38 CFR 14.514 - Suits by or against United States or Department of Veterans Affairs officials; indemnification of Department of Veterans Affairs employees.
(a) Suits against United States or Department of Veterans Affairs officials. When a suit involving any activities of the Department of Veterans Affairs is filed against the United States or the Secretary or a suit is filed against any employee of the Department of Veterans Affairs in which is involved any official action of the employee, not covered by the provisions of §§ 14.600 through 14.617, a copy of the petition will be forwarded to the General Counsel who will take necessary action to obtain the pertinent facts, cooperate with or receive the cooperation of the Department of Justice and, where indicated, advise the Regional Counsel of any further action required.
(b) Counsel and representation of employees. The Department of Justice may afford counsel and representation to Government employees who are sued individually as a result of the performance of their official duties. A civil action commenced in a State court against an employee, as the result of an action under color of his or her office, may be removed to the applicable Federal District Court. If a suit is filed against an employee as the result of the performance of his or her official duties, where the provisions of either 28 U.S.C. 2679 or 38 U.S.C. 7316 are not applicable (see § 14.610), and the employee desires to be represented by the U.S. Attorney, the Regional Counsel will obtain a written request to this effect from the employee and will also obtain an affidavit of the facility Director describing the incident in sufficient detail to enable a determination to be made as to whether the employee was in the scope of his or her employment at the time. These statements, together with a copy of the petition and two copies of a summary of pertinent facts, will be sent to the General Counsel, who will transmit copies thereof to the Department of Justice for appropriate action.
(1) The Department of Veterans Affairs may indemnify a Department of Veterans Affairs employee, who is personally named as a defendant in any civil suit in state or Federal court or an arbitration proceeding or other proceeding seeking damages against the employee personally, where either 28 U.S.C. 2679 or 38 U.S.C. 7316 is not applicable, for any verdict, judgment, or other monetary award which is rendered against such employee; provided that: the alleged conduct giving rise to the verdict, judgment, or award was taken within the scope of his or her employment and that such indemnification is in the interest of the Department of Veterans Affairs, as determined by the Secretary or his designee.
(2) The Department of Veterans Affairs may settle or compromise a personal damage claim against a Department of Veterans Affairs employee, in cases where the provisions of either 28 U.S.C. 2679 or 38 U.S.C. 7316 are not applicable, by the payment of available funds, at any time; provided that: the alleged conduct giving rise to the personal damage claim was taken within the employee's scope of employment and that such settlement or compromise is in the interest of the Department of Veterans Affairs, as determined by the Secretary or his designee.
(3) Absent exceptional circumstances as determined by the Secretary or his designee, the Agency will not entertain a request either to agree to indemnify or to settle a personal damage claim before entry of an adverse verdict, judgment, or award.
(4) A Department of Veterans Affairs employee may request indemnification to satisfy a verdict, judgment, or award entered against that employee. The employee shall submit a written request, with appropriate documentation including copies of the verdict, judgment, award, or settlement proposal, in a timely manner to the Department of Veterans Affairs General Counsel, who shall make a recommended disposition of the request. Where the Department of Veterans Affairs determines it appropriate, the Agency shall seek the view of the Department of Justice. The General Counsel shall forward the employee request for indemnification, and the accompanying documentation, with the General Counsel's recommendation to the Secretary for decision.
(5) Any payment under this section either to indemnify a Department of Veterans Affairs employee or to settle or compromise a personal damage claim shall be contingent upon the availability of appropriated funds of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
(d) Attorney-client privilege. Attorneys employed by the Department of Veterans Affairs who participate in any process utilized for the purpose of determining whether the Agency should request the Department of Justice to provide representation to a Department employee sued, subpoenaed or charged in his individual capacity, or whether attorneys employed by the Department of Veterans Affairs should provide assistance in the representation of such a Department employee, undertake a full and traditional attorney-client relationship with the employee with respect to application of the attorney-client privilege. If representation is authorized, Department of Veterans Affairs attorneys who assist in the representation of an employee also undertake a full and traditional attorney-client relationship with the employee with respect to the attorney-client privilege. Any adverse information communicated by the client-employee to an attorney during the course of such attorney-client relationship shall not be disclosed to anyone, either inside or outside the Department of Veterans Affairs, other than attorneys responsible for representation of the employee, unless such disclosure is authorized by the employee.
(e) Suits by the United States. In any instance wherein direct submission to a U.S. Attorney for institution of civil action has been authorized by the Department of Justice, the Regional Counsel will furnish the U.S. Attorney a complete report of the facts and applicable law, documentary evidence, names and addresses of witnesses and, in cases wherein Department of Veterans Affairs action has been taken, a copy of any pertinent decision rendered. The Regional Counsel will forward two copies of such report and of any proposed pleading to the General Counsel, and will render any practicable assistance requested by the U.S. Attorney.