numbers 4040-0003, 4040-0004, 4040-0006, 4040-
0007, 4040-0008, 4040-0009, and 4040-0010. The reports required under 
Sec.  64.16 would be collected only from the five award recipients and, 
therefore, do not constitute a collection of information as defined in 
section 3502(3)(A)(i) of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995.

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 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 regulatory action have been examined and it has 
been determined not to be a significant regulatory action under 
Executive Order 12866.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    The Secretary hereby certifies that this proposed rule would 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. There would be no negative economic impact on any of 
the eligible entities because the grantees would not be required to 
provide matching funds to obtain the maximum grant allowance. This 
pilot grant program would not impact a substantial number of small 
entities because only five non-renewable grants would be awarded. 
Therefore, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 605(b), this proposed rule is exempt 
from the initial and final regulatory flexibility analysis requirements 
of sections 603 and 604.

Unfunded Mandates

    The Unfunded Mandates Reform Act 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 proposed rule would have no such effect on State, local, and 
tribal governments, or on the private sector.

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance

    At this time there are no Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance 
numbers and titles for the program affected by this regulation. Catalog 
of Federal Domestic Assistance numbers and titles will be obtained when 
the program is established on the Grants.gov Web site.

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 2, 2012, for publication.

List of Subjects in 38 CFR Part 64

    Administrative practice and procedure, Disability benefits, Claims, 
Government contracts, Grant programs--health, Grant programs--veterans, 
Health care, Health records, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, 
Veterans.

    Dated: July 13, 2012.
William F. Russo,
Deputy Director, Office of Regulation Policy and Management, Office of 
the General Counsel, Department of Veterans Affairs.

    For the reasons stated in the preamble, VA proposes to amend 38 CFR 
chapter I by adding part 64 to read as follows:

[[Page 42236]]

PART 64--GRANTS FOR THE RURAL VETERANS COORDINATION PILOT (RVCP)

Sec.
64.0 Purpose and scope.
64.2 Definitions.
64.4 RVCP grants--general.
64.6 Permissible uses of RVCP grants.
64.8 Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA).
64.10 Application.
64.12 Scoring and selection.
64.14 RVCP grant agreement.
64.16 Reporting.
64.18 Recovery of funds.

    Authority:  38 U.S.C. 501, 523 note.


Sec.  64.0  Purpose and scope.

    (a) Purpose: The Rural Veterans Coordination Pilot (RVCP) program 
implements the requirements of section 506 of the Caregivers and 
Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 to provide grants to 
community-based organizations and local and State government entities 
to assist veterans who are transitioning from military service to 
civilian life in rural or underserved communities and families of such 
veterans.
    (b) Scope. This part applies only to the administration of the 
RVCP, unless specifically provided otherwise.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 501, 523 note)

Sec.  64.2  Definitions.

    For the purpose of this part and any Notice of Funds Availability 
issued under this part:
    Applicant means an eligible entity that submits an application for 
an RVCP grant as announced in a Notice of Funds Availability.
    Community-based organization means a group that represents a 
community or a significant segment of a community and is engaged in 
meeting community needs.
    Eligible entity means a community-based organization or local or 
State government entity. An eligible entity will be identified as the 
legal entity whose employer identification number is on the Application 
for Federal Assistance (SF 424), even if only a particular component of 
the broader entity is applying for the RVCP grant.
    Grantee means recipient of an RVCP grant.
    Limited access to health care means residing in an area identified 
by the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. 
Department of Health and Human Services as ``medically underserved'' or 
having a ``medically underserved population.''
    Local government means a county, municipality, city, town, 
township, or regional government or its components.
    Minority group member means an individual who is Asian American; 
Black; Hispanic; Native American (including American Indian, Alaskan 
Native, and Native Hawaiian); or Pacific-Islander American.
    Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA) means a Notice published by VA 
in the Federal Register alerting eligible entities of the availability 
of RVCP grants and containing important information about the RVCP 
grant application process in accordance with Sec.  64.8.
    Participant means a veteran or a member of a veteran's family who 
receives services for which an RVCP grant is awarded.
    Rural means an area classified as ``rural'' by the U.S. Census 
Bureau.
    Rural Veterans Coordination Pilot (RVCP) refers to the pilot grant 
program authorized by section 506 of the Caregivers and Veterans 
Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010.
    State government means any of the fifty States of the United 
States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, any 
territory or possession of the United States, or any agency or 
instrumentality of a State government.
    Underserved communities are areas that meet one or more of the 
following criteria:
    (1) Have a high proportion of minority group representation;
    (2) Have a high proportion of individuals who have limited access 
to health care; or
    (3) Have no active duty military installation that is reasonably 
accessible to the community.
    VA means the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
    Veteran means a person who served in active military, naval, or air 
service, who was discharged or released under conditions other than 
dishonorable.
    Veteran who is transitioning from military service to civilian life 
means a veteran who is separating from active military, naval, or air 
service in the Armed Forces to return to life as a civilian and such 
veteran's date of discharge or release from active military, naval, or 
air service was not more than 2 years prior to the date on which the 
RVCP grant was awarded.
    Veteran's family means those individuals who reside with the 
veteran in the veteran's primary residence. These individuals include a 
parent, a spouse, a child, a step-family member, an extended family 
member, and individuals who reside in the home with the veteran but are 
not a member of the family of the veteran.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 501, 523 note)

Sec.  64.4  RVCP grants--general.

    (a) VA will award five RVCP grants to eligible entities as defined 
in Sec.  64.2.
    (b) An eligible entity may receive only one RVCP grant, and only 
one RVCP grant will be awarded in any one pilot project location (see 
Sec.  64.12(a)(6)).
    (c) RVCP grants will be awarded for a maximum period of 2 years, 
beginning on the date on which the RVCP grants are awarded. They will 
not be extended or renewable.
    (d) A grantee will not be required to provide matching funds as a 
condition of receiving an RVCP grant.
    (e) No participant will be charged a fee for services provided by 
the grantee or be required to participate in other activities sponsored 
by the grantee as a condition of receiving services for which the RVCP 
grant is made.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 501, 523 note)

Sec.  64.6  Permissible uses of RVCP grants.

    (a) Grantees must maximize the use of RVCP grants by ensuring that 
at least 90 percent of funds awarded are used to provide services 
designed to aid in the adjustment to civilian life in one or more of 
the following areas:
    (1) Increasing coordination of health care and benefits for 
veterans. Examples include, but are not limited to, identifying sources 
of community, local, State, and Federal health care and benefits; 
obtaining necessary applications and assisting veterans in the 
preparation of applications for such care and benefits; and identifying 
and eliminating barriers to receiving identified benefits.
    (2) Increasing availability of high quality medical and mental 
health services. Examples include, but are not limited to, increasing 
availability of or access to insurance or low- or no-cost public or 
private health care, including out-patient care, preventive care, 
hospital care, nursing home care, rehabilitative care, case management, 
respite care, and home care; providing assistance in accessing or using 
telehealth services; transporting veterans to medical facilities or 
transporting medical or mental health providers to veterans; and 
providing assistance in obtaining necessary pharmaceuticals, supplies, 
equipment, devices, appliances, and assistive technology.
    (3) Providing assistance to families of transitioning veterans. 
Examples include, but are not limited to, helping obtain medical 
insurance for family members; helping the family obtain suitable 
housing; providing job-search assistance or removing barriers for 
family members seeking employment;

[[Page 42237]]

assisting the family in identifying and applying to appropriate schools 
and/or child care programs; securing learning aids such as textbooks, 
computers and laboratory supplies; and obtaining personal financial and 
legal services.
    (4) Outreach to veterans and families. Examples include, but are 
not limited to, the provision, development or deployment of various 
media tools (e.g., Internet, television, radio, flyers, posters, etc.), 
activity days, program booths, or other strategies to reach 
transitioning veterans and their families in the target community and 
assist them with their transition from military service to civilian 
life. Outreach services may be provided directly by the RVCP grantee or 
the grantee may engage the outreach services of another entity using 
RVCP funds.
    (b) Grantees may use up to 10 percent of the RVCP grant for 
indirect costs, i.e., the expenses of doing business that are not 
readily identified with a particular grant but are necessary for the 
general operation of the grantee organization and the conduct of 
activities it performs.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 501, 523 note)

Sec.  64.8  Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA).

    When funds are available for RVCP grants, VA will publish a NOFA in 
the Federal Register and in Grants.gov (http://www.grants.gov). The 
NOFA will identify:
    (a) The location for obtaining RVCP grant applications, including 
the specific forms that will be required;
    (b) The date, time, and place for submitting completed RVCP grant 
applications;
    (c) The estimated total amount of funds available and the maximum 
funds available to a single grantee;
    (d) The minimum number of total points and points per category that 
an applicant must receive to be considered for a grant and information 
regarding the scoring process;
    (e) Any timeframes and manner for payments under the RVCP grant; 
and
    (f) Other information necessary for the RVCP grant application 
process, as determined by VA, including contact information for the 
office that will oversee the RVCP within VA.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 501, 523 note)

Sec.  64.10  Application.

    (a) To apply for an RVCP grant, eligible entities must submit to VA 
a complete application package. Applications will be accepted only 
through Grants.gov (http://www.grants.gov).
    (b) A complete RVCP grant application package includes the 
following:
    (1) A description of the services to be provided and which of the 
permissible uses for RVCP grants outlined in Sec.  64.6(a) the services 
are intended to fulfill.
    (2) A description, with supporting documentation, of the need for 
the proposed project in the proposed location, including an estimate, 
with supporting documentation, of the number of veterans and families 
that will be provided services by the applicant.
    (3) A description, with supporting documentation, of how the 
proposed project location qualifies as a rural or an underserved 
community, as defined in this part.
    (4) Documentation evidencing the applicant's experience in 
providing the proposed services, particularly to veterans and their 
families.
    (5) Evidence of a clear, realistic, and measurable program of self-
evaluation and monitoring, including a documented commitment to 
remediate any identified noncompliance.
    (6) Documentation of the ability of the applicant to administer the 
project, including plans to:
    (i) Continuously assess and adapt to the needs of participants for 
services under the RVCP grant;
    (ii) Coordinate and customize the provision of services to the 
identified needs of the participants;
    (iii) Comply with and implement the requirements of this part 
throughout the term of the RVCP grant; and
    (iv) Complete and submit timely reports of RVCP grant activities.
    (7) A description of any assistance received from or any 
consultations with VA or Veterans Service Organizations (VSO's) in the 
development of the proposal being submitted.
    (8) Any additional information deemed appropriate by VA and set 
forth in the NOFA.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 501, 523 note)



(The Office of Management and Budget has approved the information 
collection provisions in this section under control numbers 4040-0003, 
4040-0004, 4040-0006, 4040-0007, 4040-0008, 4040-0009, and 4040-0010.)


Sec.  64.12  Scoring and selection.

    (a) Scoring. VA will score only complete applications received from 
eligible entities by the established deadline. Applications will be 
scored using the following criteria:
    (1) Background, organizational history, qualifications, and past 
performance (maximum 10 points). Applicant documents a relevant history 
of successfully providing the type of services proposed in the RVCP 
grant application, particularly in the location it plans to serve and/
or to veterans and their families.
    (2) Need for pilot project (maximum 10 points). Applicant 
demonstrates the need for the pilot project among veterans and their 
families in the proposed project location, and provides evidence of the 
applicant's understanding of the unique needs of veterans and their 
families in the location to be served.
    (3) Pilot project concept, innovation, and ability to meet VA's 
objectives (maximum 40 points). Application shows appropriate concept, 
size, and scope of the project; provides realistic estimates of time, 
staffing, and material needs to implement the project; and details the 
project's ability to enhance the overall services provided, while 
presenting realistic plans to reduce duplication of benefits and 
services already in place. Application must describe a comprehensive 
and well-developed plan to meet one or more of the permissible uses set 
out in Sec.  64.6.
    (4) Pilot project evaluation and monitoring (maximum 10 points). 
Self-evaluation and monitoring strategy provided in application is 
reasonable and expected to meet requirements of Sec.  64.10(b)(5).
    (5) Organizational finances (maximum 10 points). Applicant provides 
documentation that it is financially stable, has not defaulted on 
financial obligations, has adequate financial and operational controls 
in place to assure the proper use of RVCP grants, and presents a plan 
for using RVCP grants that is cost effective and efficient.
    (6) Pilot project location (maximum 20 points). Applicant documents 
how the proposed project location meets the definition of rural or 
underserved communities in this part.
    (b) Selection of grantees. All complete applications will be scored 
using the criteria in paragraph (a) and ranked in order from highest to 
lowest total score. VA will rank all applications that receive at least 
the minimum number of points indicated in the NOFA. VA will award one 
RVCP grant to the highest scoring application. VA will award RVCP 
grants to each successive application, ranked by total score, provided 
the applicant has not been awarded an RVCP grant for a higher scoring 
application and the proposed project is not in the same project 
location as any previously awarded RVCP grant.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 501, 523 note)


[[Page 42238]]




Sec.  64.14  RVCP grant agreement.

    (a) VA will draft an RVCP grant agreement to be executed by VA and 
the grantee.
    (b) The RVCP grant agreement will provide that the grantee agrees 
to:
    (1) Operate the project in accordance with this part and the terms 
of the agreement;
    (2) Abide by the following additional requirements:
    (i) Community-based organizations are subject to the Uniform 
Administrative Requirements for Grants and Agreements with Institutions 
of Higher Education, Hospitals, and Other Non-Profit Organizations 
under 38 CFR part 49, as well as to OMB Circular A-122, Cost Principles 
for Non-Profit Organizations, codified at 2 CFR part 230, and 2 CFR 
parts 25 and 170, if applicable.
    (ii) Local and State government entities are subject to the Uniform 
Administrative Requirements for Grants and Cooperative Agreements to 
State and Local Governments under 38 CFR part 43, as well as to OMB 
Circular A-87, Cost Principles for State, Local, and Indian Tribal 
Governments, and 2 CFR parts 25 and 170, if applicable.
    (3) Comply with such other terms and conditions, including 
recordkeeping and reports for project monitoring and evaluation 
purposes, as VA may establish for purposes of carrying out the RVCP in 
an effective and efficient manner and as described in the NOFA; and
    (4) Provide any necessary additional information that is requested 
by VA in the manner and timeframe specified by VA.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 501, 523 note)

Sec.  64.16  Reporting.

    (a) Quarterly reports. All grantees must submit to VA quarterly 
reports based on the Federal fiscal year, which include the following 
information:
    (1) Record of time and resources expended in outreach activities, 
and the methods used;
    (2) The number of participants served, including demographics of 
this population;
    (3) Types of assistance provided;
    (4) A full accounting of RVCP grant funds received from VA and used 
or unused during the quarter; and
    (5) Results of routine monitoring and any project variations.
    (b) Submission of reports. Reports must be submitted to VA no later 
than 15 calendar days after the close of each Federal fiscal quarter.
    (c) Additional reports. VA may request additional reports to allow 
VA to fully assess project accountability and effectiveness.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 501, 523 note)

Sec.  64.18  Recovery of funds.

    (a) Recovery of funds. VA may terminate a grant agreement with any 
RVCP grantee that does not comply with the terms of the RVCP agreement. 
VA may recover from the grantee any funds that are not used in 
accordance with a RVCP grant agreement. If VA decides to recover funds, 
VA will issue to the grantee a notice of intent to recover RVCP grant 
funds, and the grantee will then have 30 days beginning from the date 
of the notice to submit documentation demonstrating why the RVCP grant 
funds should not be recovered. If the RVCP grantee does not respond or 
if the grantee responds but VA determines the documentation is 
insufficient to establish compliance, VA will make a final 
determination as to whether action to recover the RVCP grant funds will 
be taken.
    (b) Prohibition of further grants. When VA determines action will 
be taken to recover grant funds from a grantee, the grantee will be 
prohibited from receiving any further RVCP grant funds for the duration 
of the pilot program.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 501, 523 note)


[FR Doc. 2012-17434 Filed 7-17-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 8320-01-P