Reimbursement for Caskets and Urns for Burial of Unclaimed Remains in a National Cemetery, 19534-19538 [2015-08388]

Download as PDF 19534 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 70 / Monday, April 13, 2015 / Rules and Regulations rule is to warn mariners in waters where 72 COLREGS apply. DATES: This rule is effective April 13, 2015 and is applicable beginning April 1, 2015. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Commander Theron R. Korsak, (Admiralty and Maritime Law), Office of the Judge Advocate General, Department of the Navy, 1322 Patterson Ave. SE., Suite 3000, Washington Navy Yard, DC 20374–5066, telephone 202–685–5040. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Pursuant to the authority granted in 33 U.S.C. 1605, the DoN amends 32 CFR part 706. This amendment provides notice that the DAJAG (Admiralty and Maritime Law), under authority delegated by the Secretary of the Navy, has certified that USS CORONADO (LCS 4) is a vessel of the Navy which, due to its special construction and purpose, cannot fully comply with the following specific provisions of 72 COLREGS without interfering with its special function as a naval ship: Annex I, paragraph 3(c), pertaining to the task light’s horizontal distance from the fore and aft centerline of the vessel in the athwartship direction. The DAJAG (Admiralty and Maritime Law) has also certified that the lights involved are located in closest possible compliance with the applicable 72 COLREGS requirements. Moreover, it has been determined, in accordance with 32 CFR parts 296 and 701, that publication of this amendment for public comment prior to adoption is impracticable, unnecessary, and contrary to public interest since it is based on technical findings that the placement of lights on this vessel in a manner differently from that prescribed herein will adversely affect the vessel’s ability to perform its military functions. List of Subjects in 32 CFR Part 706 Marine safety, Navigation (water), Vessels. For the reasons set forth in the preamble, the DoN amends part 706 of title 32 of the Code of Federal Regulations as follows: wreier-aviles on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with RULES PART 706—CERTIFICATIONS AND EXEMPTIONS UNDER THE INTERNATIONAL REGULATIONS FOR PREVENTING COLLISIONS AT SEA, 1972 1. The authority citation for part 706 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 33 U.S.C. 1605. 2. Section 706.2 is amended in Table Five by revising the entry for USS CORONADO (LCS 4) to read as follows: ■ VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:35 Apr 10, 2015 Jkt 235001 § 706.2 Certifications of the Secretary of the Navy under Executive Order 11964 and 33 U.S.C. 1605. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Andrina Brown, Office of Field Programs (41A), National Cemetery * * * * * Administration (NCA), Department of Veterans Affairs, 810 Vermont Avenue * * * * * NW., Washington, DC 20420. Telephone: (202) 461–6833 (this is not TABLE FOUR a toll-free number). SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: In a Horizontal document published on July 2, 2014 (79 distance from FR 37698), VA proposed revising its the fore and aft regulations governing burial in national Vessel Number centerline of cemeteries to implement new authority the vessel in under section 2306 of title 38, United the athwart States Code (U.S.C.), to furnish a casket ship direction or urn for interment in a VA national cemetery of the unclaimed remains of * * * * * veterans for whom VA cannot identify USS COROa next-of-kin and determines that NADO .......... LCS 4 0.18 sufficient financial resources for the furnishing of a casket or urn for burial * * * * * are not otherwise available. The 30-day public comment period ended on * * * * * August 1, 2014. VA received fourteen Approved: April 1, 2015. comments from interested individuals A.B. Fischer, and organizations. To address some of Captain, JAGC, U.S. Navy, Deputy Assistant those comments, as will be explained in Judge Advocate, General (Admiralty and detail below, VA added a new Maritime Law). paragraph (b) and redesignated Dated: April 6, 2015. proposed paragraphs (b), (c), and (d) as N. A. Hagerty-Ford, paragraphs (c), (d), and (e), respectively. Commander, Office of the Judge Advocate Eight commenters expressed support General, U.S. Navy, Federal Register Liaison for the proposed amendment. We thank Officer. these individuals for taking the time to [FR Doc. 2015–08422 Filed 4–10–15; 8:45 am] review and comment on the rulemaking. BILLING CODE 3810–FF–P We make no changes to the regulation based on these comments. One commenter suggested that VA contract with online providers of DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS caskets and urns to make bulk AFFAIRS purchases of caskets and urns, which would then be shipped to individuals 38 CFR Part 38 who apply online. As discussed in the preamble to the proposed rulemaking, RIN 2900–AO99 VA considered the direct purchase option but determined that would be a Reimbursement for Caskets and Urns less efficient and economical means of for Burial of Unclaimed Remains in a administering this benefit. Development National Cemetery of an online application portal and AGENCY: Department of Veterans Affairs. establishment of contractual relationships with suppliers would ACTION: Final rule. require considerable time and would SUMMARY: The Department of Veterans delay VA’s ability to timely provide this Affairs (VA) National Cemetery benefit as needs arise. The expense Administration (NCA) amends its required to contract and to build an regulations to establish a new program online portal would decrease the to provide reimbursement for caskets resources available to provide the and urns for the interment of the benefit itself. The commenter stated that remains of veterans with no known he felt the suggestion would allow for next-of-kin and where sufficient ‘‘quality control.’’ As we indicated in financial resources are not available for the preamble to the proposed this purpose. rulemaking, unclaimed veteran remains DATES: Effective date: The final rule is are often in the custody of funeral effective May 13, 2015. Applicability homes or others who are authorized date: The final rule applies to claims for under state law to dispose of unclaimed reimbursement for burial receptacles for remains. 79 FR at 37699. Therefore, we individuals who died on or after January believe they are likely familiar with 10, 2014. procuring burial receptacles. We further PO 00000 Frm 00024 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 E:\FR\FM\13APR1.SGM 13APR1 wreier-aviles on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with RULES Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 70 / Monday, April 13, 2015 / Rules and Regulations expect that those who will provide caskets or urns will use the same suppliers from whom they purchase caskets and urns for the families they serve in their normal course of business and that the caskets and urns they purchase will be of no lesser quality than those provided for familyrequested funeral services. Further, as we provide in redesignated § 38.628(c)(5), VA will visually inspect the casket or urn when it is presented at the national cemetery to ensure that it corresponds to the description in the invoice and meets NCA’s specifications, which are intended to ensure safe handling and integrity of veteran remains. Accordingly, VA makes no changes based on this comment. Another commenter urged that we implement this benefit so that it is ‘‘not cumbersome to administer and is fair in the time it takes to reimburse.’’ We believe that the reimbursement program we have outlined in our regulation meets both of those criteria. The commenter further suggested that VA develop a form and process for eligible veterans to ‘‘pre-order [and] get preauthorized’’ to assist them with advance planning. Generally, VA encourages veterans and their families to plan for their burial needs. However, while such a plan may include a stated desire to be buried in a national cemetery, VA has no authority to pre-determine eligibility for burial or memorialization, because eligibility decisions must be made based on the law in effect at the time the individual dies. If, upon the death of an eligible veteran, VA is made aware of the veteran’s wishes regarding burial, VA will try to accommodate those wishes to the fullest extent possible. This regulation, however, is applicable when a veteran dies without sufficient funds available for burial and has no known next-of-kin. Third parties, such as public administrators, local coroners, funeral directors or volunteer organizations, who may have assumed responsibility for the burial of these unclaimed remains, will likely be unaware of any wishes for burial arrangements. However, even without knowing the burial wishes of the deceased veteran, by establishing a means to reimburse these third parties for the expense of a burial receptacle at a time of need, VA will ensure that these veterans receive an appropriate burial in a national cemetery. VA will make no changes based on this comment. VA received comments from a funeral services trade association on two issues. The first issue concerned our reference to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations that define ‘‘alternative VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:35 Apr 10, 2015 Jkt 235001 container’’ which VA construed as applicable to cremation urns. The commenter stated that ‘‘alternative container,’’ in the funeral industry, ‘‘is the receptacle that the body is placed into prior to cremation.’’ The commenter also stated that plastic is ‘‘generally not deemed appropriate for use as an urn.’’ The commenter then suggested that we revise our regulation to include wood or metal, in addition to durable plastic, as an acceptable material for urns subject to reimbursement under § 38.628. We reviewed the FTC regulation in light of this feedback and believe that the commenter’s statement that an alternative container refers to a receptacle for the body prior to cremation is an accurate interpretation of the FTC regulation, which states that requiring the public to purchase a casket for direct cremations is an unfair or deceptive act or practice for a funeral provider and requires funeral providers to ‘‘make an alternative container available for direct cremations.’’ See 16 CFR 453.4(a)(2). We wish to correct the statement made in the preamble to the proposed rule (see 79 FR at 37699). However, we did not ‘‘base’’ the definition of ‘‘urn’’ in § 38.628 on the phrase ‘‘alternative container’’ (we did use the definition of ‘‘casket’’ from the FTC regulation) nor was ‘‘alternative container’’ used elsewhere in the proposed rulemaking. Our definition of urn was developed using the elements we felt necessary for a burial receptacle that would ensure that the cremated remains of veterans, in the absence of a family member to make such determinations, are laid to rest in a consistently dignified manner. We have decided that, for purposes of reimbursement, an urn made of durable plastic would be the minimum requirement because we must ensure that we use the finite resources at our disposal to provide this benefit for as many veterans, without family or resources, as we can. We disagree with the commenter’s assertion that durable plastic is ‘‘generally not deemed appropriate for use as an urn.’’ In fact, many of the inurnments at national cemeteries are of urns constructed of durable plastic, so while the commenter is correct that many families may choose to place the remains in urns of different construction, we can confirm that many find a durable plastic urn to be appropriate for the remains of their loved one. Regarding the commenter’s request that we amend the regulation to include other materials for urn construction, although we stated in the preamble to PO 00000 Frm 00025 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 19535 the proposed rulemaking that we do not prohibit individuals or entities from purchasing burial receptacles of higher standard, such as a stronger gauge metal for caskets, or wood or metal for urns, this comment indicates that our information was not sufficiently clear as to the types of caskets and urns that would be acceptable for reimbursement, and therefore we are making changes to the regulation to address the issue the commenter raises, although we will not be using the amendment suggested in the comment. Proposed § 38.628(b)(5), now redesignated § 38.628(c)(5), was intended to prescribe certain minimum standards for caskets and urns that would ensure that each veteran, in the absence of a family member to make burial decisions, is laid to rest in a consistently dignified manner. We are making changes to redesignated paragraph (c)(5)(ii) to specifically address the commenter’s concern by stating that individuals or entities may purchase and request reimbursement for urns constructed of materials other than durable plastic, including wood, metal, or ceramic, even though reimbursement will be limited to the average cost of a durable plastic urn. In reviewing this provision, we also noted that the casket provision may be subject to misinterpretation so we have amended redesignated paragraph (c)(5)(i) to clarify that the caskets must be of metal construction, but may be of a thicker gauge metal, even though reimbursement will be limited to the average cost of a casket of 20-gauge metal construction. We note that these changes will allow for only one material, metal, for the construction of caskets while urns may be constructed of a variety of materials. As stated in the proposed rulemaking, we established minimum standards to ensure the burial receptacles could withstand disinterment and reinterment, should that need arise. We explicitly require metal caskets because we believe they will endure the environmental conditions of in-ground burial better than other materials and keep the remains intact. Urns may be inurned in above-ground niches, so their construction may not need to endure the rigors of in-ground burial. For those that will be inurned in the ground, we note that an urn will include an interior container for the cremated remains that will help ensure their integrity if the outer construction should fail. While we have amended the language regarding the construction of a casket or an urn, we do not change the standard used to calculate the maximum reimbursement amount under E:\FR\FM\13APR1.SGM 13APR1 wreier-aviles on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with RULES 19536 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 70 / Monday, April 13, 2015 / Rules and Regulations redesignated paragraph (d). As stated in the proposed rule, we established a maximum reimbursement amount based on the minimum construction standards of either a casket or an urn. VA will reimburse for the actual cost of a burial receptacle, as shown on an invoice, up to a maximum reimbursement amount that is equal to the average cost of receptacles meeting the minimum standards for the fiscal year preceding the calendar year of when a claim for reimbursement is received. To ensure that the edits to redesignated paragraph (c) described above do not confuse how we calculate the average cost, we will state the minimum standards in redesignated paragraph (d), which establishes the maximum reimbursement amount. We reiterate here that VA will only reimburse for a single casket or urn purchased on behalf of any decedent and that, under redesignated § 38.628(c)(5), the cemetery director receiving the remains will visually inspect the casket or urn that is presented for burial or inurnment to ensure that it matches the description on the invoice submitted for payment. Therefore, if, as the commenter explained, the cremated remains are moved from one container to another of a different material, we will only reimburse for the cost of the urn presented for burial, subject to the maximum reimbursement amount. Any individual or entity seeking reimbursement must ensure that the invoice presented for payment is the invoice for the burial receptacle presented for burial. The same commenter noted a second issue regarding proposed paragraph (b)(2), now redesignated paragraph (c)(2), and the requirement that individuals seeking reimbursement certify that they cannot identify the decedent’s next-of-kin and that VA’s records do not identify the next-of-kin. The commenter objected that, because they do not have access to VA’s records, they could not certify as to whether a next-of-kin was identified there. The commenter also added that funeral homes are often faced with a dilemma in which a deceased veteran’s next-ofkin is identified but is unwilling or unable to assume responsibility for burial arrangements. The commenter suggested a clarification to reflect that an applicant who provides a casket or urn because of an uncooperative nextof-kin would still be entitled to reimbursement. We acknowledge the commenter’s concerns are valid. As an initial matter, we have determined that the required findings that a veteran have no known next-ofkin or sufficient resources to furnish a VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:35 Apr 10, 2015 Jkt 235001 casket or urn can be satisfied by the applicant’s certification to that effect. State and local laws governing the disposition of unclaimed remains require, generally, that a search be performed to identify a decedent’s nextof-kin or authorized representative who may assume responsibility for the final disposition of the remains. VA believes that it would be reasonable to rely on the applicant’s certification that no next-of-kin was identified as a result of an independent search performed in compliance with the legal requirements of that jurisdiction. The intent of the Dignified Burial and Other Veterans’ Benefits Improvement Act of 2012 (the Act) is to assist individuals or entities in possession of remains that are unclaimed in providing for the final disposition of those remains. Because we believe that an additional search by VA of its own records would be duplicative of this process and could potentially delay or even deter individuals or entities from bringing unclaimed veteran remains to VA for burial, we find that reliance on the applicant’s certification that no next-ofkin has been identified is reasonable. Moreover, because laws related to the disposition of unclaimed remains also involve determinations of the decedent’s indigency, VA will also accept the applicant’s certification that, based upon available information, there are insufficient financial resources available to furnish a burial receptacle. Accordingly, we have added paragraph (b) to state that we will rely on the applicant’s certification. Proposed paragraphs (b), (c), and (d) will now become paragraphs (c), (d), and (e), respectively, and we further amend redesignated paragraphs (c)(2) and (c)(3) to eliminate any requirement that an individual or entity seeking reimbursement must certify as to what is in VA records. In redesignated paragraph (c)(2), we explicitly allow for the circumstance of the ‘‘uncooperative next-of-kin,’’ as described by the commenter. As we stated in the preamble to the proposed rule, we cannot compel an identified next-of-kin of a deceased veteran who is unwilling or unable to assume responsibility for the deceased veteran’s burial. We recognize that relevant state and local laws include provisions applicable to the type of situation described by the commenter. These laws often address the situation by allowing individuals or entities in possession of remains that are unclaimed to arrange for burial after a defined period of time, despite the existence of an uncooperative relative who may have PO 00000 Frm 00026 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 means, but refuses to claim the decedent’s remains or arrange for final disposition. We therefore add a provision to redesignated paragraph (c)(2) to require the applicant to certify that they have followed the relevant state or local laws relating to the disposition of remains. VA will accept an applicant’s certification that an identified next-of-kin is unwilling or unable to assume responsibility for the deceased veteran’s burial arrangements as meeting the requirements that the decedent has no next-of-kin and insufficient resources to purchase the casket or urn. We received a comment suggesting that we make provision for certain veterans who died prior to January 10, 2014. The effective date was defined in the authorizing statute and VA has no authority to provide caskets or urns for veterans who died prior to that date. The commenter also suggested, in his original comment and in a follow-up comment, that we make changes to regulatory provisions relating to our definition of applicant. That provision is beyond the scope of this rulemaking, but VA is planning to address it in another rulemaking soon. We make no changes to this regulation based on these comments. One commenter questioned our estimate on the number of applications we anticipated we would receive under this regulation. We estimated that we would receive approximately 670 applications for reimbursement for a burial receptacle purchased in 2014 and that this number would decrease in years to come. The commenter appears to believe our estimate is too low, based on estimates of the total number of veterans who die yearly. Our estimate uses the total annual number of veteran deaths, but adjusts that number based on VA statistics to determine the number of veterans without a next-ofkin and where sufficient resources are unavailable to furnish a casket or urn, to determine the number that may need to be furnished a burial receptacle under this regulation. We make no changes based on this comment. In redesignated paragraph (d), we indicate that we will publish an annual notice providing the average cost of a casket or urn that will be the maximum allowable reimbursement amount for each type of burial receptacle. In the proposed rule, we indicated we would pay these rates based on the year the burial receptacle was purchased. However, we have determined that it will be more efficient to process applications using the maximum reimbursement amounts based on the year in which the application is E:\FR\FM\13APR1.SGM 13APR1 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 70 / Monday, April 13, 2015 / Rules and Regulations received instead of the date the burial receptacle was purchased. We have changed paragraph (d) to indicate that these maximum rates apply to applications received for the purchase of a burial receptacle in a given calendar year and have deleted the reference to the date of purchase. Finally, we are also updating redesignated paragraph (e) to indicate that we will reimburse those individuals who have been waiting for the publication of this final rule to submit their applications at the reimbursement rates for 2015. VA advised these individuals to hold their receipts until the publication of the final rule. Because publication has been delayed, and they could not submit those applications in calendar year 2014, the current maximum rates should apply. As indicated in the notice published elsewhere in this Federal Register, the maximum reimbursement amounts for 2015 are $1,967 for a casket and $172 for an urn, which apply to all applications received in calendar year 2015. 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 with the changes as noted above to new paragraph (b) and redesignated paragraphs (c)(2), (c)(3), (c)(5), (d), and (e). wreier-aviles on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with RULES 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. 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, because the number of claims and the amounts involved are expected to be small. This rule will only impact those third parties and entities that choose to participate in this program. Payments made under this program are not intended as benefits but to provide reimbursement for privately purchased caskets and urns. We estimate the average price of a burial receptacle (and therefore the average VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:35 Apr 10, 2015 Jkt 235001 reimbursement) for 2014 will be less than $2,000 for caskets and less than $200 for urns. We also estimate that the total number of reimbursements for 2014 will be 338 caskets and 332 urns. Because the final rulemaking provides for a reimbursement, the individual or entity purchasing the burial receptacle will recoup the purchase price, up to the maximum rate established annually. Generally this will result in the individual or entity avoiding a financial loss for having made the purchase. But, because the reimbursement will not exceed the purchase price of the burial receptacle, the individual or entity will not experience any gain. 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. 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 one year. This rule will have no such effect on State, local, and tribal governments, or on the private sector. 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 requirement. Section 38.628 will require submission of new VA Form 40–10088 by individuals seeking reimbursement from VA for the purchase of a casket or urn for the remains of a veteran who has no next-of-kin and where sufficient resources are unavailable to furnish a burial receptacle. The collection of information is necessary for VA to obtain information sufficient to determine whether reimbursement is appropriate. Information provided will include proof that the requesting individual purchased the burial receptacle and that the burial receptacle meets standards detailed in the regulation, and the purchase price of the receptacle. VA will use this information PO 00000 Frm 00027 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 19537 to determine whether reimbursement is appropriate and, if so, the appropriate amount of the reimbursement. As required by the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (at 44 U.S.C. 3507(d)), VA submitted this information collection to OMB for its review. OMB approved this new information collection requirement associated with the final rule and assigned OMB control number 2900–0799. 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 the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), as ‘‘any regulatory action that is likely to result in a rule that may: (1) Have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more or adversely affect in a material way the economy, a sector of the economy, productivity, competition, jobs, the environment, public health or safety, or State, local, or tribal governments or communities; (2) Create a serious inconsistency or otherwise interfere with an action taken or planned by another agency; (3) Materially alter the budgetary impact of entitlements, grants, user fees, or loan programs or the rights and obligations of recipients thereof; or (4) Raise novel legal or policy issues arising out of legal mandates, the President’s priorities, or the principles set forth in this Executive Order.’’ The economic, interagency, budgetary, legal, and policy implications of this rule have been examined and it has been determined not to be a significant regulatory action under Executive Order 12866. VA’s impact analysis can be found as a supporting document at http:// www.regulations.gov, usually within 48 hours after the rulemaking document is published. Additionally, a copy of the rulemaking and its impact analysis are available on VA’s Web site at http:// www1.va.gov/orpm/, by following the link for ‘‘VA Regulations Published.’’ E:\FR\FM\13APR1.SGM 13APR1 19538 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 70 / Monday, April 13, 2015 / Rules and Regulations Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Numbers The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance program number and title for this rule are 64.201, National Cemeteries. 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, approved this document on April 7, 2015, for publication. List of Subjects in 38 CFR Part 38 Administrative practice and procedure, Cemeteries, Veterans. Dated April 8, 2015. William F. Russo, Acting Director, Office of Regulation Policy & Management, Office of the General Counsel, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. For the reasons stated in the preamble, the Department of Veterans Affairs amends 38 CFR part 38 as set forth below: PART 38—NATIONAL CEMETERIES OF THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS 1. The authority citation for part 38 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 38 U.S.C. 107, 501, 512, 2306, 2402, 2403, 2404, 2408, 2411, 7105. ■ 2. Add § 38.628 to read as follows: wreier-aviles on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with RULES § 38.628. Reimbursement for caskets and urns for unclaimed remains of veterans. (a) VA will reimburse any individual or entity for the actual cost of a casket or an urn, purchased by the individual or entity for the burial in a national cemetery of an eligible veteran who died on or after January 10, 2014, for whom VA: (1) Is unable to identify the veteran’s next-of-kin; and (2) Determines that sufficient resources are otherwise unavailable to furnish the casket or urn. (b) For purposes of satisfying the requirements of paragraph (a) of this section, VA will rely entirely on the requesting individual’s or entity’s certification as required under paragraphs (c)(2) and (3) of this section. (c) An individual or entity may request reimbursement from VA under paragraph (a) of this section by completing and submitting VA Form 40–10088, and supporting documentation, in accordance with the VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:35 Apr 10, 2015 Jkt 235001 instructions on the form. Prior to approving reimbursement VA must find all of the following: (1) The veteran is eligible for burial in a VA national cemetery; (2) The individual or entity has certified that they cannot identify the veteran’s next-of-kin, or that an identified next-of-kin is unwilling or unable to assume responsibility for the deceased veteran’s burial arrangements, and that the individual or entity has followed applicable state or local law relating to the disposition of unclaimed remains; (3) The individual or entity has certified that, to the best of their knowledge, sufficient resources are otherwise unavailable to furnish the casket or urn; (4) The invoice presented by the individual or entity clearly indicates the purchase price of the casket or urn purchased by the individual or entity; and (5) The invoice presented by the individual or entity contains information sufficient for VA to determine, in conjunction with a visual inspection, that the casket or urn meets the following standards: (i) Caskets must be of metal construction of at least 20-gauge thickness, designed for containing human remains, sufficient to contain the remains of the deceased veteran, include a gasketed seal, and include external fixed rails or swing arm handles. (ii) Urns must be of a durable construction, such as durable plastic, wood, metal, or ceramic, designed to contain cremated human remains, and include a secure closure to contain the cremated remains. (d) Reimbursement for a claim received in any calendar year under paragraph (a) of this section will not exceed the average cost of a 20-gauge metal casket or a durable plastic urn during the fiscal year preceding the calendar year of the claim, as determined by VA and published annually in the Federal Register. (e) If, before July 2, 2014, an individual or entity purchased a casket or urn for burial in a VA national cemetery of the remains of a veteran who died after January 10, 2014, and the burial receptacle is not at least a 20gauge metal casket or a durable plastic urn, VA will reimburse the purchase price of the burial receptacle, providing all other criteria in this regulation are met. The reimbursement amount will be subject to the maximum reimbursement amount calculated for 2015. (Authority: 38 U.S.C. 2306, 2402, 2411) PO 00000 Frm 00028 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 (The Office of Management and Budget has approved the information collection requirements under this section under control number 2900–0799.) [FR Doc. 2015–08388 Filed 4–10–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 8320–01–P ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY 40 CFR Part 52 [EPA–R03–OAR–2014–0701; FRL–9925–93– Region 3] Approval and Promulgation of Air Quality Implementation Plans; District of Columbia; Infrastructure Requirements for the 2008 Ozone, 2010 Nitrogen Dioxide, and 2010 Sulfur Dioxide National Ambient Air Quality Standards; Approval of Air Pollution Emergency Episode Plan Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). ACTION: Final rule. AGENCY: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is approving portions of three State Implementation Plan (SIP) revision submittals from the District of Columbia (the District) pursuant to the Clean Air Act (CAA). Whenever new or revised national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) are promulgated, the CAA requires states to submit a plan for the implementation, maintenance, and enforcement of such NAAQS. The plan is required to address basic program elements, including, but not limited to, regulatory structure, monitoring, modeling, legal authority, and adequate resources necessary to assure attainment and maintenance of the standards. These elements are referred to as infrastructure requirements. The District has made three separate submittals addressing the infrastructure requirements for the 2008 ozone NAAQS, the 2010 nitrogen dioxide (NO2) NAAQS, and the 2010 sulfur dioxide (SO2) NAAQS. One of the submittals also includes the ‘‘Revised Air Quality Emergency Plan for the District of Columbia’’ for satisfying EPA’s requirements for air quality emergency episodes. DATES: This final rule is effective on May 13, 2015. ADDRESSES: EPA has established a docket for this action under Docket ID Number EPA–R03–OAR–2014–0701. All documents in the docket are listed in the www.regulations.gov Web site. Although listed in the electronic docket, some information is not publicly available, i.e., confidential business SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\13APR1.SGM 13APR1

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[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 70 (Monday, April 13, 2015)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 19534-19538]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-08388]


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DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS

38 CFR Part 38

RIN 2900-AO99


Reimbursement for Caskets and Urns for Burial of Unclaimed 
Remains in a National Cemetery

AGENCY: Department of Veterans Affairs.

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) National Cemetery 
Administration (NCA) amends its regulations to establish a new program 
to provide reimbursement for caskets and urns for the interment of the 
remains of veterans with no known next-of-kin and where sufficient 
financial resources are not available for this purpose.

DATES: Effective date: The final rule is effective May 13, 2015. 
Applicability date: The final rule applies to claims for reimbursement 
for burial receptacles for individuals who died on or after January 10, 
2014.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Andrina Brown, Office of Field 
Programs (41A), National Cemetery Administration (NCA), Department of 
Veterans Affairs, 810 Vermont Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20420. 
Telephone: (202) 461-6833 (this is not a toll-free number).

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: In a document published on July 2, 2014 (79 
FR 37698), VA proposed revising its regulations governing burial in 
national cemeteries to implement new authority under section 2306 of 
title 38, United States Code (U.S.C.), to furnish a casket or urn for 
interment in a VA national cemetery of the unclaimed remains of 
veterans for whom VA cannot identify a next-of-kin and determines that 
sufficient financial resources for the furnishing of a casket or urn 
for burial are not otherwise available. The 30-day public comment 
period ended on August 1, 2014. VA received fourteen comments from 
interested individuals and organizations. To address some of those 
comments, as will be explained in detail below, VA added a new 
paragraph (b) and redesignated proposed paragraphs (b), (c), and (d) as 
paragraphs (c), (d), and (e), respectively.
    Eight commenters expressed support for the proposed amendment. We 
thank these individuals for taking the time to review and comment on 
the rulemaking. We make no changes to the regulation based on these 
comments.
    One commenter suggested that VA contract with online providers of 
caskets and urns to make bulk purchases of caskets and urns, which 
would then be shipped to individuals who apply online. As discussed in 
the preamble to the proposed rulemaking, VA considered the direct 
purchase option but determined that would be a less efficient and 
economical means of administering this benefit. Development of an 
online application portal and establishment of contractual 
relationships with suppliers would require considerable time and would 
delay VA's ability to timely provide this benefit as needs arise. The 
expense required to contract and to build an online portal would 
decrease the resources available to provide the benefit itself. The 
commenter stated that he felt the suggestion would allow for ``quality 
control.'' As we indicated in the preamble to the proposed rulemaking, 
unclaimed veteran remains are often in the custody of funeral homes or 
others who are authorized under state law to dispose of unclaimed 
remains. 79 FR at 37699. Therefore, we believe they are likely familiar 
with procuring burial receptacles. We further

[[Page 19535]]

expect that those who will provide caskets or urns will use the same 
suppliers from whom they purchase caskets and urns for the families 
they serve in their normal course of business and that the caskets and 
urns they purchase will be of no lesser quality than those provided for 
family-requested funeral services. Further, as we provide in 
redesignated Sec.  38.628(c)(5), VA will visually inspect the casket or 
urn when it is presented at the national cemetery to ensure that it 
corresponds to the description in the invoice and meets NCA's 
specifications, which are intended to ensure safe handling and 
integrity of veteran remains. Accordingly, VA makes no changes based on 
this comment.
    Another commenter urged that we implement this benefit so that it 
is ``not cumbersome to administer and is fair in the time it takes to 
reimburse.'' We believe that the reimbursement program we have outlined 
in our regulation meets both of those criteria. The commenter further 
suggested that VA develop a form and process for eligible veterans to 
``pre-order [and] get pre-authorized'' to assist them with advance 
planning. Generally, VA encourages veterans and their families to plan 
for their burial needs. However, while such a plan may include a stated 
desire to be buried in a national cemetery, VA has no authority to pre-
determine eligibility for burial or memorialization, because 
eligibility decisions must be made based on the law in effect at the 
time the individual dies. If, upon the death of an eligible veteran, VA 
is made aware of the veteran's wishes regarding burial, VA will try to 
accommodate those wishes to the fullest extent possible. This 
regulation, however, is applicable when a veteran dies without 
sufficient funds available for burial and has no known next-of-kin. 
Third parties, such as public administrators, local coroners, funeral 
directors or volunteer organizations, who may have assumed 
responsibility for the burial of these unclaimed remains, will likely 
be unaware of any wishes for burial arrangements. However, even without 
knowing the burial wishes of the deceased veteran, by establishing a 
means to reimburse these third parties for the expense of a burial 
receptacle at a time of need, VA will ensure that these veterans 
receive an appropriate burial in a national cemetery. VA will make no 
changes based on this comment.
    VA received comments from a funeral services trade association on 
two issues. The first issue concerned our reference to the Federal 
Trade Commission (FTC) regulations that define ``alternative 
container'' which VA construed as applicable to cremation urns. The 
commenter stated that ``alternative container,'' in the funeral 
industry, ``is the receptacle that the body is placed into prior to 
cremation.'' The commenter also stated that plastic is ``generally not 
deemed appropriate for use as an urn.'' The commenter then suggested 
that we revise our regulation to include wood or metal, in addition to 
durable plastic, as an acceptable material for urns subject to 
reimbursement under Sec.  38.628. We reviewed the FTC regulation in 
light of this feedback and believe that the commenter's statement that 
an alternative container refers to a receptacle for the body prior to 
cremation is an accurate interpretation of the FTC regulation, which 
states that requiring the public to purchase a casket for direct 
cremations is an unfair or deceptive act or practice for a funeral 
provider and requires funeral providers to ``make an alternative 
container available for direct cremations.'' See 16 CFR 453.4(a)(2). We 
wish to correct the statement made in the preamble to the proposed rule 
(see 79 FR at 37699). However, we did not ``base'' the definition of 
``urn'' in Sec.  38.628 on the phrase ``alternative container'' (we did 
use the definition of ``casket'' from the FTC regulation) nor was 
``alternative container'' used elsewhere in the proposed rulemaking. 
Our definition of urn was developed using the elements we felt 
necessary for a burial receptacle that would ensure that the cremated 
remains of veterans, in the absence of a family member to make such 
determinations, are laid to rest in a consistently dignified manner. We 
have decided that, for purposes of reimbursement, an urn made of 
durable plastic would be the minimum requirement because we must ensure 
that we use the finite resources at our disposal to provide this 
benefit for as many veterans, without family or resources, as we can. 
We disagree with the commenter's assertion that durable plastic is 
``generally not deemed appropriate for use as an urn.'' In fact, many 
of the inurnments at national cemeteries are of urns constructed of 
durable plastic, so while the commenter is correct that many families 
may choose to place the remains in urns of different construction, we 
can confirm that many find a durable plastic urn to be appropriate for 
the remains of their loved one.
    Regarding the commenter's request that we amend the regulation to 
include other materials for urn construction, although we stated in the 
preamble to the proposed rulemaking that we do not prohibit individuals 
or entities from purchasing burial receptacles of higher standard, such 
as a stronger gauge metal for caskets, or wood or metal for urns, this 
comment indicates that our information was not sufficiently clear as to 
the types of caskets and urns that would be acceptable for 
reimbursement, and therefore we are making changes to the regulation to 
address the issue the commenter raises, although we will not be using 
the amendment suggested in the comment.
    Proposed Sec.  38.628(b)(5), now redesignated Sec.  38.628(c)(5), 
was intended to prescribe certain minimum standards for caskets and 
urns that would ensure that each veteran, in the absence of a family 
member to make burial decisions, is laid to rest in a consistently 
dignified manner. We are making changes to redesignated paragraph 
(c)(5)(ii) to specifically address the commenter's concern by stating 
that individuals or entities may purchase and request reimbursement for 
urns constructed of materials other than durable plastic, including 
wood, metal, or ceramic, even though reimbursement will be limited to 
the average cost of a durable plastic urn. In reviewing this provision, 
we also noted that the casket provision may be subject to 
misinterpretation so we have amended redesignated paragraph (c)(5)(i) 
to clarify that the caskets must be of metal construction, but may be 
of a thicker gauge metal, even though reimbursement will be limited to 
the average cost of a casket of 20-gauge metal construction. We note 
that these changes will allow for only one material, metal, for the 
construction of caskets while urns may be constructed of a variety of 
materials. As stated in the proposed rulemaking, we established minimum 
standards to ensure the burial receptacles could withstand disinterment 
and reinterment, should that need arise. We explicitly require metal 
caskets because we believe they will endure the environmental 
conditions of in-ground burial better than other materials and keep the 
remains intact. Urns may be inurned in above-ground niches, so their 
construction may not need to endure the rigors of in-ground burial. For 
those that will be inurned in the ground, we note that an urn will 
include an interior container for the cremated remains that will help 
ensure their integrity if the outer construction should fail.
    While we have amended the language regarding the construction of a 
casket or an urn, we do not change the standard used to calculate the 
maximum reimbursement amount under

[[Page 19536]]

redesignated paragraph (d). As stated in the proposed rule, we 
established a maximum reimbursement amount based on the minimum 
construction standards of either a casket or an urn. VA will reimburse 
for the actual cost of a burial receptacle, as shown on an invoice, up 
to a maximum reimbursement amount that is equal to the average cost of 
receptacles meeting the minimum standards for the fiscal year preceding 
the calendar year of when a claim for reimbursement is received. To 
ensure that the edits to redesignated paragraph (c) described above do 
not confuse how we calculate the average cost, we will state the 
minimum standards in redesignated paragraph (d), which establishes the 
maximum reimbursement amount. We reiterate here that VA will only 
reimburse for a single casket or urn purchased on behalf of any 
decedent and that, under redesignated Sec.  38.628(c)(5), the cemetery 
director receiving the remains will visually inspect the casket or urn 
that is presented for burial or inurnment to ensure that it matches the 
description on the invoice submitted for payment. Therefore, if, as the 
commenter explained, the cremated remains are moved from one container 
to another of a different material, we will only reimburse for the cost 
of the urn presented for burial, subject to the maximum reimbursement 
amount. Any individual or entity seeking reimbursement must ensure that 
the invoice presented for payment is the invoice for the burial 
receptacle presented for burial.
    The same commenter noted a second issue regarding proposed 
paragraph (b)(2), now redesignated paragraph (c)(2), and the 
requirement that individuals seeking reimbursement certify that they 
cannot identify the decedent's next-of-kin and that VA's records do not 
identify the next-of-kin. The commenter objected that, because they do 
not have access to VA's records, they could not certify as to whether a 
next-of-kin was identified there. The commenter also added that funeral 
homes are often faced with a dilemma in which a deceased veteran's 
next-of-kin is identified but is unwilling or unable to assume 
responsibility for burial arrangements. The commenter suggested a 
clarification to reflect that an applicant who provides a casket or urn 
because of an uncooperative next-of-kin would still be entitled to 
reimbursement. We acknowledge the commenter's concerns are valid.
    As an initial matter, we have determined that the required findings 
that a veteran have no known next-of-kin or sufficient resources to 
furnish a casket or urn can be satisfied by the applicant's 
certification to that effect. State and local laws governing the 
disposition of unclaimed remains require, generally, that a search be 
performed to identify a decedent's next-of-kin or authorized 
representative who may assume responsibility for the final disposition 
of the remains. VA believes that it would be reasonable to rely on the 
applicant's certification that no next-of-kin was identified as a 
result of an independent search performed in compliance with the legal 
requirements of that jurisdiction. The intent of the Dignified Burial 
and Other Veterans' Benefits Improvement Act of 2012 (the Act) is to 
assist individuals or entities in possession of remains that are 
unclaimed in providing for the final disposition of those remains. 
Because we believe that an additional search by VA of its own records 
would be duplicative of this process and could potentially delay or 
even deter individuals or entities from bringing unclaimed veteran 
remains to VA for burial, we find that reliance on the applicant's 
certification that no next-of-kin has been identified is reasonable. 
Moreover, because laws related to the disposition of unclaimed remains 
also involve determinations of the decedent's indigency, VA will also 
accept the applicant's certification that, based upon available 
information, there are insufficient financial resources available to 
furnish a burial receptacle. Accordingly, we have added paragraph (b) 
to state that we will rely on the applicant's certification. Proposed 
paragraphs (b), (c), and (d) will now become paragraphs (c), (d), and 
(e), respectively, and we further amend redesignated paragraphs (c)(2) 
and (c)(3) to eliminate any requirement that an individual or entity 
seeking reimbursement must certify as to what is in VA records.
    In redesignated paragraph (c)(2), we explicitly allow for the 
circumstance of the ``uncooperative next-of-kin,'' as described by the 
commenter. As we stated in the preamble to the proposed rule, we cannot 
compel an identified next-of-kin of a deceased veteran who is unwilling 
or unable to assume responsibility for the deceased veteran's burial. 
We recognize that relevant state and local laws include provisions 
applicable to the type of situation described by the commenter. These 
laws often address the situation by allowing individuals or entities in 
possession of remains that are unclaimed to arrange for burial after a 
defined period of time, despite the existence of an uncooperative 
relative who may have means, but refuses to claim the decedent's 
remains or arrange for final disposition. We therefore add a provision 
to redesignated paragraph (c)(2) to require the applicant to certify 
that they have followed the relevant state or local laws relating to 
the disposition of remains. VA will accept an applicant's certification 
that an identified next-of-kin is unwilling or unable to assume 
responsibility for the deceased veteran's burial arrangements as 
meeting the requirements that the decedent has no next-of-kin and 
insufficient resources to purchase the casket or urn.
    We received a comment suggesting that we make provision for certain 
veterans who died prior to January 10, 2014. The effective date was 
defined in the authorizing statute and VA has no authority to provide 
caskets or urns for veterans who died prior to that date. The commenter 
also suggested, in his original comment and in a follow-up comment, 
that we make changes to regulatory provisions relating to our 
definition of applicant. That provision is beyond the scope of this 
rulemaking, but VA is planning to address it in another rulemaking 
soon. We make no changes to this regulation based on these comments.
    One commenter questioned our estimate on the number of applications 
we anticipated we would receive under this regulation. We estimated 
that we would receive approximately 670 applications for reimbursement 
for a burial receptacle purchased in 2014 and that this number would 
decrease in years to come. The commenter appears to believe our 
estimate is too low, based on estimates of the total number of veterans 
who die yearly. Our estimate uses the total annual number of veteran 
deaths, but adjusts that number based on VA statistics to determine the 
number of veterans without a next-of-kin and where sufficient resources 
are unavailable to furnish a casket or urn, to determine the number 
that may need to be furnished a burial receptacle under this 
regulation. We make no changes based on this comment.
    In redesignated paragraph (d), we indicate that we will publish an 
annual notice providing the average cost of a casket or urn that will 
be the maximum allowable reimbursement amount for each type of burial 
receptacle. In the proposed rule, we indicated we would pay these rates 
based on the year the burial receptacle was purchased. However, we have 
determined that it will be more efficient to process applications using 
the maximum reimbursement amounts based on the year in which the 
application is

[[Page 19537]]

received instead of the date the burial receptacle was purchased. We 
have changed paragraph (d) to indicate that these maximum rates apply 
to applications received for the purchase of a burial receptacle in a 
given calendar year and have deleted the reference to the date of 
purchase.
    Finally, we are also updating redesignated paragraph (e) to 
indicate that we will reimburse those individuals who have been waiting 
for the publication of this final rule to submit their applications at 
the reimbursement rates for 2015. VA advised these individuals to hold 
their receipts until the publication of the final rule. Because 
publication has been delayed, and they could not submit those 
applications in calendar year 2014, the current maximum rates should 
apply. As indicated in the notice published elsewhere in this Federal 
Register, the maximum reimbursement amounts for 2015 are $1,967 for a 
casket and $172 for an urn, which apply to all applications received in 
calendar year 2015.
    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 with the changes as noted above to new 
paragraph (b) and redesignated paragraphs (c)(2), (c)(3), (c)(5), (d), 
and (e).

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.

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, because the number of claims and the amounts involved are expected 
to be small. This rule will only impact those third parties and 
entities that choose to participate in this program. Payments made 
under this program are not intended as benefits but to provide 
reimbursement for privately purchased caskets and urns. We estimate the 
average price of a burial receptacle (and therefore the average 
reimbursement) for 2014 will be less than $2,000 for caskets and less 
than $200 for urns. We also estimate that the total number of 
reimbursements for 2014 will be 338 caskets and 332 urns. Because the 
final rulemaking provides for a reimbursement, the individual or entity 
purchasing the burial receptacle will recoup the purchase price, up to 
the maximum rate established annually. Generally this will result in 
the individual or entity avoiding a financial loss for having made the 
purchase. But, because the reimbursement will not exceed the purchase 
price of the burial receptacle, the individual or entity will not 
experience any gain. 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.

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 one year. This rule will have no such effect on 
State, local, and tribal governments, or on the private sector.

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 requirement. Section 38.628 will require submission of new 
VA Form 40-10088 by individuals seeking reimbursement from VA for the 
purchase of a casket or urn for the remains of a veteran who has no 
next-of-kin and where sufficient resources are unavailable to furnish a 
burial receptacle. The collection of information is necessary for VA to 
obtain information sufficient to determine whether reimbursement is 
appropriate. Information provided will include proof that the 
requesting individual purchased the burial receptacle and that the 
burial receptacle meets standards detailed in the regulation, and the 
purchase price of the receptacle. VA will use this information to 
determine whether reimbursement is appropriate and, if so, the 
appropriate amount of the reimbursement.
    As required by the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (at 44 U.S.C. 
3507(d)), VA submitted this information collection to OMB for its 
review. OMB approved this new information collection requirement 
associated with the final rule and assigned OMB control number 2900-
0799.

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 the Office 
of Management and Budget (OMB), as ``any regulatory action that is 
likely to result in a rule that may: (1) Have an annual effect on the 
economy of $100 million or more or adversely affect in a material way 
the economy, a sector of the economy, productivity, competition, jobs, 
the environment, public health or safety, or State, local, or tribal 
governments or communities; (2) Create a serious inconsistency or 
otherwise interfere with an action taken or planned by another agency; 
(3) Materially alter the budgetary impact of entitlements, grants, user 
fees, or loan programs or the rights and obligations of recipients 
thereof; or (4) Raise novel legal or policy issues arising out of legal 
mandates, the President's priorities, or the principles set forth in 
this Executive Order.''
    The economic, interagency, budgetary, legal, and policy 
implications of this rule have been examined and it has been determined 
not to be a significant regulatory action under Executive Order 12866. 
VA's impact analysis can be found as a supporting document at http://www.regulations.gov, usually within 48 hours after the rulemaking 
document is published. Additionally, a copy of the rulemaking and its 
impact analysis are available on VA's Web site at http://www1.va.gov/orpm/, by following the link for ``VA Regulations Published.''

[[Page 19538]]

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Numbers

    The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance program number and title 
for this rule are 64.201, National Cemeteries.

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, approved this document on April 7, 2015, for 
publication.

List of Subjects in 38 CFR Part 38

    Administrative practice and procedure, Cemeteries, Veterans.

    Dated April 8, 2015.
William F. Russo,
Acting Director, Office of Regulation Policy & Management, Office of 
the General Counsel, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

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

PART 38--NATIONAL CEMETERIES OF THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS

0
1. The authority citation for part 38 continues to read as follows:

    Authority:  38 U.S.C. 107, 501, 512, 2306, 2402, 2403, 2404, 
2408, 2411, 7105.

0
2. Add Sec.  38.628 to read as follows:


Sec.  38.628.  Reimbursement for caskets and urns for unclaimed remains 
of veterans.

    (a) VA will reimburse any individual or entity for the actual cost 
of a casket or an urn, purchased by the individual or entity for the 
burial in a national cemetery of an eligible veteran who died on or 
after January 10, 2014, for whom VA:
    (1) Is unable to identify the veteran's next-of-kin; and
    (2) Determines that sufficient resources are otherwise unavailable 
to furnish the casket or urn.
    (b) For purposes of satisfying the requirements of paragraph (a) of 
this section, VA will rely entirely on the requesting individual's or 
entity's certification as required under paragraphs (c)(2) and (3) of 
this section.
    (c) An individual or entity may request reimbursement from VA under 
paragraph (a) of this section by completing and submitting VA Form 40-
10088, and supporting documentation, in accordance with the 
instructions on the form. Prior to approving reimbursement VA must find 
all of the following:
    (1) The veteran is eligible for burial in a VA national cemetery;
    (2) The individual or entity has certified that they cannot 
identify the veteran's next-of-kin, or that an identified next-of-kin 
is unwilling or unable to assume responsibility for the deceased 
veteran's burial arrangements, and that the individual or entity has 
followed applicable state or local law relating to the disposition of 
unclaimed remains;
    (3) The individual or entity has certified that, to the best of 
their knowledge, sufficient resources are otherwise unavailable to 
furnish the casket or urn;
    (4) The invoice presented by the individual or entity clearly 
indicates the purchase price of the casket or urn purchased by the 
individual or entity; and
    (5) The invoice presented by the individual or entity contains 
information sufficient for VA to determine, in conjunction with a 
visual inspection, that the casket or urn meets the following 
standards:
    (i) Caskets must be of metal construction of at least 20-gauge 
thickness, designed for containing human remains, sufficient to contain 
the remains of the deceased veteran, include a gasketed seal, and 
include external fixed rails or swing arm handles.
    (ii) Urns must be of a durable construction, such as durable 
plastic, wood, metal, or ceramic, designed to contain cremated human 
remains, and include a secure closure to contain the cremated remains.
    (d) Reimbursement for a claim received in any calendar year under 
paragraph (a) of this section will not exceed the average cost of a 20-
gauge metal casket or a durable plastic urn during the fiscal year 
preceding the calendar year of the claim, as determined by VA and 
published annually in the Federal Register.
    (e) If, before July 2, 2014, an individual or entity purchased a 
casket or urn for burial in a VA national cemetery of the remains of a 
veteran who died after January 10, 2014, and the burial receptacle is 
not at least a 20-gauge metal casket or a durable plastic urn, VA will 
reimburse the purchase price of the burial receptacle, providing all 
other criteria in this regulation are met. The reimbursement amount 
will be subject to the maximum reimbursement amount calculated for 
2015.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 2306, 2402, 2411)



(The Office of Management and Budget has approved the information 
collection requirements under this section under control number 2900-
0799.)
[FR Doc. 2015-08388 Filed 4-10-15; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 8320-01-P