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Rule

Fisher Houses and Other Temporary Lodging

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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Start Preamble

AGENCY:

Department of Veterans Affairs.

ACTION:

Final rule.

SUMMARY:

This document establishes requirements regarding the use of Fisher Houses and other temporary lodging by veterans receiving VA medical care or Compensation and Pension (C&P) examinations and by family members or other persons accompanying veterans to provide the equivalent of familial support. This is necessary to implement provisions of the Veterans Benefits and Health Care Improvement Act of 2000.

DATES:

Effective Date: March 26, 2003.

Start Further Info

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Jill E. Manske, Social Work Services (110B), Veterans Health Administration, 202-273-8549 (this is not a toll-free number).

End Further Info End Preamble Start Supplemental Information

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

This document sets forth requirements regarding the use of temporary lodging by veterans receiving VA medical care or C&P examinations and by family members or other persons accompanying veterans to provide the equivalent of familial support. VA is mandated to establish a program for providing such temporary lodging under section 221(a) of the Veterans Benefits and Health Care Improvement Act of 2000 (Public Law 106-419). These statutory provisions regarding temporary lodging have been codified at 38 U.S.C. 1708 and are administered by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) of VA.

In a document published in the Federal Register on April 30, 2002 (67 FR 21191), VA proposed to provide for temporary lodging at Fisher Houses, VA health care facilities (generally referred to as “hoptels”), and at temporary non-VA lodging facilities, such as hotels or motels, provided by a VA health care facility. These are the facilities that may be used for temporary lodging under 38 U.S.C. 1708.

The public comment period ended on July 1, 2002. We received one comment asking VA to change the text in paragraph 60.2 (1) to add the words “or Fisher House Foundation” after “Zachary and Elizabeth M. Fisher Armed Services Foundation.” We agree. This change will accurately reflect the name of this organization.

Based on the rationale set forth in the proposed rule and this document, we Start Printed Page 8548are adopting the provisions of the proposed rule as a final rule with the change mentioned above.

Under 38 U.S.C. 1708(c), a Fisher House is a housing facility that is located at or near a VA health care facility, that is available for residential use on a temporary basis by eligible persons, and that was constructed by and donated to VA by the Zachary and Elizabeth M. Fisher Armed Services Foundation or Fisher House Foundation.

Consistent with the limits of statutory authority in 38 U.S.C. 1708(b) and subject to the conditions discussed in this document, this final rule provides that the following are eligible to stay in temporary lodging:

(a) A veteran with an appointment at a VA health care facility for the purpose of receiving health care or a C&P examination; and

(b) A member of the family of such veteran or another person who accompanies such veteran to provide the equivalent of familial support.

This final rule provides that to obtain temporary lodging, a veteran must make an application to the person responsible for coordinating the temporary lodging program at the VA health care facility of jurisdiction. This may be done by letter, electronic means (including telephone, e-mail, or facsimile), or in person at the VA health care facility of jurisdiction. Under the final rule, the veteran must provide the following information:

(a) Veteran's name;

(b) Beginning date and time and duration of scheduled care;

(c) Type of scheduled care;

(d) Name, gender, and relationship to the veteran of person accompanying veteran;

(e) Requested dates for temporary lodging;

(f) Distance, time, and means of travel from the veteran's home to VA health care facility;

(g) Circumstances that may affect the time of travel from the veteran's home to VA health care facility; and

(h) A statement that the veteran is medically stable and capable of self-care or will be accompanied by a caregiver able to provide the necessary care. This will allow for ease of application and provide VA with information necessary to determine whether the veteran is eligible for temporary lodging.

This final rule provides that, as a condition for receiving temporary lodging, a veteran must be required to travel either 50 or more miles, or at least two hours from their home to the VA health care facility, except that the facility Director at the VA health care facility of jurisdiction may make an exception to distance or time provisions based on exceptional circumstances, such as condition of the veteran, inclement weather, road conditions, or the mode of transportation used by the veteran. We believe this a reasonable interpretation of the requirement at 38 U.S.C. 1708(b)(1) which provides that a veteran must travel a “significant distance” for the veteran and other person to be eligible for temporary housing.

The final rule also provides that, as a condition for receiving temporary lodging, the veteran must be medically stable and must be capable of self-care or be accompanied by a caregiver able to provide the necessary care. This is necessary because VA does not provide nursing or other medical care for temporary lodging beds.

This final rule establishes criteria for determining when temporary lodging will be made available. Consistent with VHA's health care mission, the rule provides that temporary lodging may be furnished in connection with care or C&P examinations provided at a VA health care facility. The rule provides that if the veteran is undergoing extensive treatment or procedures, such as an organ transplant or chemotherapy, eligible persons may be furnished temporary lodging for the duration of the episode of care. The rule also provides that temporary lodging may be available the night before the day of the scheduled care, if the veteran leaving home by 8 a.m., would be unable to arrive at the health care facility by the time of the scheduled care. Further, the rule provides that temporary lodging may be available the night of the scheduled care if, after the completion of the care, the veteran would be unable to return home by 7 p.m. These provisions are designed to allow temporary lodging during the times it would be reasonably needed.

Fisher Houses are available solely for temporary lodging. The final rule provides that non-utilized beds and rooms at a VA health care facility will be made available if not barred by law and if the Director of the VA health care facility determines that such action would not have a negative impact on patient care. The rule also provides that temporary lodging facilities, such as hotels or motels, will be utilized based on availability of local funding as determined by the Director of the health care facility. In addition, temporary lodging will be provided on a first-come first-serve basis. We believe that these provisions constitute an appropriate use of VA facilities and establish a reasonable method for determining priority.

Except for certain medically-related decisions that are left to health care personnel, the final rule provides that decisions concerning temporary lodging are to be made by the person responsible for coordinating the temporary lodging program at the VA health care facility of jurisdiction. We believe these are appropriate delegations of authority.

VA has authority under 38 U.S.C. 1708 to establish charges for temporary lodging. We believe that if we were to charge, we would need to establish exemptions for those who lack the means to pay for lodging accommodations. Further, based on our experience, we believe that the vast majority of veterans who seek temporary lodging fall into this category. Moreover, we believe that administrative costs for determining need and the additional billing costs would exceed amounts we could reasonably expect to collect based on any reasonable charge amount. Accordingly, the final rule provides that costs for temporary lodging shall be borne by VA.

Paperwork Reduction Act

This document contains provisions constituting collections of information under the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. 3501-3521) approved by the Office of Management and Budget under control number 2900-0630.

Executive Order 12866

This document has been reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget under Executive Order 12866.

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 developing any rule that may result in an expenditure by State, local, or tribal governments, in the aggregate, or by the private sector of $100 million or more in any given year. This rule would have no consequential effect on State, local, or tribal governments.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

The Secretary hereby certifies that the adoption of 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. The adoption of the final rule will not have an effect on small entities other than possibly the lodging industry. However, any effect would be minuscule. Therefore, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 605(b), this final rule is exempt from the initial Start Printed Page 8549and final regulatory flexibility analysis requirement of sections 603 and 604.

Start List of Subjects

List of Subjects in 38 CFR Part 17

End List of Subjects Start Signature
Approved: November 27, 2002.

Anthony J. Principi,

Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

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For the reasons set forth in the preamble, 38 CFR chapter I is amended by adding a new part 60 to read as follows:

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PART 60—FISHER HOUSES AND OTHER TEMPORARY LODGING

60.1
Purpose.
60.2
Definitions.
60.3
Eligible persons.
60.4
Application.
60.5
Travel.
60.6
Condition of veteran.
60.7
Duration of temporary lodging.
60.8
Lodging availability.
60.9
Decisionmaker.
60.10
Costs.
Start Authority

Authority: 38 U.S.C. 501, 1708.

End Authority
Purpose.

This part sets forth requirements regarding the use of Fisher Houses and other temporary lodging by veterans receiving VA medical care or C&P examinations and a family member or other person accompanying the veteran to provide the equivalent of familial support.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 501, 1708)

Definitions.

For the purposes of this part:

C&P examination means an examination requested by VA's Compensation and Pension Service to be conducted at a VA health care facility for the purpose of evaluating claims by veterans.

Temporary lodging means:

(1) Lodging at a Fisher House which is a housing facility that is located at or near a VA health care facility, that is available for residential use on a temporary basis by eligible persons, and that was constructed by and donated to VA by the Zachary and Elizabeth M. Fisher Armed Services Foundation or Fisher House Foundation; or

(2) Lodging at a temporary lodging facility located at a VA health care facility (generally referred to as a “hoptel”), or a temporary non-VA lodging facility, such as a hotel or motel, provided by a VA health care facility.

VA means the Department of Veterans Affairs.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 501, 1708)

Eligible persons.

The following are eligible to stay in temporary lodging subject to the conditions of this part:

(a) A veteran with an appointment at a VA health care facility for the purpose of receiving health care or a C&P examination; and

(b) A member of the family of such veteran or another person who accompanies such veteran to provide the equivalent of familial support.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 501, 1708)

Application.

To obtain temporary lodging under this part, a veteran must make an application to the person responsible for coordinating the temporary lodging program at the VA health care facility of jurisdiction. This may be done by letter, electronic means (including telephone, e-mail, or facsimile), or in person at the VA health care facility of jurisdiction. The veteran shall provide the following information:

(a) Veteran's name;

(b) Beginning date and time and duration of scheduled care;

(c) Type of scheduled care;

(d) Name, gender, and relationship to the veteran of person accompanying veteran;

(e) Requested dates for temporary lodging;

(f) Distance, time, and means of travel from the veteran's home to VA health care facility;

(g) Circumstances that may affect the time of travel from the veteran's home to VA health care facility; and

(h) A statement that the veteran is medically stable and capable of self-care or will be accompanied by a caregiver able to provide the necessary care.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 501, 1708)

(The Office of Management and Budget has approved the information collection requirements in this section under control number 2900-0630.)

Travel.

As a condition for receiving temporary lodging under this part, a veteran must be required to travel either 50 or more miles, or at least two hours from his or her home to the VA health care facility, except that the facility Director at the VA health care facility of jurisdiction may make an exception to distance or time provisions based on exceptional circumstances, such as condition of the veteran, inclement weather, road conditions, or the mode of transportation used by the veteran.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 501, 1708)

Condition of veteran.

As a condition for receiving temporary lodging under this part, the veteran must be medically stable and must be capable of self-care or be accompanied by a caregiver able to provide the necessary care. Questions regarding these issues will be resolved by an appropriate health care provider at the VA health care facility of jurisdiction.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 501, 1708)

Duration of temporary lodging.

Temporary lodging may be furnished to eligible persons in connection with care or C&P examinations provided at a VA health care facility. When a veteran is undergoing extensive treatment or procedures, such as an organ transplant or chemotherapy, eligible persons may be furnished temporary lodging for the duration of the episode of care subject to limitations described in this section. Temporary lodging may be available the night before the day of the scheduled care, if the veteran leaving home by 8 a.m., would be unable to arrive at the health care facility by the time of the scheduled care. Temporary lodging may be available the night of the scheduled care if, after the completion of the care, the veteran would be unable to return home by 7 p.m.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 501, 1708)

Lodging availability.

Fisher Houses are available solely for temporary lodging under this part. Non-utilized beds and rooms at a VA health care facility will be made available if not barred by law and if the Director of the VA health care facility determines that such action would not have a negative impact on patient care. Temporary lodging facilities, such as hotels or motels, will be utilized based on availability of local funding as determined by the Director of the health care facility of jurisdiction. Temporary lodging will be provided on a first-come first-serve basis.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 501, 1708)

Decisionmaker.

Except as otherwise provided in this part, the person responsible for Start Printed Page 8550coordinating the temporary lodging program at the VA health care facility of jurisdiction is responsible for making decisions under this part.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 501, 1708)

Costs.

Costs for temporary lodging under this part shall be borne by VA.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 501, 1708)

End Part End Supplemental Information

[FR Doc. 03-4204 Filed 2-21-03; 8:45 am]

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