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Title 38Chapter IPart 17 → Subject Group

Title 38: Pensions, Bonuses, and Veterans' Relief

Program for Repayment of Educational Loans for Certain VA Psychiatrists

Source: 81 FR 66820, Sept. 29, 2016, unless otherwise noted.

§17.640   Purpose.

The purpose of §§17.640 through 17.647 is to establish the requirements for the program for the repayment of educational loans (PREL) obtained by physician residents pursuing a certification in psychiatry.

§17.641   Definitions.

The following definitions apply to §§17.640 through 17.647.

Acceptance of conditions means a signed document between VA and a participant of the PREL, in which the participant must agree to a period of obligated service, to maintain an acceptable level of performance determined by supervisory review in the position to which VA appoints the participant, to terms and amount of payment, and to relocate, if required, to a location determined by VA at the participant's expense in exchange for educational loan repayments under the PREL. VA will provide a list of available locations for the period of obligated service in the acceptance of conditions. The applicant will choose the preferred location, in ranking order, for the completion of his or her obligated service from the locations on this list. However, VA will ultimately make the final determination as to where the applicant will perform his or her period of obligated service. A participant of the PREL must agree that he or she is willing to accept the location and position to which VA appoints the participant.

Educational loan means a loan, government or commercial, made for educational purposes by institutions that are subject to examination and supervision in their capacity as lending institutions by an agency of the United States or of the state in which the lender has its principal place of business. Loans must be for the actual costs paid for tuition, and other reasonable educational expenses such as living expenses, fees, books, supplies, educational equipment and materials, and laboratory expenses. Loans must be obtained from a government entity, a private financial institution, a school, or any other authorized entity stated in this definition. The following loans do not qualify for the PREL:

(1) Loans obtained from family members, relatives, or friends;

(2) Loans made prior to, or after, the individual's qualifying education;

(3) Any portion of a consolidated loan that is not specifically identified with the education and purposes for which the PREL may be authorized, such as home or auto loans merged with educational loans;

(4) Loans for which an individual incurred a service obligation for repayment or agreed to service for future cancellation;

(5) Credit card debt;

(6) Parent Plus Loans;

(7) Loans that have been paid in full;

(8) Loans that are in default, delinquent, not in a current payment status, or have been assumed by a collection agency;

(9) Loans not obtained from a bank, credit union, savings and loan association, not-for-profit organization, insurance company, school, and other financial or credit institution which is subject to examination and supervision in its capacity as a lending institution by an agency of the United States or of the state in which the lender has its principal place of business;

(10) Loans for which supporting documentation is not available;

(11) Loans that have been consolidated with loans of other individuals, such as spouses, children, friends, or other family member; or

(12) Home equity loans or other non-educational loans.

PREL means the program for the repayment of educational loans for certain VA psychiatrists established in §§17.640 through 17.647.

§17.642   Eligibility.

(a) General. To be eligible for the PREL, an applicant must meet all of the following requirements:

(1) Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

(2) Be enrolled in the final year of a post-graduate physician residency program leading to either a specialty qualification in psychiatric medicine or a subspecialty qualification of psychiatry (the program must be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education or the American Osteopathic Association, and, by the time of VA employment, must:

(i) Have completed all psychiatry residency training;

(ii) Have received a completion certificate from the Program Director confirming successful completion of the residency program; and

(iii) Certify intention to apply for board certification in the specialty of psychiatry (through the American Board of Medical Specialties or the American Osteopathic Association) within two years after completion of residency.

(3) Be licensed or eligible for licensure to practice medicine by meeting the following requirements by the time of VA employment:

(i) Have at least one full, active, current, and unrestricted license that authorizes the licensee to practice in any State, Territory, or possession of the United States, the District of Columbia, or the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico;

(ii) Document graduation from a school of medicine accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education or the American Osteopathic Association; or, if an international medical graduate, verify that requirements for certification by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates have been met.

(b) Simultaneous participation in another repayment program. Any applicant who, at the time of application, is participating in any other program of the Federal Government that repays the educational loans of the applicant is not eligible to participate in the PREL.

§17.643   Application for the PREL.

(a) General. A complete application for the PREL consists of a completed application form, letters of reference, and personal statement.

(b) References. The applicant must provide the following letters of reference and sign a release of information form for VA to contact such references. The letters of reference should include the following:

(1) One letter of reference from the Program Director of the core psychiatry program in which the applicant trained or is training, or the Program Director of any psychiatry subspecialty program in which the applicant is training, which indicates that the applicant is in good to excellent standing;

(2) One or more letters of reference from faculty members under which the applicant trained;

(3) One letter of reference from a peer colleague who is familiar with the psychiatry practice and character of the applicant.

(c) Personal statement. The personal statement must include the following documentation:

(1) A cover letter that provides the following information:

(i) Why the applicant is interested in VA employment;

(ii) The applicant's interest in working at a particular VA medical facility;

(iii) Likely career goals, including career goals in VA; and

(iv) A brief summary of past employment or training and accomplishments, including any particular clinical areas of interest (e.g., substance abuse).

(2) The following information must be provided on a VA form or online collection system and is subject to VA verification:

(i) Attestation that the applicant is not participating in any other loan repayment program.

(ii) A summary of the applicant's educational debt, which includes the total debt amount and when the debt was acquired. The health professional debt covered the loan must be specific to education that was required, used, and qualified the applicant for appointment as a psychiatrist.

(iii) The name of the lending agency that provided the educational loan.

(3) A full curriculum vitae.

[81 FR 66820, Sept. 29, 2016, as amended at 82 FR 4795, Jan. 17, 2017]

Effective Date Note: At 81 FR 66820, Sept. 29, 2016, §17.643 was added. This section contains information collection and recordkeeping requirements and will not become effective until approval has been given by the Office of Management and Budget.

§17.644   Selection of participants.

(a) Selection criteria. In evaluating and selecting participants, VA will consider the following factors:

(1) The applicant meets all of the eligibility criteria in §17.642 and has submitted a complete application under §17.643;

(2) The strength of the applicant's letters of reference;

(3) The applicant is in good to excellent standing in the residency program, as determined from the Program Director letter of reference;

(4) The applicant demonstrates a strong commitment to VA's mission and core values;

(5) The applicant has personal career goals that match VA needs (i.e., to work with patients suffering from traumatic brain injury, substance abuse, or post-traumatic stress disorder);

(6) The applicant's expresses a desire to work at a location that matches with VA needs; and

(7) The applicant does not have any identifiable circumstances relating to education, training, licensure, certification and review of health status, previous experience, clinical privileges, professional references, malpractice history and adverse actions, or criminal violations that would adversely affect the applicant's credentialing process.

(b) Selection. VA will select not less than 10 individuals who meet the requirements of this section to participate in the program for the repayment of educational loans for each year in which VA carries out the program.

(c) Notification of selection. VA will notify applicants that they have been selected in writing. An individual becomes a participant in the PREL once the participant submits and VA signs the acceptance of conditions.

[81 FR 66820, Sept. 29, 2016, as amended at 82 FR 4796, Jan. 17, 2017]

§17.645   Award procedures.

(a) Repayment amount. (1) VA may pay not more than $30,000 in educational loan repayment for each year of obligated service.

(2) An educational loan repayment may not exceed the actual amount of principal and interest on an educational loan or loans.

(b) Payment. VA will pay the participant, or the lending institution on behalf of the participant, directly for the principal and interest on the participant's educational loans. Payments will be made monthly or annually for each applicable service period, depending on the terms of the acceptance of conditions. Participants must provide VA documentation that shows the amounts that were credited or posted by the lending institution to a participant's educational loan during an obligated service period. VA will issue payments after the participant commences the period of obligated service. Payments are exempt from Federal taxation.

§17.646   Obligated service.

(a) General provision. A participant's obligated service will begin on the date on which the participant begins full-time, permanent employment with VA in the field of psychiatric medicine in a location determined by VA. Obligated service must be full-time, permanent employment and does not include any period of temporary or contractual employment.

(b) Duration of service. The participant will agree in the acceptance of conditions to serve for an obligated service period of 2 or more calendar years.

(c) Location and position of obligated service. VA reserves the right to make final decisions on the location and position of the obligated service.

§17.647   Failure to comply with terms and conditions of participation.

(a) Participant fails to satisfy obligated service. A participant of the PREL who fails to satisfy the period of obligated service will be liable to the United States, in lieu of such obligated service, for the full amount of benefit they expected to receive in the agreement, pro-rated for completed service days.

(b) Repayment period. The participant will pay the amount of damages that the United States is entitled to recover under this section in full to the United States no later than 1 year after the date of the breach of the agreement.

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