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Notice

Privacy Act of 1974; System of Records

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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AGENCY:

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

ACTION:

Notice of amendment to system of records.

SUMMARY:

As required by the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. 552a(e), notice is hereby given that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is amending the system of records currently entitled “Education Debt Reduction Program-VA” (115VA10) as set forth in the Federal Register 67 FR 64449. VA is amending the system of records by revising the Routine Uses of Records Maintained in the System Including Categories of Users and the Purpose of Such Uses. VA is republishing the system notice in its entirety.

DATES:

Comments on the amendment of this system of records must be received no later than June 8, 2009. If no public comment is received, the amended system will become effective June 8, 2009.

ADDRESSES:

Written comments may be submitted through http://www.Regulations.gov; by mail or hand-delivery to 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 received will be available for public inspection in the Office of Regulation Policy and Management, Room 1063B, between the hours of 8 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 (FDMS) at http://www.Regulations.gov.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Privacy Officer, Department of Veterans Affairs, 810 Vermont Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20420; telephone (704) 245-2492.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Description of Proposed System of Records

The Education Debt Reduction Program (EDRP) allows VA to provide education debt reduction payments to employees with qualifying loans who occupy certain health care positions for which recruitment and retention of qualified personnel is difficult. The specific health care professions that are covered by the EDRP include: physician, dentist, podiatrist, licensed pharmacist, licensed practical/vocational nurse, expanded-function dental auxiliary, registered nurse, certified registered nurse anesthetist, physician assistant, optometrist, physical therapist, occupational therapist, certified respiratory therapy technician, and registered respiratory therapist. The purpose of the program is to help VA meet its needs for qualified health care staff.

The Education Debt Reduction Program-VA (115VA10) system of records contains personal identification information related to the application Start Printed Page 21433material, to education loan verification documentation, to award processes, to employment status, and to service periods covered by an award such as name, address, social security number, employing facility name, job title, grade, education level, education debt reduction payment amounts, service periods covered by education debt reduction payments, name and address of the lending institution, original loan amount, current loan amount, and loan payment amount. It also contains individual information about applicants who have been denied awards and award recipients who have been terminated from program participation. Additionally, it may contain information about why an applicant declined to accept an award. Since applicants typically are denied awards because they do not meet the eligibility requirements to participate in the program, the specific nature of an applicant's ineligibility would be another element of information contained in the system of records. The information in this system of records is maintained in electronic and hard copy format and is periodically updated through recurring reports provided by local VA facilities about the progress of their program participants. This information is necessary to effectively administer the educational assistance program. It is used to determine and document an individual applicant's initial eligibility for education debt reduction awards; calculate the payment amounts and related service periods for award recipients; ensure that award amounts are consistent with applicable law, regulations and policy; monitor the amount of principal and interest that a participant paid to reduce the balance on a qualifying loan during each service period covered by the award; monitor the employment status of award recipients during their service periods; and evaluate and report program results and effectiveness. Any information in this system may be used by local VA supervisory officials and program coordinators to ensure that it is accurate and that award recipients are in compliance with the terms for participating in the program. Data about individual program participants may change (e.g., changes in employment status), and that could impact certain terms of their awards such as the amounts of the education debt reduction payments and/or the beginning and ending dates of their service periods. Data changes may also impact assessments of the effectiveness of the educational assistance program. Accordingly, local supervisory officials and program coordinators must periodically review individual data in the system of records to ensure its accuracy. There are no debts to recover since each award payment is made at the conclusion of a service period. An individual who leaves before completing a service period is eligible to receive a pro-rata share of the payment for an entire service period based on the amount of time actually served in paid status during the service period.

II. Compatibility of the Proposed Routine Uses

The Report of Intent to Amend a System on Records Notice and an advance copy of the system notice have been sent to the appropriate Congressional committees and to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) as required by 5 U.S.C. 552a(r) (Privacy Act) and guidelines issued by OMB (65 FR 77677), December 12, 2000.

Routine use 11 was added for the VA to disclose information from this system of records to the Department of Justice (DoJ), either on VA's initiative or in response to DoJ's request for the information, after either VA or DoJ determines that such information is relevant to DoJ's representation of the United States or any of its components in legal proceedings before a court or adjudicative body, provided that, in each case, the agency also determines prior to disclosure that release of the records to the DoJ is a use of the information contained in the records that is compatible with the purpose for which VA collected the records. VA, on its own initiative, may disclose records in this system of records in legal proceedings before a court or administrative body after determining that the disclosure of the records to the court or administrative body is a use of the information contained in the records that is compatible with the purpose for which VA collected the records.

Routine Use 12 was added to disclose relevant information that may be made to individuals, organizations, private or public agencies, or other entities with whom VA has a contract or agreement or where there is a subcontract to perform such service as VA may deem practicable for the purposes of laws administered by VA, in order for the contractor or subcontractor to perform the services of the contract or agreement.

Routine Use 13 was added for the VA to disclose on its own initiative any information in the system, except the names and home addresses of veterans and their dependents, that is relevant to a suspected or reasonably imminent violation of the law whether civil, criminal, or regulatory in nature and whether arising by general or program statute or by regulation, rule, or order issued pursuant thereto, to a Federal, state, local, tribal, or foreign agency charged with the responsibility of investigating or prosecuting such violation, or charged with enforcing or implementing the statute, regulation, rule, or order. VA may also disclose on its own initiative the names and addresses of veterans and their dependents to a Federal agency charged with the responsibility of investigating or prosecuting civil, criminal, or regulatory violations of law, or charged with enforcing or implementing the statute, regulation, or order issued pursuant thereto.

Routine use 14 was added to disclose information to other Federal agencies that may be made to assist such agencies in preventing and detecting possible fraud or abuse by individuals in their operations and programs.

Routine use 15 was added so that the VA may, on its own initiative, disclose any information or records to appropriate agencies, entities, and persons when (1) VA suspects or has confirmed that the integrity or confidentiality of information in the system of records has been compromised; (2) the Department has determined that as a result of the suspected or confirmed compromise, there is a risk of embarrassment or harm to the reputations of the record subjects, harm to economic or property interests, identity theft or fraud, or harm to the security, confidentiality, or integrity of this system or other systems or programs (whether maintained by the Department or another agency or entity) that rely upon the potentially compromised information; and (3) the disclosure is to agencies, entities, or persons whom VA determines are reasonably necessary to assist or carry out the Department's efforts to respond to the suspected or confirmed compromise and prevent, minimize, or remedy such harm. This routine use permits disclosures by the Department to respond to a suspected or confirmed data breach, including the conduct of any risk analysis or provision of credit protection services as provided in 38 U.S.C. 5724, as the terms are defined in 38 U.S.C. 5727.

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Approved: April 21, 2009.

John R. Gingrich,

Chief of Staff, Department of Veterans Affairs.

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115VA10

SYSTEM NAME:

Education Debt Reduction Program-VA.

SYSTEM LOCATION:

Records will be maintained at the Health Care Staff Development and

Retention Office (HCSDRO/10A2D), Veterans Health Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), 1555 Poydras Street, Suite 1971, New Orleans, Louisiana 70112; the Austin Automation Center, Department of Veterans Affairs, 1615 East Woodward Street, Austin, Texas 78772; and the VA health care facilities and VISN offices where scholarship recipients are employed. Address locations for VA health care facilities are listed in VA Appendix 1 of the Biennial Publication of Privacy Act Issuances. Complete records will be maintained only at the HCSDRO address.

CATEGORIES OF INDIVIDUALS COVERED BY THE SYSTEM:

VA employees who apply for and are granted or denied educational assistance awards under the provisions of the VA Education Debt Reduction Program (EDRP) serving under an appointment under Title 38 U.S.C., Section 7402(b) in a position for which retention of qualified healthcare personnel is difficult.

CATEGORIES OF RECORDS IN THE SYSTEM:

Records (or information contained in records) in this system may include: Personal identification information related to the application material, award processes, employment, and EDRP service periods such as (1) name, (2) employing facility number, (3) telephone number(s), (4) social security number, (5) debt reduction payment amounts, (6) dates of service periods, (7) name and address of the lending institution, (8) academic degree obtained for which EDRP funding is requested, (9) name and address of academic institution, (10) original amount of loan, and (11) current loan balance. Most of this information is contained on the application for an EDRP award including the applicant's full name, employing facility number, home and work telephone numbers, social security number, job title, degree obtained for which funding is requested, name and address of the academic institution, and the amount and number of debt reduction payments requested. The EDRP Loan Verification Form contains the candidate's name and social security number, name and address of the lending institution, original loan amount, current loan amount, and the purpose of the loan as stated on the loan application. The EDRP Acceptance of Conditions contains the name of a candidate approved for an award and the authorized number of debt reduction payments and their related amounts.

AUTHORITY FOR MAINTENANCE OF THE SYSTEM:

Title 38, U.S.C., Sections 501, 503, 7451, 7452, and 7431-7440.

PURPOSE(S):

The records and information may be used for determining and documenting individual applicant eligibility for debt reduction awards; determining the debt reduction payment amounts and the related service periods for award recipients; ensuring that award amounts are consistent with applicable law, regulations and policy; monitoring the employment status of scholarship recipients during their service periods; terminating an employee's participation in the program; and evaluating and reporting program results and effectiveness.

ROUTINE USES OF RECORDS MAINTAINED IN THE SYSTEM, INCLUDING CATEGORIES OF USERS AND THE PURPOSES OF SUCH USES:

To the extent that records contained in the system include information protected by 45 CFR Parts 160 and 164, i.e., individually identifiable health information, and 38 U.S.C. 7332, i.e., medical treatment information related to drug abuse, alcoholism or alcohol abuse, sickle cell anemia or infection with the human immunodeficiency virus, that information cannot be disclosed under a routine use unless there is also specific statutory authority in 38 U.S.C. 7332 and regulatory authority in 45 CFR Parts 160 and 164 permitting disclosure.

1. Disclosure of any information in this system that is necessary to verify authenticity of the application may be made to lending institutions and other relevant organizations or individuals.

2. Disclosure of any information in this system may be made to a Federal agency in order to determine if an applicant has any obligation under another Federal program that would render the applicant ineligible to participate in the Education Debt Reduction Program.

3. Any information in the system may be used to evaluate and report program results and effectiveness to appropriate officials including members of Congress on a routine and ad hoc basis.

4. Disclosure of information in this system may be made to a member of Congress or staff person acting for the member when the member or staff person requests the records on behalf of and at the request of that individual.

5. Disclosure may be made to the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA) and the General Services Administration (GSA) in records management inspections conducted under authority of Title 44 United States Code.

6. Disclosure of information to the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA), including its General Counsel, when requested in connection with the investigation and resolution of allegations of unfair labor practices, in connection with the resolution of exceptions to arbitrator awards when a question of material fact is raised, in connection with matters before the Federal Service Impasses Panel, and to investigate representation petitions and conduct or supervise representation elections.

7. Disclosure may be made to officials of labor organizations recognized under 5 U.S.C. chapter 71 when relevant and necessary to their duties of exclusive representation concerning personnel policies, practices, and matters affecting working conditions.

8. Disclosure may be made to the VA-appointed representative of an employee, including all notices, determinations, decisions, or other written communications issued to the employee in connection with an examination ordered by VA under medical evaluation (formerly fitness-for-duty) examination procedures or Department-filed disability retirement procedures.

9. Disclosure may be made to officials of the Merit Systems Protection Board, including the Office of the Special Counsel, when requested in connection with appeals, special studies of the civil service and other merit systems, review of rules and regulations, investigation of alleged or possible prohibited personnel practices, and such other functions, promulgated in 5 U.S.C. 1205 and 1206, or as may be authorized by law.

10. Disclosure may be made to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission when requested in connection with investigations of alleged or possible discrimination practices, examination of Federal affirmative employment programs, compliance with the Uniform Guidelines of Employee Selection Procedures, or other functions of the Commission as authorized by law or regulation.

11. VA may disclose information from this system of records to the Department of Justice (DoJ), either on VA's initiative Start Printed Page 21435or in response to DoJ's request for the information, after either VA or DoJ determines that such information is relevant to DoJ's representation of the United States or any of its components in legal proceedings before a court or adjudicative body, provided that, in each case, the agency also determines prior to disclosure that release of the records to the DoJ is a use of the information contained in the records that is compatible with the purpose for which VA collected the records. VA, on its own initiative, may disclose records in this system of records in legal proceedings before a court or administrative body after determining that the disclosure of the records to the court or administrative body is a use of the information contained in the records that is compatible with the purpose for which VA collected the records.

12. Disclosure of relevant information may be made to individuals, organizations, private or public agencies, or other entities with whom VA has a contract or agreement or where there is a subcontract to perform such services as VA may deem practicable for the purposes of laws administered by VA, in order for the contractor or subcontractor to perform the services of the contract or agreement.

13. VA may disclose on its own initiative any information in the system, except the names and home addresses of veterans and their dependents, that is relevant to a suspected or reasonably imminent violation of the law whether civil, criminal, or regulatory in nature and whether arising by general or program statute or by regulation, rule, or order issued pursuant thereto, to a Federal, state, local, tribal, or foreign agency charged with the responsibility of investigating or prosecuting such violation, or charged with enforcing or implementing the statute, regulation, rule, or order. VA may also disclose on its own initiative the names and addresses of veterans and their dependents to a Federal agency charged with the responsibility of investigating or prosecuting civil, criminal, or regulatory violations of law, or charged with enforcing or implementing the statute, regulation, or order issued pursuant thereto.

14. Disclosure to other Federal agencies may be made to assist such agencies in preventing and detecting possible fraud or abuse by individuals in their operations and programs.

15. VA may, on its own initiative, disclose any information or records to appropriate agencies, entities, and persons when (1) VA suspects or has confirmed that the integrity or confidentiality of information in the system of records has been compromised; (2) the Department has determined that as a result of the suspected or confirmed compromise, there is a risk of embarrassment or harm to the reputations of the record subjects, harm to economic or property interests, identity theft or fraud, or harm to the security, confidentiality, or integrity of this system or other systems or programs (whether maintained by the Department or another agency or entity) that rely upon the potentially compromised information; and (3) the disclosure is to agencies, entities, or persons whom VA determines are reasonably necessary to assist or carry out the Department's efforts to respond to the suspected or confirmed compromise and prevent, minimize, or remedy such harm. This routine use permits disclosures by the Department to respond to a suspected or confirmed data breach, including the conduct of any risk analysis or provision of credit protection services as provided in 38 U.S.C. 5724, as the terms are defined in 38 U.S.C. 5727.

DISCLOSURE TO CONSUMER REPORTING AGENCIES:

Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 552a(b)(12), VA may disclose records from this system to consumer reporting agencies as defined in the Fair Credit Reporting Act (15 U.S.C. 1681a(f)) or the Federal Claims Collection Act of 1966 (31 U.S.C. 3701(a)(3)).

Policies and practices for storing, retrieving, accessing, retaining, and disposing of records in the system:

Storage:

Records are maintained on paper, electronic media and computer printouts.

Retrievability:

Records are retrieved by use of the award number or an equivalent participant account number assigned by HCSDRO, Social Security Number and the name of the individual.

Safeguards:

Access to the basic file in HCSDRO is restricted to authorized VA employees and vendors. Access to the office spaces where electronic media is maintained within HCSDRO is further restricted to specifically authorized employees and is protected by contracted building security services. Records (typically computer printouts) at HCSDRO will be kept in locked files and made available only to authorized personnel on a need-to-know basis. During non-working hours the file is locked and the building is protected by contracted building security services. Records stored on electronic media are maintained on a VA-approved and managed, password-protected, secure local area network (LAN) located within HCSDRO office spaces and safeguarded as described above. Records stored on electronic media at Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) Offices, VA health care facilities and the Austin Automation Center (AAC) in Austin, Texas, are provided equivalent safeguards subject to local policies mandating protection of information subject to federal safeguards.

Retention and disposal:

Records will be maintained and disposed of in accordance with records disposition authority approved by the Archivist of the United States.

System manager(s) and address:

Director, Health Care Staff Development and Retention Office (10A2D), Veterans Health Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, 1555 Poydras Street, Suite 1971, New Orleans, Louisiana 70112.

Notification procedure:

Any individual who wishes to determine whether a record is being maintained in this system under his or her name or other personal identifier, or wants to determine the contents of such records, should submit a written request or apply in person to the Director, Health Care Staff Development and Retention Office, Veterans Health Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, 1555 Poydras Street, Suite 1971, New Orleans, Louisiana 70112.

Record access procedure:

Individuals seeking information regarding access to and contesting of VA records in this system may write, call or visit the Director, Health Care Staff Development and Retention Office (10A2D), Veterans Health Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, 1555 Poydras Street, Suite 1971, New Orleans, Louisiana 70112. The telephone number is (504) 589-5267.

Contesting record procedures:

(See Record Access Procedures above.)

Record source categories:

Information contained in the records is obtained from the individual, references given in application material, educational institutions, VA medical facilities, the VA AAC, other Federal agencies, State agencies and consumer reporting agencies.

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[FR Doc. E9-10626 Filed 5-6-09; 8:45 am]

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