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Title 45 Part 2556 → Subpart D

Title 45 → Subtitle B → Chapter XXV → Part 2556 → Subpart D

Electronic Code of Federal Regulations e-CFR

Title 45 Part 2556 → Subpart D

e-CFR data is current as of October 18, 2019

Title 45Subtitle BChapter XXVPart 2556 → Subpart D


Title 45: Public Welfare
PART 2556—VOLUNTEERS IN SERVICE TO AMERICA


§2556.300   Is a VISTA considered a Federal employee and is a VISTA considered an employee of the sponsor?

(a) Except for the purposes listed here, a VISTA is not considered an employee of the Federal Government. A VISTA is considered a Federal employee only for the following purposes:

(1) Federal Tort Claims Act—28 U.S.C. 1346(b); 28 U.S.C. 2671-2680;

(2) Federal Employees' Compensation Act—5 U.S.C. chapter 81, subchapter 1;

(3) Hatch Act—5 U.S.C. chapter 73, subchapter III;

(4) Internal Revenue Service Code—26 U.S.C. 1 et seq.; and

(5) Title II of the Social Security Act—42 U.S.C. 401 et seq.

(b) A VISTA is not considered a federal employee for any purposes other than those set forth in paragraph (a) of this section.

(c) A VISTA is not covered by Federal or state unemployment compensation related to their enrollment or service in the VISTA program. A VISTA's service is not considered employment for purposes of eligibility for, or receipt of, federal, state, or any other unemployment compensation.

(d) Monetary allowances, such as living allowances that VISTAs receive during VISTA service are not considered wages. Monetary allowances, such as living allowances, that VISTAs receive during VISTA service are considered income for such purposes as Federal income tax and Social Security.

(e) A VISTA is not, under any circumstances, considered an employee of the sponsor or subrecipient to which he or she is assigned to serve. No VISTA is in an employment relationship with the sponsor or subrecipient to which he or she is assigned. The sponsor is not authorized to make contributions to any state unemployment compensation fund on a VISTA's behalf.

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§2556.305   What is the duration and scope of service for a VISTA?

(a) To serve as a VISTA, an individual makes a full-time commitment for a minimum of one year, without regard to regular working hours.

(b) A VISTA carries out activities in accordance with the purpose of the VISTA program, as described in §2556.1.

(c) To the maximum extent practicable, the VISTA shall live among and at the economic level of the low-income community served by the project, and actively seek opportunities to engage with that low-income community without regard to regular work hours.

(d) A VISTA carries out service activities in conformance with the sponsor's approved project application, including any description of a VISTA assignment as contained in the project application; and, in conformance with the purpose of title I of the DVSA. In any case where there is a conflict between the project application and the DVSA, the DVSA takes precedence.

(e) Under no circumstances may an individual be enrolled to serve as a VISTA beyond five years.

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§2556.310   What are the lines of supervision or oversight of a VISTA, a VISTA sponsor, and CNCS during a VISTA's term of service?

(a) The VISTA sponsor is responsible for the day-to-day supervision and oversight of the VISTA.

(b) CNCS is responsible for ongoing monitoring and oversight of the VISTA sponsor's project where the VISTA is assigned. CNCS is responsible for selecting the VISTA, assigning the VISTA to a project, removal of a VISTA from a project, and VISTA separation actions such as termination from the VISTA program.

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§2556.315   What are terms and conditions for official travel for a VISTA?

(a) CNCS may provide official travel for a VISTA candidate or a VISTA, as appropriate, to attend CNCS-directed activities, such as pre-service training, placement at the project site, in-service training events, and return from the project site to home of record.

(b) CNCS must approve all official travel of a VISTA candidate or a VISTA, including the mode of travel.

(c) CNCS may provide for official emergency travel for a VISTA in case of a natural disaster or the critical illness or death of an immediate family member.

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§2556.320   What benefits may a VISTA receive during VISTA service?

(a) A VISTA receives a living allowance computed on a daily rate. Living allowances vary according to the local cost-of-living in the project area where the VISTA is assigned.

(b) Subject to a maximum amount, and at the discretion and upon approval of CNCS, a VISTA may receive payment for settling-in expenses, as determined by CNCS.

(c) Subject to a maximum amount, and at the discretion of CNCS, in the event of an emergency (such as theft, fire loss, or special clothing necessitated by severe climate), a VISTA may receive an emergency expense payment in order to resume VISTA service activities, as determined and approved by CNCS.

(d) Subject to a maximum amount, and at the discretion of CNCS, a VISTA may receive a baggage allowance for the actual costs of transporting personal effects to the project site to which the VISTA is assigned to serve, as determined by CNCS.

(e) To the extent eligible, a VISTA may receive health care through a health benefits program provided by CNCS.

(f) To the extent eligible, a VISTA may receive child care support through a child care program provided by CNCS.

(g) To the extent eligible, a VISTA may elect to receive a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, and upon successful completion of service, receive that award in an amount prescribed by CNCS, in accordance with the applicable provisions of 45 CFR parts 2526, 2527, and 2528.

(1) A VISTA is eligible to elect to receive a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award if he or she is a citizen, national, or lawful permanent resident alien of the United States.

(2) A VISTA who elects a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award is eligible to request forbearance of a student loan from his or her loan-holder. A VISTA who elects a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award may, upon successful completion of service, be eligible to receive up to 100 percent of the interest accrued on a qualified student loan, consistent with the applicable provisions of 45 CFR part 2529.

(3) A VISTA is not eligible to receive more than an amount equal to the aggregate value of two full-time Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards in his or her lifetime.

(4) Other than for a summer associate, the amount of a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award for the successful completion of a VISTA term of service is equal to the maximum amount of a Federal Pell Grant under Section 401 of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1070a) that a student eligible for such grant may receive in the aggregate for the fiscal year in which the VISTA has enrolled in the VISTA program.

(h) A VISTA who does not elect to receive a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, upon successful completion of service, receives an end-of-service stipend in an amount prescribed by CNCS.

(i) In the event that a VISTA does not successfully complete a full term of service, a VISTA shall not receive a pro-rated Segal AmeriCorps Education Award or a pro-rated end-of-service stipend, except in cases where the appropriate State Program Director determines the VISTA did not successfully complete a full term of service because of a compelling, personal circumstance. Examples of a compelling, personal circumstance are: Serious medical condition or disability of a VISTA during VISTA service; critical illness or disability of a VISTA's immediate family member (spouse, domestic partner, parent, sibling, child, or guardian) if this event makes completing a term of service unreasonably difficult; or unusual conditions not attributable to the VISTA, such as natural disaster, strike, or premature closing of a project, that make completing a term unreasonably difficult or infeasible.

(j) In the event of a VISTA's death during service, his or her family or others that he or she named as beneficiary in accordance with section 5582 of title 5, United States Code, shall be paid a pro-rated end-of-service stipend for the period during which the VISTA served. If the VISTA had elected to receive the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award for successful completion of a full term of VISTA service, prior to payment to the named beneficiary, CNCS shall convert that election to an end-of-service stipend and pay the VISTA's family, or others that he or she named as beneficiary, a pro-rated end-of-service stipend accordingly.

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§2556.325   May a VISTA be provided coverage for legal defense expenses related to VISTA service?

Under certain circumstances, as set forth in §§2556.330 through 2556.335, CNCS may pay reasonable legal defense expenses incurred in judicial or administrative proceedings for the defense of a VISTA serving in the VISTA program. Such covered legal expenses consist of counsel fees, court costs, bail, and other expenses incidental to a VISTA's legal defense.

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§2556.330   When may a VISTA be provided coverage for legal defense expenses related to criminal proceedings?

(a) For the legal defense of a VISTA member who is charged with a criminal offense related to the VISTA member's service, up to and including arraignment in Federal, state, and local criminal proceedings, CNCS may pay actual and reasonable legal expenses. CNCS is not required to pay any expenses for the legal defense of a VISTA member where he or she is charged with a criminal offense arising from alleged activity or action that is unrelated to that VISTA's service.

(b) A VISTA member's service is clearly unrelated to a charged offense:

(1) When the activity or action is alleged to have occurred prior to the VISTA member's VISTA service.

(2) When the VISTA member is not at his or her assigned project location, such as during periods of approved leave, medical leave, emergency leave, or in administrative hold status in the VISTA program.

(3) When the activity or action is alleged to have occurred at or near his or her assigned project, but is clearly not part of, or required by, the VISTA member's service assignment.

(c) For the legal defense, beyond arraignment in Federal, state, and local criminal proceedings, of a VISTA member who is charged with a criminal offense, CNCS may also pay actual and reasonable legal expenses:

(1) When the charged offense against the VISTA member relates exclusively to his or her VISTA assignment or status as a VISTA member;

(2) When the charge offense against the VISTA member arises from an alleged activity or action that is a part of, or required by, the VISTA member's VISTA assignment;

(3) When the VISTA member has not admitted a willful or knowing violation of law; or

(4) When the charged offense against the VISTA member is not a minor offense or misdemeanor, such as a minor vehicle violation.

(d) Notwithstanding paragraphs (a) through (c) of this section, there may be situations in which the criminal proceedings at issue arise from a matter that also gives rise to a civil claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act. In such a situation, the U.S. Department of Justice may, on behalf of the United States, agree to defend the VISTA. If the U.S. Department of Justice agrees to defend the VISTA member, unless there is a conflict between the VISTA member's interest and that of the United States, CNCS will not pay for expenses associated with any additional legal representation (such as counsel fees for private counsel) for the VISTA member.

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§2556.335   When may a VISTA be provided coverage for legal defense expenses related to civil or administrative proceedings?

For the legal defense in Federal, state, and local civil judicial and administrative proceedings of a VISTA member, CNCS may also pay actual and reasonable legal expenses, where:

(a) The complaint or charge is against the VISTA, and is directly related to his or her VISTA service and not to his or her personal activities or obligations;

(b) The VISTA has not admitted to willfully or knowingly pursuing a course of conduct that would result in the plaintiff or complainant initiating such a proceeding; and

(c) The judgment sought involves a monetary award that exceeds $1,000.

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§2556.340   What is non-competitive eligibility and who is eligible for it?

(a) Non-competitive eligibility is a status attained by an individual such that the individual is eligible for appointment by a Federal agency in the Executive branch, into a civil service position in the federal competitive service, in accordance with 5 CFR 315.605.

(b) An individual who successfully completes at least a year-long term of service as a VISTA, and who has not been terminated for cause from the VISTA program at any time, retains non-competitive eligibility status for one year following the end of the term of service as a VISTA.

(c) In addition to the retention of the one year of non-competitive eligibility status as provided in paragraph (b) of this section, an individual's non-competitive eligibility status may extend for two more years to a total of three years if the individual is:

(1) In the military service;

(2) Studying at a recognized institution of higher learning; or

(3) In another activity which, in the view of the federal agency referenced in paragraph (a) of this section, warrants extension.

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§2556.345   Who may present a grievance?

(a) Under the VISTA program grievance procedure, a grievance may be presented by any individual who is currently enrolled as a VISTA in the VISTA program or who was enrolled as a VISTA in the VISTA program within the past 30 calendar days.

(b) A VISTA's grievance shall not be construed as reflecting on the VISTA's standing, performance, or desirability as a VISTA.

(c) A VISTA who presents a grievance shall not be subjected to restraint, interference, coercion, discrimination, or reprisal because of presentation of views.

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§2556.350   What matters are considered grievances?

(a) Under the VISTA program grievance procedure, grievances are matters of concern, brought by a VISTA, that arise out of, and directly affect, the VISTA's service situation or that arise out of a violation of a policy, practice, or regulation governing the terms or conditions of the VISTA's service, such that the violation results in the denial or infringement of a right or benefit to the VISTA member.

(b) Matters not within the definition of a grievance as defined in paragraph (a) of this section are not grievable, and therefore, are excluded from the VISTA program grievance procedure. Though not exhaustive, examples of matters excluded from the VISTA program grievance procedure are:

(1) Those matters related to a sponsor's or project's continuance or discontinuance; the number of VISTAs assigned to a VISTA project; the increases or decreases in the level of support provided to a VISTA project; the suspension or termination of a VISTA project; or the selection or retention of VISTA project staff.

(2) Those matters for which a separate administrative procedure or complaint process is provided, such as early termination for cause, claims of discrimination during service, and federal worker's compensation claims filed for illness or injury sustained in the course of carrying out VISTA activities.

(3) Those matters related to any law, published rule, regulation, policy, or procedure.

(4) Those matters related to housing during a VISTA member's service.

(5) Those matters which are, by law, subject to final administrative review outside CNCS.

(6) Those matters related to actions taken, or not taken, by a VISTA sponsor or subrecipient, or CNCS, in compliance with or in order to fulfill the terms of a contract, grant, or other agreement related to the VISTA program.

(7) Those matters related to the internal management of CNCS, unless such matters are shown to specifically and directly affect the VISTA's service situation or terms or conditions of his or her VISTA service.

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§2556.355   May a VISTA have access to records as part of the VISTA grievance procedure?

(a) A VISTA is entitled to review any material in his or her official VISTA file and any relevant CNCS records to the extent permitted by the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. 552, 552a. Examples of materials that may be withheld include references obtained under pledge of confidentiality, official VISTA files of other VISTAs, and privileged intra-agency documents.

(b) A VISTA may review relevant materials in the possession of a sponsor to the extent such materials are disclosable by the sponsor under applicable freedom of information act and privacy laws.

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§2556.360   How may a VISTA bring a grievance?

(a) Bringing a grievance—Step 1. (1) While currently enrolled in the VISTA program, or enrolled in the VISTA program within the past 30 calendar days, a VISTA may bring a grievance to the sponsor or subrecipient where he or she is assigned to serve within 15 calendar days that the event giving rise to the grievance occurs, or within 15 calendar days after becoming aware of the event. If the grievance arises out of a continuing condition or practice that individually affects a VISTA, while enrolled the VISTA may bring it at any time while he or she is affected by a continuing condition or practice.

(2) A VISTA brings a grievance by presenting it in writing to the executive director, or comparable individual, of the sponsoring organization where the VISTA is assigned, or to the sponsor's representative who is designated to receive grievances from a VISTA.

(3) The sponsor shall review and respond in writing to the VISTA's grievance, within 10 calendar days of receipt of the written grievance. The sponsor may not fail to respond to a complaint raised by a VISTA on the basis that it is not an actual grievance, or that it is excluded from coverage as a grievance, but may, in the written response, dismiss the complaint and refuse to grant the relief requested on either of those grounds.

(4) If the grievance brought by a VISTA involves a matter over which the sponsor has no substantial control or if the sponsor's representative is the supervisor of the VISTA, the VISTA may pass over the procedure set forth in paragraphs (a)(1) through (3) of this section, and present the grievance in writing directly to the State Program Director, as described in paragraph (b) of this section.

(b) Bringing a grievance—Step 2. (1) If, after a VISTA brings a grievance as set forth in paragraphs (a)(1) and (2) of this section, the matter is not resolved, he or she may submit the grievance in writing to the appropriate State Program Director. The VISTA must submit the grievance to the State Program Director either:

(i) Within seven calendar days of receipt of the response of the sponsor; or,

(ii) In the event the sponsor has not issued a response to the VISTA within 10 calendar days of receipt of the written grievance, within 17 calendar days.

(2) If the grievance involves a matter over which either the sponsor or subrecipient has no substantial control or if the sponsor's representative is the supervisor of the VISTA, as described in paragraph (a)(4) of this section, the VISTA may pass over the procedure set forth in paragraphs (a)(1) through (3) of this section, and submit the grievance in writing directly to the State Program Director. In such a case, the VISTA must submit the grievance to the State Program Director within 15 calendar days of the event giving rise to the grievance occurs, or within 15 calendar days after becoming aware of the event.

(3) Within ten working days of receipt of the grievance, the State Program Director shall respond in writing, regardless of whether or not the matter constitutes a grievance as defined under this grievance procedure, and/or is timely submitted. In the response, the State Program Director may determine that the matter submitted as a grievance is not grievable, is not considered a grievance, or fails to meet the time limit for response. If the State Program Director makes any such determination, he or she may dismiss the complaint, setting forth the reason(s) for the dismissal. In such a case, the State Program Director need not address the complaint on the merits, nor make a determination of the complaint on the merits.

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§2556.365   May a VISTA appeal a grievance?

(a) The VISTA may appeal in writing to the appropriate Area Manager the response of the State Program Director to the grievance, as set forth in §2556.360(b)(3). To be eligible to appeal a grievance response to the Area Manager, the VISTA must have exhausted all appropriate actions as set forth in §2556.360.

(b) A VISTA's grievance appeal must be in writing and contain sufficient detail to identify the subject matter of the grievance, specify the relief requested, and be signed by the VISTA.

(c) The VISTA must submit a grievance appeal to the appropriate Area Manager no later than 10 calendar days after the State Program Director issues his or her response to the grievance.

(d) Certain matters contained in a grievance appeal may be rejected, rather than denied on the merits, by the Area Manager. A grievance appeal may be rejected, in whole or in part, for any of the following reasons:

(1) The grievance appeal was not submitted to the appropriate Area Manager within the time limit specified in paragraph (c) of this section;

(2) The grievance appeal consists of matters not contained within the definition of a grievance, as specified in section §2556.350(a);

(3) The grievance appeal consists of matters excluded from the VISTA program grievance procedure, as specified in §2556.350(b); or

(4) The grievance appeal contains matters that are moot, or for which relief has otherwise been granted.

(e) Within 14 calendar days of receipt of the grievance, the appropriate Area Manager shall decide the grievance appeal on the merits, or reject the grievance appeal in whole or in part, or both, as appropriate. The Area Manager shall notify the VISTA in writing of the decision and specify the grounds for the appeal decision. The appeal decision shall include a statement of the basis for the decision and is a final decision of CNCS.

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