[Federal Register Volume 63, Number 193 (Tuesday, October 6, 1998)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 53593-53596]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 98-26781]


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DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS

38 CFR Part 3

RIN 2900-AJ09


Eligibility Reporting Requirements

AGENCY: Department of Veterans Affairs.

ACTION: Interim final rule.

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SUMMARY: This document amends the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) 
adjudication regulations concerning eligibility verification reports 
(EVRs) for recipients of pension under programs in effect prior to 
January 1, 1979. The amendment reduces the number of circumstances 
under which VA requires such pensioners to furnish annual EVRs. The 
intended effect of this amendment is to reduce the reporting burden on 
these beneficiaries, reduce the workload at VA regional offices, and 
enable VA to use its resources more effectively.

DATES: Effective date: October 6, 1998.
    Comment date: Comments must be received on or before December 7, 
1998.

ADDRESSES: Mail or hand-deliver written comments to: Director, Office 
of Regulations Management (02D), Department of Veterans Affairs, 810 
Vermont Ave., NW, Room 1154, Washington, DC 20420. Comments should 
indicate that they are submitted in response to ``RIN: 2900-AJ09.'' All 
written comments received will be available for public inspection at 
the above address in the Office of Regulations Management, Room 1158, 
between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday 
(except holidays). (In addition, see the Paperwork Reduction Act 
heading under the Supplementary Information section of this preamble 
regarding submission of comments on the information collection burden.)

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: John Bisset, Jr., Consultant, 
Regulations Staff, Compensation and Pension Service, Veterans Benefits 
Administration, 810 Vermont Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20420, telephone 
(202) 273-7210.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The term ``eligibility verification report'' 
(EVR)

[[Page 53594]]

means a VA form requesting information, such as income and marital 
status, that VA needs to determine or verify eligibility for its need-
based benefit programs, such as old law pension and section 306 
pension. The term ``old law pension'' means the disability and death 
pension programs that were in effect on June 30, 1960. The term 
``section 306 pension'' means those disability and death pension 
programs in effect on December 31, 1978.
    Old law and section 306 pension are need-based benefits in that an 
individual's eligibility for either depends on his or her income being 
below a certain limit. If an individual's income exceeds the limit, the 
individual is no longer eligible. Also, the rate of pension paid is 
affected by the number of dependents the eligible individual has. For 
these reasons, EVRs request information concerning income and marital 
status.
    Former 38 CFR 3.256(b)(3) required every old law and section 306 
pension recipient, as a condition to continuing to receive pension, to 
furnish VA an EVR upon request. Former 38 CFR 3.256(b)(2) required VA 
to require an EVR under the following circumstances: (i) If the Social 
Security Administration has not verified the recipient's Social 
Security number and, if the recipient is married, his or her spouse's 
Social Security number; (ii) if there is any reason to believe that the 
recipient or, if the recipient's spouse's income could affect 
entitlement, his or her spouse may have received income other than 
Social Security benefits during the current or previous calendar year; 
or (iii) if the Secretary determines that an EVR is necessary to 
preserve program integrity. This interim final rule requires VA to 
require an EVR from an old-law or section-306 pension recipient only if 
the Secretary determines that an EVR is necessary to preserve program 
integrity.
    VA has determined that it is no longer necessary to require EVRs 
from old law or section 306 pension recipients solely on the bases 
described in former 38 CFR 3.256(b)(2)(i) and (ii). VA required EVRs in 
these circumstances to help determine whether the recipients' income 
exceeded applicable limits. However, the annual income of all old law 
and section 306 pension recipients has been below applicable limits 
every year since 1978, and we believe it unlikely that their income 
will exceed applicable limits in the future. If a recipient's income 
does exceed the applicable limit, 38 CFR 3.256(a) still requires that 
he or she promptly notify VA.
    Based on these facts, we have determined that it is no longer 
necessary to require old law and section 306 pension recipients to 
submit EVRs based on unverified Social Security numbers or suspected 
additional income.
    Requiring fewer EVRs from old law and section 306 pensioners will 
reduce the reporting burden for these elderly beneficiaries (the 
average age is 75) without significantly increasing the risk of 
erroneous pension payments. Because the rates of payment do not change, 
changes in income have no effect on payments except in the rare 
instance of income exceeding the income limit. Furthermore, VA has data 
exchange programs with other agencies such as the Internal Revenue 
Service, the Social Security Administration, the Railroad Retirement 
Board, and the Office of Personnel Management. These computer matching 
programs increase the likelihood that VA will learn of increases in 
income in those rare instances where the beneficiary failed to report 
the change. This amendment will also reduce workload at VA regional 
offices and enable VA to redirect scarce resources to other types of 
claims processing.
    VA will still require old law and section 306 pensioners to furnish 
EVRs if it determines that it is necessary to preserve program 
integrity, which means it is necessary for VA, or an agency with 
oversight authority over VA, to verify that EVR-exempt beneficiaries 
are accurately reporting changes in entitlement factors. 38 CFR 3.256 
is amended accordingly.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    Under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, as amended (44 U.S.C. 
3501-3520), this interim final rule includes information collection 
provisions in 38 CFR 3.256 and 3.277. Prior to the effective date of 
this document, the information collections contained in Secs. 3.256 and 
3.277 were approved by OMB through November 30, 2000, under OMB Control 
No. 2900-0101. For some recipients of pension under programs in effect 
prior to January 1, 1979, this interim final rule eliminates the 
previous requirement they submit EVRs to VA annually. The only action 
concerning information collection taken by this document is to 
eliminate certain collections of information contained in the approval 
under OMB Control No. 2900-0101. In accordance with section 3507(j) of 
the Act and 5 CFR 1320.13, we have requested that OMB approve the 
information collection provisions in Secs. 3.256 and Sec. 3.277 under 
OMB Control No. 2900-0101 on an emergency basis for 180 days.
    VA intends to seek an extension of the approval for the information 
collection changes made by this document. Therefore, VA asks for 
comments regarding the information collection provisions contained in 
Secs. 3.256 and 3.277. After considering any comments received during 
the comment period, VA will submit a copy of the proposed information 
collection provisions to OMB for approval.
    This document eliminates 22,500 reporting hours from the total of 
354,725 burden hours that OMB had previously approved under the same 
control number. The Secretary has determined that the collection of 
information is essential to the mission of the agency, that use of the 
collection of information in this document is needed before the normal 
time periods established under 5 CFR part 1320, and that public harm is 
reasonably likely to result if normal clearance procedures are 
followed. This interim final rule eliminates the need for VA to mail 
approximately 45,000 elderly recipients of old law or section 306 
pensions reporting forms that would require responses. Accordingly, 
emergency approval of the information collection as amended by this 
interim final rule is needed to eliminate VA's obligation to mail out 
unnecessary EVR forms and thereby avoid an unnecessary burden to the 
public.
    Title: Eligibility Verification Reports.
    Summary of collection of information: This collection of 
information consists of written information concerning entitlement 
factors in VA's income-based benefit programs, pension and parents' 
dependency and indemnity compensation, that a person must submit on a 
form prescribed by the Secretary within 60 days of a request by VA. It 
also consists of written information concerning the same entitlement 
factors that a person must report promptly if there is a change 
affecting entitlement, but need not submit on a form.
    Description of need for information and proposed use of 
information: Any individual who has applied for or receives pension or 
parents' dependency and indemnity compensation must promptly notify the 
Secretary of changes affecting entitlement to such benefits and respond 
within 60 days of a request by VA for written information concerning 
entitlement factors. The information is required to comply with 
statutory eligibility requirements.
    Description of likely respondents: Individuals or households.
    Estimated number of respondents: 664,450.

[[Page 53595]]

    Estimated frequency of responses: Once per year.
    Estimated total annual reporting and recordkeeping burden: 332,225 
hours.
    Estimated average burden per collection: 30 minutes.
    The Department considers comments by the public on proposed 
collections of information in--
     Evaluating whether the proposed collections of information 
are necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the 
Department, including whether the information will have practical 
utility;
     Evaluating the accuracy of the Department's estimate of 
the burden of the proposed collections of information, including the 
validity of the methodology and assumptions used;
     Enhancing the quality, usefulness, and clarity of the 
information to be collected; and
     Minimizing the burden of the collections of information on 
those who are to respond, including through the use of appropriate 
automated, electronic, mechanical, or other technological collection 
techniques or other forms of information technology, e.g., permitting 
electronic submission of responses.
    OMB assigns a control number for each collection of information it 
approves. VA may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is not required 
to respond to, a collection of information unless it displays a 
currently valid OMB control number.
    Comments on the collection of information must be submitted by 
October 14, 1998 and be sent to the Office of Management and Budget, 
Attention: Desk Officer for the Department of Veterans Affairs, Office 
of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Washington, DC 20503, with 
copies to the Director, Office of Regulations Management (02D), 
Department of Veterans Affairs, 810 Vermont Ave., NW, Washington, DC 
20420. Comments should indicate that they are submitted in response to 
``RIN 2900--AJ09.'' We have asked OMB to act by October 21 1998.

Administrative Procedure Act

    There is good cause under the provisions of 5 U.S.C. 553 to publish 
this interim final rule without regard to prior notice and comment and 
effective date provisions. Compliance with these provisions would be 
impracticable, unnecessary, and contrary to the public interest. This 
interim final rule merely eliminates collections of information that 
are no longer needed.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    Because no notice of proposed rulemaking was required in connection 
with the adoption of this interim final rule, no regulatory flexibility 
analysis is required under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 
601-612). Even so, the Secretary hereby certifies that this interim 
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. This interim final rule affects only individuals.

Executive Order 12866

    OMB has reviewed this document under the provisions of Executive 
Order 12866.
    The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance program numbers are 
64.104 and 64.105.

List of Subjects in 38 CFR Part 3

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

    Approved: May 18, 1998.
Togo D. West, Jr.,
Secretary.
    For the reasons set forth in the preamble, 38 CFR part 3 is amended 
as follows:

PART 3--ADJUDICATION

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

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

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

    2. Section 3.256 is revised to read as follows:


Sec. 3.256  Eligibility reporting requirements.

    (a) Obligation to report changes in factors affecting entitlement. 
Any individual who has applied for or receives pension or parents' 
dependency and indemnity compensation must promptly notify the 
Secretary in writing of any change affecting entitlement in any of the 
following:
    (1) Income;
    (2) Net worth or corpus of estate;
    (3) Marital status;
    (4) Nursing home patient status;
    (5) School enrollment status of a child 18 years of age or older; 
or
    (6) Any other factor that affects entitlement to benefits under the 
provisions of this Part.
    (b) Eligibility verification reports. (1) For purposes of this 
section the term eligibility verification report means a form 
prescribed by the Secretary that is used to request income, net worth 
(if applicable), dependency status, and any other information necessary 
to determine or verify entitlement to pension or parents' dependency 
and indemnity compensation.
    (2) VA will not require old law or section 306 pensioners to submit 
eligibility verification reports unless the Secretary determines that 
doing so is necessary to preserve program integrity.
    (3) The Secretary shall require an eligibility verification report 
from individuals receiving parents' dependency and indemnity 
compensation under the following circumstances:
    (i) If the Social Security Administration has not verified the 
beneficiary's Social Security number and, if the beneficiary is 
married, his or her spouse's Social Security number.
    (ii) If there is reason to believe that the beneficiary or, if the 
spouse's income could affect entitlement, his or her spouse may have 
received income other than Social Security during the current or 
previous calendar year; or
    (iii) If the Secretary determines that an eligibility verification 
report is necessary to preserve program integrity.
    (4) An individual who applies for or receives pension or parents' 
dependency and indemnity compensation as defined in Secs. 3.3 or 3.5 of 
this part shall, as a condition of receipt or continued receipt of 
benefits, furnish the Department of Veterans Affairs an eligibility 
verification report upon request.
    (c) If VA requests that a claimant or beneficiary submit an 
eligibility verification report but he or she fails to do so within 60 
days of the date of the VA request, the Secretary shall suspend the 
award or disallow the claim.

(Authority: Sec. 306(a)(2) and (b)(3), Pub. L. 95-588, 92 Stat. 
2508-2509; 38 U.S.C. 1315(e))

    3. Section 3.277 is republished as follows:


Sec. 3.277  Eligibility reporting requirements.

    (a) Evidence of entitlement. As a condition of granting or 
continuing pension, the Department of Veterans Affairs may require from 
any person who is an applicant for or a recipient of pension such 
information, proofs, and evidence as is necessary to determine the 
annual income and the value of the corpus of the estate of such person, 
and of any spouse or child from whom the person is receiving or is to 
receive increased pension (such child is hereinafter in this section 
referred to as

[[Page 53596]]

a dependent child), and, in the case of a child applying for or in 
receipt of pension in his or her own behalf (hereinafter in this 
section referred to as a surviving child), of any person with whom such 
child is residing who is legally responsible for such child's support.
    (b) Obligation to report changes in factors affecting entitlement. 
Any individual who has applied for or receives pension must promptly 
notify the Secretary in writing of any change affecting entitlement in 
any of the following:
    (1) Income;
    (2) Net worth or corpus of estate;
    (3) Marital status;
    (4) Nursing home patient status;
    (5) School enrollment status of a child 18 years of age or older; 
or
    (6) Any other factor that affects entitlement to benefits under the 
provisions of this part.
    (c) Eligibility verification reports. (1) For purposes of this 
section the term eligibility verification report means a form 
prescribed by the Secretary that is used to request income, net worth, 
dependency status, and any other information necessary to determine or 
verify entitlement to pension.
    (2) The Secretary shall require an eligibility verification report 
under the following circumstances:
    (i) If the Social Security Administration has not verified the 
beneficiary's Social Security number and, if the beneficiary is 
married, his or her spouse's Social Security number;
    (ii) If there is reason to believe that the beneficiary or his or 
her spouse may have received income other than Social Security during 
the current or previous calendar year; or
    (iii) If the Secretary determines that an eligibility verification 
report is necessary to preserve program integrity.
    (3) An individual who applies for or receives pension as defined in 
Sec. 3.3 of this part shall, as a condition of receipt or continued 
receipt of benefits, furnish the Department of Veterans Affairs an 
eligibility verification report upon request,
    (d) If VA requests that a claimant or beneficiary submit an 
eligibility verification report but he or she fails to do so within 60 
days of the date of the VA request, the Secretary shall suspend the 
award or disallow the claim.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 1506)

[FR Doc. 98-26781 Filed 10-5-98; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 8320-01-P