Department of Veterans Affairs' Tribal Representation Expansion Project, 8342-8343 [2022-03084]

Download as PDF 8342 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 30 / Monday, February 14, 2022 / Notices document on February 8, 2022 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. Luvenia Potts, Regulation Development Coordinator, Office of Regulation Policy & Management, Office of General Counsel, Department of Veterans Affairs. [FR Doc. 2022–03124 Filed 2–11–22; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 8320–01–P DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS Department of Veterans Affairs’ Tribal Representation Expansion Project Department of Veterans Affairs. Notice of Tribal consultation. AGENCY: ACTION: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is seeking Tribal consultation on ‘‘The Tribal Representation Expansion Project (T. REP)’’, a project through which VA strives to ensure that Native American Veterans have access to responsible, qualified representation in the preparation, presentation, and prosecution of their benefit claims before VA. VA is seeking comments on whether Tribal communities currently have access to representation for VA benefit claims and, for those Tribes that are being underserved in terms of representation, whether the Tribal governments may be interested in collaborating with VA to designate an individual within the community as authorized to prepare, present, and prosecute VA benefit claims. In addition, VA is seeking comments and recommendations on any issues, concerns, or processes the Tribes believe should be addressed in T. REP to better ensure that the project is successful in helping to expand access to representation for Native American Veterans on their benefit claims before VA. DATES: VA will hold the virtual tribal consultation session on March 23, 2022, from 3:00–5:00 p.m. (Eastern Time). Written comments may also be submitted to VA on or before March 30, 2022. ADDRESSES: Participants can access the virtual consultation session by registering through the following link: https://veteransaffairs.webex.com/ veteransaffairs/onstage/ g.php?MTID=eaa07b769b5f8a27 cfe390e0c732ee1eb; for audio by phone, please dial 1–404–397–1596, access code 2760 198 8717. Participants will jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with NOTICES1 SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:54 Feb 11, 2022 Jkt 256001 interact by submitting written comments and/or questions using the chat function during the presentation. Written comments may also be submitted by any of the following methods: D By email to tribalgovernment consultation@va.gov. D By facsimile to 202–273–5716. D By mail to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Suite 915B, 810 Vermont Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20420. Comments should indicate that the submission is in response to ‘‘The Tribal Representation Expansion Project.’’ FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Clay Ward, VA Office of Tribal Government Relations at (202) 461–7445 (this is not a toll-free number), or by email at Tribalgovernmentconsultation@va.gov, or by mail at Suite 915B, 810 Vermont Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20420. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Through T. REP, VA strives to ensure that Native American Veterans and their families have access to responsible, qualified representation in the preparation, presentation, and prosecution of their benefit claims before VA. Through T.REP, VA aims to focus on the Tribal communities that are being underserved in terms of representation. To help improve access to claims representation in those communities, VA would like to collaborate with Tribal governments to designate an individual within the community as authorized to prepare, present, and prosecute VA benefit claims. VA has long since recognized the unique circumstances of Tribes and that cultural, geographical, or language barriers may exist that prevent or deter Native American Veterans from seeking out representation on their benefit claims before VA. In 2017, VA took affirmative steps to improve access to representation on Tribal land by revising its regulations to, among other things, permit veterans’ service offices affiliated with Tribal governments to be recognized by VA as Tribal organizations in a manner similar to State organizations (see 82 FR 6265 (Jan. 19, 2017)). VA, however, recognizes that there is still more that VA can do to advance equity in the access to representation for Native American Veterans on their VA benefit claims. Accordingly, to further facilitate access to culturally competent representation for Native American Veterans, and to honor the unique nature of the Federal government’s Nation-to-Nation relationship with the Tribes, VA would like to collaborate with Tribal PO 00000 Frm 00116 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 governments to expand opportunities for claims representation where needed. Through consultation, VA seeks to learn which Tribal communities have access to representation for VA benefit claims. VA is interested in learning which Tribal communities have access to representation that is provided by representatives of VA-recognized organizations. VA is also interested in learning which Tribal communities have access to representation by attorneys and agents. Moreover, VA also seeks to learn whether such representation is viewed in the Tribal community as culturally competent representation. In addition, from the Tribal communities that self-identify as being underserved in terms of representation, VA seeks comments on whether their Tribal governments may be interested in collaborating with VA to provide an option for representation. Specifically, VA is interested in learning if there are Tribes that may be interested in identifying an individual who is affiliated with their government, is of good character and reputation, and, who, after proper training on VA benefits, would be fit to be authorized by the VA General Counsel to represent on VA benefit claims. The General Counsel then plans to use his discretionary authority, pursuant to 38 CFR 14.630, to specially authorize such individuals to prepare, present, and prosecute VA benefit claims before VA. In addition, to help ensure the fitness of these specially authorized individuals, VA is exploring the possibility of coordinating with VA-recognized organizations that have established veterans benefits training programs and that may be willing to make their training available to such individuals. In addition, VA is seeking comments and recommendations from Tribal leaders and representatives of Tribal communities on any issues, concerns, or processes that should be addressed in T. REP to ensure that the project is successful in expanding access to representation for Native American Veterans on their VA benefit claims. Accordingly, through this Tribal consultation, the Secretary seeks information on the questions listed below. Comments do not need to address every question and should focus on those that are relevant to the commenter’s Tribal community. To the extent possible, please clearly indicate which questions you are addressing in your response and include any rationale or information that may be helpful to VA. 1. Are Native American Veterans in your community receiving any E:\FR\FM\14FEN1.SGM 14FEN1 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 30 / Monday, February 14, 2022 / Notices jspears on DSK121TN23PROD with NOTICES1 assistance in pursuing their VA benefit claims? Are they being represented before VA on their VA benefit claims? Who is providing those services? For example, those claims services may be provided by: (a) A person employed by the Tribal government; (b) a member of your Tribe or Tribal community; (c) a VA-recognized organization or a representative of a VA-recognized organization; or (d) an agent or attorney. Please provide details as to the extent of the assistance provided and whom we may credit if your Tribal community currently has access to benefit claims assistance and/or representation before VA. 2. If Veterans within your Tribal community have access to representation for their VA benefit claims, do you consider the option(s) for representation to be culturally competent representation? Please explain. 3. If Veterans and their families within your Tribal community are not being adequately represented on their VA benefit claims, is there someone VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:54 Feb 11, 2022 Jkt 256001 employed by, or affiliated, with your Tribal government that is currently, or could be, positioned to serve Veterans? For example, such individual may currently be serving Veterans and their families as a Tribal Veterans Service Officer (TVSO) or as a Tribal Veterans Representative (TVR). 4. Are there barriers to Veterans and their family members within your Tribal community in accessing representation on their VA claims? For example, barriers may include: (a) Location or environmental obstacles; (b) language difficulties; (c) cultural differences; (d) distrust of the Federal or State government; (e) difficulties in finding training; (f) difficulties in securing office equipment and internet services; or (g) other circumstances. 5. Do you believe that your Tribal government may want to collaborate with VA to identify someone affiliated with your government to be authorized to represent Veterans and their families on benefit claims before VA? 6. Are you interested in being contacted by VA’s Office of General Counsel to learn more about the project? PO 00000 Frm 00117 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 9990 8343 7. Are there issues, concerns, or processes that should be addressed in T. REP so that the project functions effectively in support of access to representation for Native American Veterans within your Tribal government and/or community? If so, how do you recommend VA address those matters in this project? Signing Authority Denis McDonough, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, approved this document on February 8, 2022 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. Luvenia Potts, Regulation Development Coordinator Office of Regulation Policy & Management, Office of General Counsel, Department of Veterans Affairs. [FR Doc. 2022–03084 Filed 2–11–22; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 8320–01–P E:\FR\FM\14FEN1.SGM 14FEN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 87, Number 30 (Monday, February 14, 2022)]
[Notices]
[Pages 8342-8343]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2022-03084]


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DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS


Department of Veterans Affairs' Tribal Representation Expansion 
Project

AGENCY: Department of Veterans Affairs.

ACTION: Notice of Tribal consultation.

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

SUMMARY: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is seeking Tribal 
consultation on ``The Tribal Representation Expansion Project (T. 
REP)'', a project through which VA strives to ensure that Native 
American Veterans have access to responsible, qualified representation 
in the preparation, presentation, and prosecution of their benefit 
claims before VA. VA is seeking comments on whether Tribal communities 
currently have access to representation for VA benefit claims and, for 
those Tribes that are being underserved in terms of representation, 
whether the Tribal governments may be interested in collaborating with 
VA to designate an individual within the community as authorized to 
prepare, present, and prosecute VA benefit claims. In addition, VA is 
seeking comments and recommendations on any issues, concerns, or 
processes the Tribes believe should be addressed in T. REP to better 
ensure that the project is successful in helping to expand access to 
representation for Native American Veterans on their benefit claims 
before VA.

DATES: VA will hold the virtual tribal consultation session on March 
23, 2022, from 3:00-5:00 p.m. (Eastern Time). Written comments may also 
be submitted to VA on or before March 30, 2022.

ADDRESSES: Participants can access the virtual consultation session by 
registering through the following link: https://veteransaffairs.webex.com/veteransaffairs/onstage/g.php?MTID=eaa07b769b5f8a27cfe390e0c732ee1eb; for audio by phone, 
please dial 1-404-397-1596, access code 2760 198 8717. Participants 
will interact by submitting written comments and/or questions using the 
chat function during the presentation. Written comments may also be 
submitted by any of the following methods:
    [ssquf] By email to [email protected].
    [ssquf] By facsimile to 202-273-5716.
    [ssquf] By mail to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Suite 915B, 
810 Vermont Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20420.
    Comments should indicate that the submission is in response to 
``The Tribal Representation Expansion Project.''

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Clay Ward, VA Office of Tribal 
Government Relations at (202) 461-7445 (this is not a toll-free 
number), or by email at [email protected], or by mail 
at Suite 915B, 810 Vermont Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20420.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Through T. REP, VA strives to ensure that 
Native American Veterans and their families have access to responsible, 
qualified representation in the preparation, presentation, and 
prosecution of their benefit claims before VA. Through T.REP, VA aims 
to focus on the Tribal communities that are being underserved in terms 
of representation. To help improve access to claims representation in 
those communities, VA would like to collaborate with Tribal governments 
to designate an individual within the community as authorized to 
prepare, present, and prosecute VA benefit claims.
    VA has long since recognized the unique circumstances of Tribes and 
that cultural, geographical, or language barriers may exist that 
prevent or deter Native American Veterans from seeking out 
representation on their benefit claims before VA. In 2017, VA took 
affirmative steps to improve access to representation on Tribal land by 
revising its regulations to, among other things, permit veterans' 
service offices affiliated with Tribal governments to be recognized by 
VA as Tribal organizations in a manner similar to State organizations 
(see 82 FR 6265 (Jan. 19, 2017)). VA, however, recognizes that there is 
still more that VA can do to advance equity in the access to 
representation for Native American Veterans on their VA benefit claims. 
Accordingly, to further facilitate access to culturally competent 
representation for Native American Veterans, and to honor the unique 
nature of the Federal government's Nation-to-Nation relationship with 
the Tribes, VA would like to collaborate with Tribal governments to 
expand opportunities for claims representation where needed.
    Through consultation, VA seeks to learn which Tribal communities 
have access to representation for VA benefit claims. VA is interested 
in learning which Tribal communities have access to representation that 
is provided by representatives of VA-recognized organizations. VA is 
also interested in learning which Tribal communities have access to 
representation by attorneys and agents. Moreover, VA also seeks to 
learn whether such representation is viewed in the Tribal community as 
culturally competent representation.
    In addition, from the Tribal communities that self-identify as 
being underserved in terms of representation, VA seeks comments on 
whether their Tribal governments may be interested in collaborating 
with VA to provide an option for representation. Specifically, VA is 
interested in learning if there are Tribes that may be interested in 
identifying an individual who is affiliated with their government, is 
of good character and reputation, and, who, after proper training on VA 
benefits, would be fit to be authorized by the VA General Counsel to 
represent on VA benefit claims. The General Counsel then plans to use 
his discretionary authority, pursuant to 38 CFR 14.630, to specially 
authorize such individuals to prepare, present, and prosecute VA 
benefit claims before VA. In addition, to help ensure the fitness of 
these specially authorized individuals, VA is exploring the possibility 
of coordinating with VA-recognized organizations that have established 
veterans benefits training programs and that may be willing to make 
their training available to such individuals.
    In addition, VA is seeking comments and recommendations from Tribal 
leaders and representatives of Tribal communities on any issues, 
concerns, or processes that should be addressed in T. REP to ensure 
that the project is successful in expanding access to representation 
for Native American Veterans on their VA benefit claims.
    Accordingly, through this Tribal consultation, the Secretary seeks 
information on the questions listed below. Comments do not need to 
address every question and should focus on those that are relevant to 
the commenter's Tribal community. To the extent possible, please 
clearly indicate which questions you are addressing in your response 
and include any rationale or information that may be helpful to VA.
    1. Are Native American Veterans in your community receiving any

[[Page 8343]]

assistance in pursuing their VA benefit claims? Are they being 
represented before VA on their VA benefit claims? Who is providing 
those services? For example, those claims services may be provided by: 
(a) A person employed by the Tribal government; (b) a member of your 
Tribe or Tribal community; (c) a VA-recognized organization or a 
representative of a VA-recognized organization; or (d) an agent or 
attorney. Please provide details as to the extent of the assistance 
provided and whom we may credit if your Tribal community currently has 
access to benefit claims assistance and/or representation before VA.
    2. If Veterans within your Tribal community have access to 
representation for their VA benefit claims, do you consider the 
option(s) for representation to be culturally competent representation? 
Please explain.
    3. If Veterans and their families within your Tribal community are 
not being adequately represented on their VA benefit claims, is there 
someone employed by, or affiliated, with your Tribal government that is 
currently, or could be, positioned to serve Veterans? For example, such 
individual may currently be serving Veterans and their families as a 
Tribal Veterans Service Officer (TVSO) or as a Tribal Veterans 
Representative (TVR).
    4. Are there barriers to Veterans and their family members within 
your Tribal community in accessing representation on their VA claims? 
For example, barriers may include: (a) Location or environmental 
obstacles; (b) language difficulties; (c) cultural differences; (d) 
distrust of the Federal or State government; (e) difficulties in 
finding training; (f) difficulties in securing office equipment and 
internet services; or (g) other circumstances.
    5. Do you believe that your Tribal government may want to 
collaborate with VA to identify someone affiliated with your government 
to be authorized to represent Veterans and their families on benefit 
claims before VA?
    6. Are you interested in being contacted by VA's Office of General 
Counsel to learn more about the project?
    7. Are there issues, concerns, or processes that should be 
addressed in T. REP so that the project functions effectively in 
support of access to representation for Native American Veterans within 
your Tribal government and/or community? If so, how do you recommend VA 
address those matters in this project?

Signing Authority

    Denis McDonough, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, approved this 
document on February 8, 2022 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.

Luvenia Potts,
Regulation Development Coordinator Office of Regulation Policy & 
Management, Office of General Counsel, Department of Veterans Affairs.
[FR Doc. 2022-03084 Filed 2-11-22; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 8320-01-P