A-11004, SEPTEMBER 21, 1925, 5 COMP. GEN. 212

A-11004: Sep 21, 1925

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1925: I HAVE YOUR LETTER OF AUGUST 24. THAT NO ADMINISTRATION OF THE ESTATE IS CONTEMPLATED OR WILL BE NECESSARY EXCEPT FOR THE PURPOSE OF COLLECTING THE SUM DUE FROM THE GOVERNMENT. AS THERE IS NOTHING ELSEWHERE IN THE ACT INDICATING THAT CONGRESS INTENDED THAT AMOUNT MIGHT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES OR FOR ANY REASON BE EXTENDED. THE FACT THAT THE EXCESS OVER $300 MAY BE NEGLIGIBLE IS IMMATERIAL. THE TEST OF THE COMMISSIONER OF PENSIONS' JURISDICTION IN THE INSTANT CASE IS THE AMOUNT INVOLVED.

A-11004, SEPTEMBER 21, 1925, 5 COMP. GEN. 212

RETIREMENT DEDUCTIONS - JURISDICTION OF THE COMMISSIONER OF PENSIONS TO MAKE REFUNDS AS SECTION 11 OF THE ACT OF MAY 22, 1920, 41 STAT. 619, EXPRESSLY LIMITS THE AMOUNT TO "NOT EXCEED $300" OVER WHICH THE COMMISSIONER OF PENSIONS MAY EXERCISE HIS JUDGMENT IN REFUNDING THE RETIREMENT DEDUCTIONS OF A DECEASED CIVILIAN EMPLOYEE OF THE GOVERNMENT, REFUND OF AN AMOUNT IN EXCESS OF $300 MAY ONLY BE MADE TO THE DULY APPOINTED EXECUTOR OR ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF A DECEASED EMPLOYEE.

COMPTROLLER GENERAL MCCARL TO THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR, SEPTEMBER 21, 1925:

I HAVE YOUR LETTER OF AUGUST 24, 1925, REQUESTING DECISION WHETHER THE SUM OF $300.26 DUE THE ESTATE OF WILLIAM R. PHERSON, DECEASED, UNDER THE ACT OF MAY 22, 1920, 41 STAT. 614, PROVIDING FOR THE RETIREMENT OF EMPLOYEES IN THE CLASSIFIED CIVIL SERVICE MAY BE PAID WITHOUT ADMINISTRATION TO THE PERSON OR PERSONS AS MAY, UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF SECTION 11 OF THE ACT, BE FOUND "IN THE JUDGMENT OF THE COMMISSIONER OF PENSIONS TO BE LEGALLY ENTITLED TO THE PROCEEDS OF THE ESTATE.'

YOU STATE THAT THE DECEDENT LEFT SURVIVING A WIDOW, MRS. MAUD S. PHERSON, AND THREE CHILDREN, AND THAT NO ADMINISTRATION OF THE ESTATE IS CONTEMPLATED OR WILL BE NECESSARY EXCEPT FOR THE PURPOSE OF COLLECTING THE SUM DUE FROM THE GOVERNMENT. SECTION 11 OF THE ACT PROVIDES IN PART:

* * * IN CASE AN EMPLOYEE SHALL DIE WITHOUT HAVING REACHED THE RETIREMENT AGE OR WITHOUT HAVING ESTABLISHED A VALID CLAIM FOR ANNUITY, THE TOTAL AMOUNT OF DEDUCTIONS WITH ACCRUED INTEREST AS HEREIN PROVIDED SHALL BE PAID TO THE LEGAL REPRESENTATIVES OF SUCH EMPLOYEE: PROVIDED, THAT IF IN CASE OF DEATH THE AMOUNT OF DEDUCTIONS TO BE PAID UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF THIS SECTION DOES NOT EXCEED $300, AND IF THERE HAS BEEN NO DEMAND UPON THE COMMISSIONER OF PENSIONS BY A DULY APPOINTED EXECUTOR OR ADMINISTRATOR, THE PAYMENT MAY BE MADE, AFTER THE EXPIRATION OF THREE MONTHS FROM DATE OF DEATH, TO SUCH PERSON OR PERSONS AS MAY APPEAR IN THE JUDGMENT OF THE COMMISSIONER OF PENSIONS TO BE LEGALLY ENTITLED TO THE PROCEEDS OF THE ESTATE, AND SUCH PAYMENT SHALL BE A BAR TO RECOVERY BY ANY OTHER PERSON.

YOUR DOUBT ARISES FROM THE FACT THAT THE SUM INVOLVED EXCEEDS BY 26 CENTS THE AMOUNT NAMED IN THE STATUTE, BEING $300.26.

STATUTES CONFERRING UPON OFFICERS UNUSUAL AND EXTRAORDINARY POWERS AND WHICH RADICALLY CHANGE EXISTING MODES OF PROCEDURE IN SETTLING CLAIMS AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT, AS THIS STATUTE DOES, MUST BE STRICTLY CONSTRUED. CONGRESS HAS IN UNMISTAKABLE LANGUAGE LIMITED THE AMOUNT OVER WHICH THE COMMISSIONER MAY EXERCISE HIS "JUDGMENT" TO "NOT EXCEED $300," AND, AS THERE IS NOTHING ELSEWHERE IN THE ACT INDICATING THAT CONGRESS INTENDED THAT AMOUNT MIGHT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES OR FOR ANY REASON BE EXTENDED, THE FACT THAT THE EXCESS OVER $300 MAY BE NEGLIGIBLE IS IMMATERIAL. THE TEST OF THE COMMISSIONER OF PENSIONS' JURISDICTION IN THE INSTANT CASE IS THE AMOUNT INVOLVED, AND AS IT EXCEEDS THE SUM FIXED IN THE STATUTE, IT FOLLOWS THAT ANY PAYMENT TO OTHER THAN THE LEGAL REPRESENTATIVE WOULD BE WITHOUT AUTHORITY OF LAW.