(a) VA personnel upon whom a demand or request for testimony or the production of records in connection with legal proceedings as defined in § 14.802(d) is made shall notify the head of his or her field station, or if in Central Office, the head of the component for which he or she works. The field station or Central Office component shall notify the responsible VA official designated in § 14.807(b).
(b) In response to a demand or request for the production of records or the testimony of VA personnel, other than personnel in the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), as witnesses in legal proceedings covered by these regulations, the General Counsel, the Regional Counsel, an attorney in the Office of General Counsel designated by the General Counsel, or an attorney in the Regional Counsel office designated by the Regional Counsel is the responsible VA official authorized to determine whether VA personnel may be interviewed, contacted or used as witnesses, including used as expert witnesses, and whether VA records may be produced; and what, if any, conditions will be imposed upon such interview, contact, testimony or production of records. For personnel in the OIG, the Counselor to the Inspector General or an attorney designated by the Counselor to the Inspector General, is the responsible VA official authorized to make the determinations provided in § 14.807, and that official will keep the General Counsel informed of such determinations for purposes of litigation or claims of privilege.
(c) In appropriate cases, the responsible VA official shall promptly notify the Department of Justice of the demand or request. After consultation and coordination with the Department of Justice, as required, and after any necessary consultation with the VA component which employs or employed the VA personnel whose testimony is sought or which is responsible for the maintenance of the records sought, the VA official shall determine in writing whether the individual is required to comply with the demand or request and shall notify the requester or the court or other authority of the determination reached where the determination is that VA will not comply fully with the request or demand. The responsible VA official shall give notice of the decision to other persons as circumstances may warrant. Oral approval may be granted, and a record of such approval made and retained in accordance with the procedures in § 14.807(f) concerning oral requests or demands.
(d) If, after VA personnel have received a request or demand in a legal proceeding and have notified the responsible VA official in accordance with this section, a response to the request or demand is required before instructions from the responsible official are received, the responsible official designated in paragraph (b) of this section shall furnish the requester or the court or other authority with a copy of §§ 14.800 through 14.810 and any other relevant documentation, inform the requester or the court or other authority that the request or demand is being reviewed, and seek a stay of the request or demand pending a final determination by the VA official concerned.
(e) If a court of competent jurisdiction or other appropriate authority declines to stay the effect of the demand or request in response to action taken pursuant to § 14.807(d), or if such court or other authority orders that the demand or request be complied with notwithstanding the final decision of the appropriate VA official, the VA personnel upon whom the demand or request was made shall notify the responsible VA official of such ruling or order. If the responsible VA official determines that no further legal review of or challenge to the ruling or order will be sought, the affected VA personnel shall comply with the demand, order or request. If directed by the appropriate VA official after consultation with the appropriate United States Attorney's office, however, the affected VA personnel shall respectfully decline to comply with the demand, request or order. See United States ex rel. Touhy v. Ragen,340 U.S. 462 (1951).
(f) Normally, written demands or requests allowing reasonable lead time for evaluation and processing are required. However, in emergency situations where response time is limited and a written demand or request is impractical, the following procedures should be followed:
(1) The responsible VA official has the authority to waive the requirement of a written demand or request and may expedite a response in the event of an emergency under conditions which could not be anticipated in the course of proper planning or which demonstrate a good faith attempt to comply with these regulations. Determinations on oral demands or requests should be reserved for instances where insistence on compliance with the requirements of a proper written request would result in the effective denial of the request and cause an injustice in the outcome of the legal proceeding for which the testimony or records are sought. No requester has a right to make an oral demand or request and receive a determination, however. Whether to permit such an exceptional procedure is a decision within the sole discretion of the responsible VA official.
(2) If the responsible VA official concludes that the demand or request, or any portion of it, should be granted (after considering the factors listed in § 14.804), the responsible VA official will then orally advise the requester of the determination in accordance with the procedures provided in § 14.807(c), including any limitations on such testimony or production of records, and seek a written confirmation of the oral demand or request. The responsible VA official will make a written record of the determination made concerning the oral demand or request, including the grant or denial, the circumstances requiring the procedure, and the conditions to which the requester agreed.