[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 161 (Tuesday, August 20, 2013)]
[Unknown Section]
[Pages 51067-51073]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-20255]


=======================================================================
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS

38 CFR Part 17

RIN 2900-AO34


VA Health Professional Scholarship and Visual Impairment and 
Orientation and Mobility Professional Scholarship Programs

AGENCY: Department of Veterans Affairs.

ACTION: Final rule.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is amending its VA 
Health Professional Scholarship Program (HPSP) regulations. VA is also 
establishing regulations for a new program, the Visual Impairment and 
Orientation and Mobility Professional Scholarship Program (VIOMPSP). 
These regulations comply with and implement sections 302 and 603 of the 
Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 (the 2010 
Act). Section 302 of the 2010 Act established the VIOMPSP, which 
authorizes VA to provide financial assistance to certain students 
seeking a degree in visual impairment or orientation or mobility, in 
order to increase the supply of qualified blind rehabilitation 
specialists for VA and the United States. Section 603 of the 2010 Act 
reauthorized and modified HPSP, a program that provides scholarships 
for education or training in certain health care occupations.

DATES: Effective Date: This final rule is effective September 19, 2013.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Nicole Nedd, Healthcare Talent 
Management Office, Department of Veterans Affairs, 1250 Poydras Street, 
Suite 1000, New Orleans, LA 70113; (504) 565-4900. (This is not a toll-
free number.)

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Pursuant to 38 U.S.C. 7601 through 7619, 
7633, 7634, and 7636, VA has promulgated regulations implementing the 
VA Health Professional Scholarship Program (HPSP), codified at 38 CFR 
17.600 through 17.612. This rulemaking is amending the HPSP regulations 
in response to section 603 of the 2010 Act, Public Law 111-163, which 
amended the statutory authority for this program, particularly the 
eligibility requirements for the program and VA's obligations regarding 
employment of the program participants.
    This rulemaking is also establishing new regulations to implement 
section 302 of the 2010 Act. Section 302 of the 2010 Act established 
chapter 75 of 38 U.S.C., which requires VA to create a scholarship 
program similar to the HPSP called the Visual Impairment and 
Orientation and Mobility Professional Scholarship Program (VIOMPSP). 
The purpose of the new program ``is to increase the supply of qualified 
blind rehabilitation specialists for [VA] and the Nation.'' 38 U.S.C. 
7501(b). The statutory authority is substantively similar (and in many 
ways identical) to the existing authority governing the HPSP. To the 
maximum extent possible, we are utilizing, and amending as necessary, 
the existing HPSP regulations to govern the commonalities between both 
programs, and then adding additional regulations necessary to implement 
the new VIOMPSP. This will eliminate redundancies between the two 
programs, facilitate the administration of the program by VA, and make 
it easier for the public to understand the details of both programs. 
The HPSP is governed by current Sec. Sec.  17.600 through 17.612, and 
the VIOMPSP is established as new Sec. Sec.  17.625 through 17.636.
    In a document published in the Federal Register on December 26, 
2012 (77 FR 75918), VA proposed to amend part 17 of 38 CFR by amending 
the regulations that govern the HPSP and establishing regulations for 
the VIOMPSP. We provided a 60-day comment period, which ended on 
February 25, 2013. We received one comment from an official from the 
National Federation of the Blind.
    The commenter was concerned that the rulemaking did not provide 
``clear provisions regarding the eligibility of blind or low vision 
applicants to VIOMPSP.'' The commenter noted that the rulemaking was 
explicit regarding the availability of the program ``to institutions 
with high numbers of Hispanic students and to historically

[[Page 51068]]

black colleges and universities, but there is no emphasis on 
encouraging blind people to apply for the program.'' We included this 
reference to particular targeted audiences in Sec.  17.625 because 
paragraph (c) of 38 U.S.C. 7501 mandates the Secretary to ``publicize 
the scholarship program to educational institutions throughout the 
United States, with an emphasis on disseminating information to such 
institutions with high numbers of Hispanic students and to Historically 
Black Colleges and Universities.'' Congress did not issue this mandate 
to prohibit VA from encouraging or accepting blind applicants to the 
VIOMPSP, and VA does not interpret, and will not apply, this regulatory 
emphasis in a way that will discriminate against blind applicants. 
Moreover, under 38 CFR part 15, VA is prohibited from ``discrimination 
on the basis of handicap in programs or activities conducted by 
Executive agencies'' under section 119 of the Rehabilitation, 
Comprehensive Services, and Developmental Disabilities Amendments of 
1978, which amended section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The 
VIOMPSP is a program offered by VA and subject to this prohibition 
against discrimination. As such, VA may not discriminate against blind 
individuals or individuals with other types of disabilities who wish to 
participate in the VIOMPSP. Although the commenter raised this issue 
only in regard to the VIOMPSP, we note that this prohibition against 
discrimination applies equally to the HPSP.
    The commenter also stated that, in Sec.  17.629, VA is obligated to 
provide applicants with the terms and conditions for participating in 
the VIOMPSP, but that these terms and conditions ``are not posted 
anywhere on the VA Web site, so there is no way to verify that sight is 
part of these terms and conditions.'' The commenter recommended that VA 
state in Sec.  17.630(b) ``that blindness will not be a factor when 
accepting applicants.''
    VA may not publish on its Web site the terms and conditions of the 
VIOMPSP until the regulations that govern this program are published as 
final in the Federal Register. In general, however, the terms and 
conditions for participating in the VIOMPSP are stated in proposed 
Sec. Sec.  17.625 through 17.636. An amendment to Sec.  17.630(b) is 
not needed to clarify our acceptance criteria as it applies to blind 
applicants because, as previously stated, VA may not discriminate 
against individuals with any type of disability. VA does not make any 
changes based on any of the commenter's concerns.
    Based on the rationale set forth in the Supplementary Information 
to the proposed rule and in this final rule, VA is adopting the 
proposed rule as a final rule without any change.

Effect of Rulemaking

    Title 38 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as revised by this 
final rulemaking, represents VA's implementation of its legal authority 
on this subject. Other than future amendments to this regulation or 
governing statutes, no contrary guidance or procedures are authorized. 
All existing or subsequent VA guidance must be read to conform with 
this rulemaking if possible or, if not possible, such guidance is 
superseded by this rulemaking.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    The Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (at 44 U.S.C. 3507) requires 
that VA consider the impact of paperwork and other information 
collection burdens imposed on the public. Under 44 U.S.C. 3507(a), an 
agency may not collect or sponsor the collection of information, nor 
may it impose an information collection requirement unless it displays 
a currently valid Office of Management and Budget (OMB) control number. 
See also 5 CFR 1320.8(b)(3)(vi).
    This final rule will impose the following new information 
collection requirements. The VA Health Professional Scholarship Program 
contained a collection control number 2900-0352, which expired on April 
30, 1997. We have established a new collection control number for the 
revised VA Health Professional Scholarship Program and for the new 
Visual Impairment and Orientation and Mobility Professional Scholarship 
Program. Sections 17.604 and 17.629 contain collections of information 
under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 for which we requested 
approval by OMB. As required by the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (at 
44 U.S.C. 3507(d)), VA submitted these information collections to OMB 
for its review. OMB approved these new information collection 
requirements associated with the final rule and assigned OMB control 
number 2900-0793.
    Under Sec. Sec.  17.612 and 17.636, a participant of the VA Health 
Professional Scholarship Program or Visual Impairment and Orientation 
and Mobility Professional Scholarship Program may seek a waiver or 
suspension of obligated service or payment under either program by 
submitting a written request to VA. The requirement for such a written 
request, however, does not constitute a collection of information under 
the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 requiring OMB approval because the 
anticipated number of respondents within a 12-month period is less than 
ten. See 5 CFR 1320.3(c).

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 will directly affect only individuals and will not 
directly affect small entities. Therefore, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 605(b), 
this rulemaking 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 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.''
    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

[[Page 51069]]

regulatory action under Executive Order.

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.

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Numbers

    There are no Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance numbers and 
titles 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. Jose D. 
Riojas, Chief of Staff, Department of Veterans Affairs, approved this 
document on August 6, 2013, for publication.

List of Subjects in 38 CFR Part 17

    Administrative practice and procedure, Alcohol abuse, Alcoholism, 
Claims, Day care, Dental health, Drug abuse, Foreign relations, 
Government contracts, Grant programs--health, Grant programs--veterans, 
Health care, Health facilities, Health professions, Health records, 
Homeless, Medical and dental schools, Medical devices, Medical 
research, Mental health programs, Nursing homes, Philippines, Reporting 
and recordkeeping requirements, Scholarships and fellowships, Travel 
and transportation expenses, Veterans.

    Dated: August 15, 2013.
Robert C. McFetridge,
Director, Regulation Policy and Management, Office of the General 
Counsel, Department of Veterans Affairs.

    For the reasons set forth in the preamble, the Department of 
Veterans Affairs amends 38 CFR part 17 as follows:

PART 17--MEDICAL

0
1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows:

    Authority:  38 U.S.C. 501, and as noted in specific sections.


0
2. Revise the authority citation preceding Sec.  17.600 to read as 
follows:

    Authority:  38 U.S.C. 7601-7619, 7633, 7634, and 7636.


0
3. Revise Sec.  17.600 to read as follows:


Sec.  17.600  Purpose.

    The purpose of Sec. Sec.  17.600 through 17.612 is to establish the 
requirements for the award of scholarships under the VA Health 
Professional Scholarship Program (HPSP) to students pursuing a course 
of study leading to a degree in certain health care occupations, listed 
in 38 U.S.C. 7401(1) and (3), to assist in providing an adequate supply 
of such personnel for VA. The HPSP allows VA to provide scholarship 
awards to facilitate recruitment and retention of employees in several 
hard-to-fill health care occupations.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 7601(b))



0
4. Revise Sec.  17.601 to read as follows:


Sec.  17.601  Definitions.

    The following definitions apply to Sec. Sec.  17.600 through 
17.636:
    Acceptable level of academic standing means the level at which a 
participant may continue to attend school under the standards and 
practices of the school at which a participant is enrolled in a course 
of study for which an HPSP or VIOMPSP scholarship was awarded.
    Acceptance agreement means a signed legal document between VA and a 
participant of the HPSP or VIOMPSP that specifies the obligations of VA 
and the participant upon acceptance to the HPSP or VIOMPSP. An 
acceptance agreement must incorporate by reference, and cannot be 
inconsistent with, Sec. Sec.  17.600 through 17.612 (for HPSP 
agreements) or Sec. Sec.  17.626 through 17.636 (for VIOMPSP 
agreements), and must include:
    (1) A mobility agreement.
    (2) Agreement to accept payment of the scholarship.
    (3) Agreement to perform obligated service.
    (4) Agreement to maintain enrollment and attendance in the course 
of study for which the scholarship was awarded, and to maintain an 
acceptable level of academic standing.
    Affiliation agreement means a legal document that enables the 
clinical education of trainees at a VA or non-VA medical facility. An 
affiliation agreement is required for all education or training that 
involves direct patient contact, or contact with patient information, 
by trainees from a non-VA institution.
    Citizen of the United States means any person born, or lawfully 
naturalized, in the United States, subject to its jurisdiction and 
protection, and owing allegiance thereto.
    Credential means the licensure, registration, certification, 
required education, relevant training and experience, and current 
competence necessary to meet VA's qualification standards for 
employment in certain health care occupations.
    Degree represents the successful completion of the course of study 
for which a scholarship was awarded.
    (1) HPSP. For the purposes of the HPSP, VA recognizes the following 
degrees: a doctor of medicine; doctor of osteopathy; doctor of 
dentistry; doctor of optometry; doctor of podiatry; or an associate, 
baccalaureate, master's, or doctorate degree in another health care 
discipline needed by VA.
    (2) VIOMPSP. For the purposes of the VIOMPSP, VA recognizes a 
bachelor's, master's, education specialist or doctorate that meets the 
core curriculum and supervised practice requirements in visual 
impairment and blindness.
    Full-time student means an individual who meets the requirements 
for full time attendance as defined by the school in which they are 
enrolled.
    HPSP means the VA Health Professional Scholarship Program 
authorized by 38 U.S.C. 7601 through 7619.
    Mobility agreement means a signed legal document between VA and a 
participant of the HPSP or VIOMPSP, in which the participant agrees to 
accept assignment at a VA facility selected by VA where he or she will 
fulfill the obligated service requirement. A mobility agreement must be 
included in the participant's acceptance agreement. Relocation to 
another geographic location may be required.
    Obligated service means the period of time during which the HPSP or 
VIOMPSP participant must be employed by VA in a full-time clinical 
occupation for which the degree prepared the participant as a 
requirement of the acceptance agreement.
    Part-time student--(1) HPSP. For the purposes of the HPSP, part-
time student means an individual who is a VA employee, and who has been 
accepted for enrollment or enrolled for study leading to a degree on a 
less than full-time basis but no less than half-time basis.
    (2) VIOMPSP. For the purposes of the VIOMPSP, part-time student 
means an individual who has been accepted for enrollment or enrolled 
for study leading to a degree on a less than full-time basis but no 
less than half-time basis.
    Participant or scholarship program participant means an individual 
whose application to the HPSP or VIOMPSP

[[Page 51070]]

has been approved, whose acceptance agreement has been consummated by 
VA, and who has yet to complete the period of obligated service or 
otherwise satisfy the obligation or financial liabilities of such 
agreement.
    Required fees means those fees which are charged by the school to 
all students pursuing a similar curriculum in the same school.
    Scholarship Program means the VA Health Professional Scholarship 
Program (HPSP) authorized by 38 U.S.C. 7601 through 7619.
    School means an academic institution that is accredited by a body 
or bodies recognized for accreditation by the U.S. Department of 
Education or by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), 
and that meets the following requirements:
    (1) For the purposes of the HPSP, offers a course of study leading 
to a degree in a health care service discipline needed by VA.
    (2) For the purposes of the VIOMPSP, offers a course of study 
leading to a degree in visual impairment or orientation and mobility.
    School year means for purposes of the HPSP and its stipend payment, 
and the VIOMPSP, all or part of the 12-month period that starts on the 
date the participant begins school as a full-time student.
    Secretary means the Secretary of Veterans Affairs or designee.
    State means one of the several States, Territories and possessions 
of the United States, the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of 
Puerto Rico.
    Under Secretary for Health means the Under Secretary for Health of 
the Department of Veterans Affairs or designee.
    VA means the Department of Veterans Affairs.
    VA employee means an individual permanently employed by VA. A VA 
employee does not include an individual who is employed temporarily or 
on a contractual basis.
    VA health care facility means a VA medical center, independent 
outpatient clinic, domiciliary, nursing home (community living center), 
residential treatment program, and any of a variety of community based 
clinics (including community based outpatient clinics, rural health 
resource centers, primary care telehealth clinics, and Vet Centers), 
consolidated mail outpatient pharmacies, and research centers.
    VIOMPSP means the Visual Impairment and Orientation and Mobility 
Professional Scholarship Program authorized by 38 U.S.C. 7501 through 
7505.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 301, 7501(a)(1), 7504, 7602(a), 7604(1)(B), 
7633)



0
5. Amend Sec.  17.602 by:
0
a. Revising paragraph (a)(1).
0
b. Adding paragraph (a)(6).
0
c. Revising the authority citation following paragraph (a).
    The revisions and addition read as follows:


Sec.  17.602  Eligibility for the HPSP.

    (a) * * *
    (1) Be unconditionally accepted for enrollment or be enrolled as a 
full-time student in an accredited school located in a State;
* * * * *
    (6) Clinical tours. An applicant for a scholarship under the HPSP 
must agree to perform clinical tours while enrolled in the course of 
education or training for which the scholarship is provided. VA will 
determine the assignments and locations of the clinical tour.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 7618(b))

* * * * *

0
6. Revise Sec.  17.603 to read as follows:


Sec.  17.603  Availability of HPSP scholarships.

    (a) General. A HPSP scholarship will be awarded only when necessary 
to assist VA in alleviating shortages or anticipated shortages of 
personnel in the health professions stated in paragraph (b) of this 
section. VA will determine the existence of shortage of personnel in 
accordance with specific criteria for each health care profession. VA 
has the authority to establish the number of scholarships to be awarded 
in a fiscal year, and the number that will be awarded to full-time and 
part-time students.
    (b) Qualifying fields of education. VA will grant HPSP scholarships 
in a course of study in those disciplines or programs where recruitment 
is necessary for the improvement of health care of veterans. Those 
disciplines or programs are listed in 38 U.S.C. 7401(1) and (3).

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 7401(1), (3), 7612(b)(2), 7612(b)(4), and 
7603(b)(1))



0
7. Revise Sec.  17.604 to read as follows:


Sec.  17.604  Application for the HPSP.

    An applicant for the HPSP must submit an accurate and complete 
application, including a signed written acceptance agreement.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 7612(c)(1)(B))


(The Office of Management and Budget has approved the information 
collection requirements in this section under control number 2900-
0793.)


0
8. Amend Sec.  17.605 by:
0
a. Revising paragraph (a) introductory text.
0
b. Redesignating paragraphs (d) and (e) as paragraphs (e) and (f), 
respectively.
0
c. Adding a new paragraph (d).
    The revisions and addition read as follows:


Sec.  17.605  Selection of HPSP participants.

    (a) General. In deciding which HPSP application to approve, VA will 
first consider applications submitted by applicants entering their 
final year of education or training and applicants who previously 
received HPSP scholarships and who meet the conditions of paragraph (f) 
of this section. Except for paragraph (f) of this section, applicants 
will be evaluated and selected using the criteria specified in 
paragraph (b) of this section. If there are a larger number of equally 
qualified applicants than there are awards to be made, then VA will 
first select veterans, and then use a random method as the basis for 
further selection. In selecting participants to receive awards as part-
time students, VA may, at VA's discretion--
* * * * *
    (d) Notification of approval. VA will notify the individual in 
writing that his or her application has been accepted and approved. An 
individual becomes a participant in the program upon receipt of such 
approval by VA.
* * * * *

0
9. Amend Sec.  17.607 by:
0
a. Revising paragraph (b)(1).
0
b. Revising the authority citation at the end of paragraph (b).
0
c. Revising paragraphs (c) and (d).
    The revisions read as follows:


Sec.  17.607  Obligated service.

* * * * *
    (b) Beginning of service--(1)(i) Date of employment. Except as 
provided in paragraph (b)(2) of this section, a participant's obligated 
service will begin on the date VA appoints the participant as a full-
time VA employee in a clinical occupation for which the degree prepared 
the participant. VA will appoint the participant to such position as 
soon as possible, but no later than 90 days after the date that the 
participant receives his or her degree, or the date the participant 
becomes licensed in a State or becomes certified, whichever is later. 
VA will actively assist and monitor participants to ensure State 
licenses or certificates are obtained in a minimal amount of time 
following graduation. If a participant fails to obtain his or her 
degree, or fails to become licensed in a State or become certified no 
later than 180 days after receiving the degree, the participant is

[[Page 51071]]

considered to be in breach of the acceptance agreement.
    (ii) Notification. VA will notify the participant of the work 
assignment and its location no later than 60 days before the date on 
which the participant must begin work.
    (iii) VA mentor. VA will ensure that the participant is assigned a 
mentor who is employed at the same facility where the participant 
performs his or her obligated service at the commencement of such 
service.
* * * * *

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 7616(b), 7616(c), 7618(a))


    (c) Duration of service--(1) Full-time student. A participant who 
attended school as a full-time student will agree to serve as a full-
time clinical employee in the Veterans Health Administration for 1 
calendar year for each school year or part thereof for which a 
scholarship was awarded, but for no less than 2 years.
    (2) Part-time student. Obligated service to VA for a participant 
who attended school as a part-time student must be satisfied by full-
time clinical employment. The period of obligated service will be 
reduced from that which a full-time student must serve under paragraph 
(c)(1) of this section in accordance with the proportion that the 
number of credit hours carried by the part-time student in any school 
year bears to the number of credit hours required to be carried by a 
full-time student who is pursuing the same degree; however, the period 
of obligated service will not be for less than 1 year.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 7612(c)(1)(B), 7612(c)(3)(A), 7618(c))


    (d) Location for service. VA reserves the right to make final 
decisions on the location for service obligation. A participant who 
receives a scholarship as a full-time student must be willing to 
relocate to another geographic location to carry out his or her service 
obligation according to the participant's mobility agreement. A 
participant who received a scholarship as a part-time student may be 
allowed to serve the period of obligated service at the health care 
facility where the individual was assigned when the scholarship was 
authorized, if there is a vacant position which will satisfy the 
individual's mobility agreement at that facility.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 7616(a))

* * * * *

0
10. Revise Sec.  17.611 to read as follows:


Sec.  17.611  Bankruptcy.

    Any payment obligation incurred may not be discharged in bankruptcy 
under title 11 U.S.C. until 5 years after the date on which the payment 
obligation is due. This section applies to participants in the HPSP and 
the VIOMPSP.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 7505(d), 7634(c))



0
11. Amend Sec.  17.612 by:
0
a. Revising paragraph (a).
0
b. Revising paragraph (b)(1).
0
c. Removing the authority citation at the end of paragraph (c).
0
d. Adding new paragraphs (e) and (f).
0
e. Revising the authority citation at the end of the section.
    The revisions and additions read as follows:


Sec.  17.612  Cancellation, waiver, or suspension of obligation.

    (a) General. (1) This section applies to participants in the HPSP 
or the VIOMPSP.
    (2) Any obligation of a participant for service or payment will be 
cancelled upon the death of the participant.
    (b) Waivers or suspensions. (1) A participant may seek a waiver or 
suspension of the obligated service or payment obligation incurred 
under this program by submitting a written request to VA setting forth 
the basis, circumstances, and causes which support the requested 
action. Requests for waivers or suspensions must be submitted to VA no 
later than 1 year after the date VA notifies the participant that he or 
she is in breach of his or her acceptance agreement. A participant 
seeking a waiver or suspension must comply with requests for additional 
information from VA no later than 30 days after the date of any such 
request.
    (i) Waivers. A waiver is a permanent release by VA of the 
obligation either to repay any scholarship funds that have already been 
paid to or on behalf of the participant, or to fulfill any other 
acceptance agreement requirement. If a waiver is granted, then the 
waived amount of scholarship funds may be considered taxable income.
    (ii) Suspensions. VA may approve an initial request for a 
suspension for a period of up to 1 year. A suspension may be extended 
for one additional year, after which time the participant will be in 
breach of his or her acceptance agreement. If a suspension is approved:
    (A) VA will temporarily discontinue providing any scholarship funds 
to or on behalf of the participant while the participant's scholarship 
is in a suspended status; or
    (B) VA will temporarily delay the enforcement of acceptance 
agreement requirements.
* * * * *
    (e) Eligibility to reapply for award. Any previous participant of 
any federally sponsored scholarship program who breached his or her 
acceptance agreement or similar agreement in such scholarship program 
is not eligible to apply for a HPSP or VIOMPSP. This includes 
participants who previously applied for, and received, a waiver under 
this section.
    (f) Finality of decisions. Decisions to approve or disapprove 
waiver requests are final and binding determinations. Such 
determinations are not subject to reconsideration or appeal.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 7505(c), 7634(a), 7634(b))



0
12. Add an undesignated center heading and Sec. Sec.  17.625 through 
17.636 to read as follows:

Visual Impairment and Orientation and Mobility Professional Scholarship 
Program

Sec.
17.625 Purpose.
17.626 Definitions.
17.627 Eligibility for the VIOMPSP.
17.628 Availability of VIOMPSP scholarships.
17.629 Application for the VIOMPSP.
17.630 Selection of VIOMPSP participants.
17.631 Award procedures.
17.632 Obligated service.
17.633 Deferment of obligated service.
17.634 Failure to comply with terms and conditions of participation.
17.635 Bankruptcy.
17.636 Cancellation, waiver, or suspension of obligation.

Visual Impairment and Orientation and Mobility Professional Scholarship 
Program


Sec.  17.625  Purpose.

    The purpose of Sec. Sec.  17.625 through 17.636 is to establish the 
requirements for the award of scholarships under the Visual Impairment 
and Orientation and Mobility Professional Scholarship Program (VIOMPSP) 
to students pursuing a program of study leading to a degree in visual 
impairment or orientation and mobility. The scholarship is designed to 
increase the supply of qualified Blind Rehabilitation Specialists and 
Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialists available to VA. The 
scholarship will be publicized throughout educational institutions in 
the United States, with an emphasis on disseminating information to 
such institutions with high numbers of Hispanic students and to 
historically black colleges and universities.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 7501)


Sec.  17.626  Definitions.

    For the definitions that apply to Sec. Sec.  17.625 through 17.636, 
see Sec.  17.601.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 501)

[[Page 51072]]

Sec.  17.627  Eligibility for the VIOMPSP.

    (a) General. To be eligible for the VIOMPSP, an applicant must meet 
the following requirements:
    (1) Be unconditionally accepted for enrollment or currently 
enrolled in a program of study leading to a degree in orientation and 
mobility, low vision therapy, or vision rehabilitation therapy, or a 
dual degree (a program in which an individual becomes certified in two 
of the three professional certifications offered by the Academy for 
Certification of Visual Rehabilitation and Education Professionals) at 
an accredited educational institution that is in a State;
    (2) Be a citizen of the United States; and
    (3) Submit an application to participate in the VIOMPSP, as 
described in Sec.  17.629.
    (b) Obligated service to another entity. Any applicant who, at the 
time of application, owes a service obligation to any other entity to 
perform service after completion of the course of study is ineligible 
to receive a VIOMPSP scholarship.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 7501(a), 7502(a), 7504(3))


Sec.  17.628  Availability of VIOMPSP scholarships.

    VA will make awards under the VIOMPSP only when VA determines it is 
necessary to assist in alleviating shortages or anticipated shortages 
of personnel in visual impairment or orientation and mobility programs. 
VA's determination of the number of VIOMPSP scholarships to be awarded 
in a fiscal year, and the number that will be awarded to full-time and/
or part-time students, is subject to the availability of 
appropriations.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 7501(a), 7503(c)(2))


Sec.  17.629  Application for the VIOMPSP.

    (a) Application-general. Each individual desiring a VIOMPSP 
scholarship must submit an accurate and complete application, including 
a signed written acceptance agreement.
    (b) VA's duties. VA will notify applicants prior to acceptance in 
the VIOMPSP of the following information:
    (1) A fair summary of the rights and liabilities of an individual 
whose application is approved by VA and whose acceptance agreement is 
consummated by VA; and
    (2) Full description of the terms and conditions that apply to 
participation in the VIOMPSP and service in VA.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 501(a), 7502(a)(2))

(The Office of Management and Budget has approved the information 
collection requirements in this section under control number 2900-
0793.)


Sec.  17.630  Selection of VIOMPSP participants.

    (a) General. In deciding which VIOMPSP applications to approve, VA 
will first consider applications submitted by applicants entering their 
final year of education or training. Applicants will be evaluated and 
selected using the criteria specified in paragraph (b) of this section. 
If there are a larger number of equally qualified applicants than there 
are awards to be made, then VA will first select veterans, and then use 
a random method as the basis for further selection.
    (b) Selection criteria. In evaluating and selecting participants, 
VA will take into consideration those factors determined necessary to 
assure effective participation in the VIOMPSP. These factors will 
include, but are not limited to, the following:
    (1) Academic performance;
    (2) Work/volunteer experience, including prior rehabilitation or 
health care employment and VA employment;
    (3) Faculty and employer recommendations; or
    (4) Career goals.
    (c) Notification of approval. VA will notify the individual in 
writing that his or her application has been accepted and approved. An 
individual becomes a participant in the program upon receipt of such 
approval by VA.
    (d) Duration of VIOMPSP award. VA will award a VIOMPSP scholarship 
for a period of time equal to the number of years required to complete 
a program of study leading to a degree in orientation and mobility, low 
vision therapy, or vision rehabilitation therapy, or a dual degree. The 
number of years covered by an individual scholarship award will be 
based on the number of school years that the participant has yet to 
complete his or her degree at the time the VIOMPSP scholarship is 
awarded. Subject to the availability of funds, VA will award the 
VIOMPSP as follows:
    (1) Full-time scholarship. A full-time scholarship is awarded for a 
minimum of 1 school year to a maximum of 4 school years;
    (2) Part-time scholarships. A part-time scholarship is awarded for 
a minimum of 1 school year to a maximum of 6 school years.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 7504(3))

Sec.  17.631  Award procedures.

    (a) Amount of scholarship. (1) A VIOMPSP scholarship award will not 
exceed the total tuition and required fees for the program of study in 
which the applicant is enrolled. All such payments to scholarship 
participants are exempt from Federal taxation.
    (2) The total amount of assistance provided under the VIOMPSP for 
an academic year to an individual who is a full-time student may not 
exceed $15,000.00.
    (3) The total amount of assistance provided under the VIOMPSP for 
an academic year to a participant who is a part-time student shall bear 
the same ratio to the amount that would be paid under paragraph (a)(2) 
of this section if the participant were a full-time student as the 
coursework carried by the participant to full-time coursework.
    (4) The total amount of assistance provided to an individual may 
not exceed $45,000.00.
    (5) In the case of an individual enrolled in a program of study 
leading to a dual degree described in Sec.  17.627(a)(1), such tuition 
and fees will not exceed the amounts necessary for the minimum number 
of credit hours to achieve such dual degree.
    (6) Financial assistance may be provided to an individual under the 
VIOMPSP to supplement other educational assistance to the extent that 
the total amount of educational assistance received by the individual 
during an academic year does not exceed the total tuition and fees for 
such academic year.
    (7) VA will make arrangements with the school in which the 
participant is enrolled to issue direct payment for the amount of 
tuition or fees on behalf of the participant.
    (b) Repeated course work. Additional costs relating to the repeated 
course work will not be paid under this program. VA will resume any 
scholarship payments suspended under this section upon notification by 
the school that the participant has returned from the leave-of-absence 
or has satisfactorily completed the repeated course work and is 
pursuing the course of study for which the VIOMPSP was awarded.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 7503, 7504(3))

Sec.  17.632  Obligated service.

    (a) General provision. Except as provided in paragraph (d) of this 
section, each participant is obligated to provide service as a full-
time clinical VA employee in the rehabilitation practice of the 
participant's discipline in an assignment or location determined by VA.
    (b) Beginning of service. A participant's obligated service will 
begin on the date on which the participant obtains any required 
applicable credentials and when appointed as a full-time clinical VA 
employee in a position for which the degree prepared the participant. 
VA will appoint the

[[Page 51073]]

participant to such position as soon as possible, but no later than 90 
days after the date that the participant receives his or her degree, or 
the date the participant obtains any required applicable credentials, 
whichever is later. If a participant fails to obtain his or her degree, 
or fails to obtain any required applicable credentials within 180 days 
after receiving the degree, the participant is considered to be in 
breach of the acceptance agreement.
    (c) Duration of service. The participant will agree to serve as a 
full-time clinical VA employee for 3 calendar years which must be 
completed no later than 6 years after the participant has completed the 
program for which the scholarship was awarded and received a degree 
referenced in Sec.  17.627(a)(1).
    (d) Location and assignment of obligated service. VA reserves the 
right to make final decisions on the location and assignment of the 
obligated service. A participant who receives a scholarship must agree 
as part of the participant's mobility agreement that he or she is 
willing to accept the location and assignment where VA assigns the 
obligated service. Geographic relocation may be required.
    (e) Creditability of advanced clinical training. No period of 
advanced clinical training will be credited towards satisfying the 
period of obligated service incurred under the VIOMPSP.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 7504(2)(D), 7504(3))

Sec.  17.633  Deferment of obligated service.

    Deferment of obligated service under the VIOMPSP is treated in the 
same manner as deferment of obligated service under the HPSP under 
Sec.  17.608.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 7504(3))

Sec.  17.634  Failure to comply with terms and conditions of 
participation.

    (a) Participant refuses to accept payment of the VIOMPSP. If a 
participant, other than one described in paragraph (b) of this section, 
refuses to accept payment or instructs the school not to accept payment 
of the VIOMPSP scholarship provided by VA, the participant must, in 
addition to any obligation incurred under the agreement, pay to the 
United States the amount of $1,500 in liquidated damages. Payment of 
this amount must be made no later than 90 days from the date that the 
participant fails to accept payment of the VIOMPSP or instructs the 
school not to accept payment.
    (b) Participant fails to complete course of study or does not 
obtain certification. A participant described in paragraphs (b)(1) 
through (4) of this section must, instead of otherwise fulfilling the 
terms of his or her acceptance agreement, pay to the United States an 
amount equal to all VIOMPSP funds awarded under the acceptance 
agreement. Payment of this amount must be made no later than 1 year 
after the date that the participant meets any of the criteria described 
in paragraphs (b)(1) through (4) of this section, unless VA determines 
that a longer period is necessary to avoid hardship. No interest will 
be charged on any part of this indebtedness. A participant will pay 
such amount if one of the following criteria is met:
    (1) The participant fails to maintain an acceptable level of 
academic standing;
    (2) The participant is dismissed from the school for disciplinary 
reasons;
    (3) The participant, for any reason, voluntarily terminates the 
course of study or program for which the scholarship was awarded 
including a reduction of course load from full-time to part-time before 
completing the course of study or program; or
    (4) The participant fails to become certified in the discipline for 
which the degree prepared the participant, if applicable, no later than 
180 days after the date such person becomes eligible to apply for 
certification.
    (c) Participant fails to perform all or any part of their service 
obligation. (1) Participants who breach their agreements by failing to 
begin or complete their service obligation, for any reason, including 
the loss, revocation, suspension, restriction, or limitation of 
required certification, and other than provided for under paragraph (b) 
of this section, must repay the portion of all VIOMPSP funds paid to or 
on behalf of the participant, adjusted for the service that they 
provided. To calculate the unearned portion of VIOMPSP funds, subtract 
the number of months of obligated service rendered from the total 
months of obligated service owed, divide the remaining months by the 
total obligated service, then multiply by the total amount of VIOMPSP 
funds paid to or on behalf of the participant. The following formula 
may be used in determining the unearned portion:

A = P((t-s)/t) in which
``A'' is the amount the United States is entitled to recover;
``P'' is the amounts paid under the VIOMPSP, to or on behalf of the 
participant;
``t'' is the total number of months in the participant's period of 
obligated service; and
``s'' is the number of months of obligated service rendered.

    (2) The amount that the United States is entitled to recover will 
be paid no later than 1 year after the date the applicant failed to 
begin or complete the period of obligated service, as determined by VA.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 7505(a), 7505(b))

Sec.  17.635  Bankruptcy.

    Bankruptcy under the VIOMPSP is treated in the same manner as 
bankruptcy for the HPSP under Sec.  17.611.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 7505(c), 7505(d))

Sec.  17.636  Cancellation, waiver, or suspension of obligation.

    Cancellation, waiver, or suspension procedures under the VIOMPSP 
are the same as those procedures for the HPSP under Sec.  17.612.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 7505(c))


[FR Doc. 2013-20255 Filed 8-19-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 8320-01-P