Statutory VA Directors
The statute that authorizes the VA nonprofit research and education corporations mandates that the affiliated medical center director, chief of staff and associate chiefs of staff for research and education serve on the board of any nonprofit established under this authority. Therefore, these personnel are not at risk of violating conflict of interest laws contained in 18 USC, Part I, Chapter 11, Section 208, Acts affecting a personal financial interest.
Non-Statutory VA Employees
Since the authorization of the VA-affiliated nonprofit corporations (NPCs) statute, many NPC boards of directors have included as members VA ‘principle investigators’ (PIs) and other VA employees related to the research and/or education enterprise. Over the last few years, concerns have been raised within VA about the number employees serving on nonprofit boards, who might have approved such service, and the possible ethical and financial implications for the VA due to such service. These VA discussions have included VA employees serving on any nonprofit corporation whether with the Boy Scouts, a community organization, a professional association/society, or the VA-affiliated NPCs. According to Section 208, the conflict of interest statute, such service exposed VA employees and VA to possible liabilities, and thus guidance needed to be developed for employees and directors alike about how best to proceed with any such service.
In February 12, 2014, VA’s chief of staff issued guidance for the appointment of any VA employee to serve on a nonprofit corporation’s board of directors. This guidance offered a detailed process for receiving appointment approval from a SES employee in the VA employee’s chain of command. Additionally this approval specifically precluded the VA employee from participating in a nonprofit corporation’s discussions of finances or personnel. This guidance didn’t recognize the role of VA-affiliated NPCs as a flexible funding mechanism for VA-approved research & education. Therefore, VA’s Office of General Counsel was charged with developing further guidance that speaks directly to non-statutory VA employees serving on NPC boards of directors. New guidance was released by VA’s chief of staff on December 30, 2014. Under this specific guidance, non-statutory VA employees may serve in their official capacity as a full-member of a VA-affiliated NPC board of directors. The new guidance is posted.