Many veterans, veterans service officers, VA staff, and veterans law attorneys search for “38 CFR Part 3” because it’s the “adjudication” part of Title 38 which covers the Department of Veterans Affairs. For example, the criteria for service-connected PTSD disability compensation are at 38 C.F.R. § 3.304(f).
(1) Watch out for Google or Bing search results that include websites that end with “.io” such as:
(2) The correct, genuine, legitimate URL for the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations ends with “.gov” like this:
A Website that Looks Like a Government Site, But Isn’t
You will find links to this website when you search for various CFR-related terms on Google or Bing. It looks legitimate, and it might indeed contain an exact copy of the information on the U.S. government website, www.ecfr.gov.
On the other hand, we do not know:
- how often the owners update the site;
- if they update it accurately;
- if they will update it in the future; and
- if they might include malware or try to gather information from United States citizens on the site.
The URL for this questionable, non-government site is:
The top level domain
.io allows people to register a domain name anonymously. Thus, you cannot determine who owns the website through usual methods such as searching the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) “whois” database.
I asked the United States Government Publishing Office (GPO) about the website, and their advice was: “We encourage people to use the Code of Federal Regulations on govinfo.gov as it is authenticated and unaltered on our site.”
That sounds like good advice to me. ;o)
Code of Federal Regulations Including 38 CFR Part 3
Fortunately, there are reliable, legitimate websites which contain the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations.
Below is a quick summary of websites that might appear on the search engine results page (SERP) when you search on Google or Bing for “code of federal regulations” or “38 cfr part 3” or “ecfr” and similar.
For a detailed overview, with links to CFR-related government websites, see Code of Federal Regulations on the National Archives website, and Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), 1996 to Present on the www.govinfo.gov site.
U.S. Government Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (ecfr.gov)
ecfr.gov – This is a U.S. government website published by the National Archives and Records Administration’s Office of the Federal Register (OFR) and the Government Publishing Office (GPO).
The electronic CFR (www.ecfr.gov) is updated daily, although it is technically “unofficial”, as explained in more detail on the ecfr.gov site: What is the e-CFR, and what is the legal status of this publication?
Unless you are an attorney or U.S. government official, the ecfr.gov site should be fine even though it is technically “unofficial”. It’s the one I always use because I want the most up-to-date information.
U.S. Government Code of Federal Regulations – Annual Edition (govinfo.gov)
www.govinfo.gov – “Free U.S. Government information for all” from the United States Government Publishing Office (GPO), which is in the legislative branch (U.S. Congress).
The site provides free public access to official publications from all three branches of the federal government, i.e., legislative, judicial, and executive. The govinfo.gov site provides access to the Code of Federal Regulations (Annual Edition), which is the official version of the CFR.
The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) annual edition is the codification of the general and permanent rules published in the Federal Register by the departments and agencies of the Federal Government. It is divided into 50 titles that represent broad areas subject to Federal regulation. The 50 subject matter titles contain one or more individual volumes, which are updated once each calendar year, on a staggered basis.
Because the official Code of Federal Regulations – Annual Edition is updated annually on a staggered basis, you will need to look at more than one year to find the CFR Title of interest.
For example, the Title covering the Department of Veterans Affairs (38 CFR) was updated in 2017. Thus, to find the official version of 38 CFR Part 3, you go to the Code of Federal Regulations (Annual Edition) website and then click the circle with the + inside it (see image above or the image below) to expand the selection; then scroll down until you find Title 38; and keep narrowing down your search (clicking the circle with the + inside it) until you find 38 CFR Part 3 (PDF).
Note the different formats available to you: PDF, XML, or DETAILS. The PDF version is the one you want. By the way, you can tell if a PDF document is an official U.S. government publication by the image on the upper left of the first page. More information is available on govinfo.gov > About > Authentication.
Federal Digital System (FDsys)
You will often find links to the Code of Federal Regulations contained within the Federal Digital System (FDsys). These are legitimate U.S. government websites. However, “In December 2018, FDsys will be replaced by govinfo.”
Department of Veterans Affairs WARMS Database
You will frequently see links to the VA’s WARMS database on search engine results pages (SERPs). However, information on the new “KnowVA” knowledge base website is more current and up-to-date. KnowVA is part of the ebenefits website (www.ebenefits.va.gov) and is also known as “VA Self-Service”.
Legal Information Institute (LII) of Cornell Law School
The Legal Information Institute is a legitimate, reliable site for legal information, including the Code of Federal Regulations. From the LII website:
The primary legal materials we offer — for example, the US Code, the Code of Federal Regulations, and our Supreme Court materials — are as up-to-date and accurate as any available from official sources, whether via the web or print.
Our location in a top-ranked American law school allows us to draw on the expertise of faculty and the considerable research and writing skills of students to create materials that explain the law and its workings.
We are the most linked-to legal web site in the world; our definitions of legal terms are both recommended and used by the American Association of Law Libraries … (emphasis added)
In addition to the Code of Federal Regulations themselves, LII also includes additional information not found on other sites. For example, on the page for 38 CFR Part 3 – ADJUDICATION you will find:
(*) eCFR – The text of regulations drawn directly from the government’s Electronic Code of Federal Regulations, with links to subjects mentioned in the regulations and to U.S. Code authorities, and a list of relevant Federal Register notices, which often contain detailed information regarding VA’s reasons for adding new regulations or modifying existing regs.
(*) Authorities – “… a list of United States Code sections, Statutes at Large, Public Laws, and Presidential Documents, which provide rulemaking authority for this CFR Part.”
(*) Rulemaking – “… rules, proposed rules, and notices (chronologically) published in the Federal Register …” related to the Part or Section of the CFR you have selected.
Here is a short video that explains the mission and features of the Legal Information Institute: