The Veterans Administration is looking for federal employes who have defaulted on student or home loans or may have been recipients of overpayments of erroneous payments of VA benefits.

To facilitate this investigation, the Office of Personnel Management is going to give the VA access to OPM/GOVT-1, the general personnel records of most current and former federal workers. Those computerized files will include personnel information normally not made public.

The Privacy Act requires OPM to record in the Federal Register any new "routine" uses permitted for its records. Thus notion of the VA action was contained in the issue of July 18 (page 48291), alerting any federal employe who hears of it that the VA is going to take a look at him or her.

In fact, the employe has until Aug. 18 to protest to OPM about the proposal.

The VA plan is simple. It will attempt to match the federal employe list against its delinquents. In addition, however, it plans to match the federal workers against benefit recipient files, and then -- according to the Register notice -- "conduct a more thorough review of the recipient's eligibility or loan plan."

The VA will be able to do this because the files they are getting from OPM will include the employe's salary, as well as Social Security number and work schedule.

OPM justified turning over this normally private material by saying it would "assure greater integrity" of the VA programs and contribute to "oversight of federal employes' conduct."

The VA will be permitted to use the records for only six months and must erase the computer tapes after they are no longer needed.

Two years ago, a somewhat similar matching program turned up 19,000 federal employes on welfare rolls, including 2,200 who were found ineligible and 3,200 who were being overpaid because they had understated their incomes.

Those cases were turned over to the states for prosecution.