A-13755, SEPTEMBER 17, 1926, 6 COMP. GEN. 188

A-13755: Sep 17, 1926

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THERE IS NO GENERAL REQUIREMENT THAT THE AMOUNT FOR INDIVIDUAL ITEMS FOR BURIAL SHOWN TO HAVE BEEN EXPENDED AND AUTHORIZED UNDER THE TERMS OF THE REGULATIONS. 1926: I HAVE YOUR LETTER OF AUGUST 11. AS FOLLOWS: REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR DECISION A-13755 DATED APRIL 13. AS I HAVE CONSTRUED YOUR DECISION. IF THE SERVICES OF BURIAL AND FUNERAL ARE PERFORMED BY AN UNDERTAKER WITH WHOM THE BUREAU HAS A CONTRACT. THE BUREAU IS AUTHORIZED TO PAY OR REIMBURSE ONLY THE COST OF THE CONTRACT SERVICES. UNLESS EVIDENCE CAN BE ADDUCED AND A CERTIFICATION IS MADE THAT THE SERVICES WERE DIFFERENT THAN ITEMS BEARING THE SAME DESIGNATION IN THE CONTRACT. THAT THE SERVICES WERE ADDITIONAL. THAT THEY WERE ALSO A NECESSARY BURIAL.

A-13755, SEPTEMBER 17, 1926, 6 COMP. GEN. 188

VETERANS' BUREAU - BURIAL EXPENSES IN REIMBURSING A CLAIM WITHIN THE MAXIMUM AMOUNT OF $100, FILED BY A RELATIVE FOR BURIAL EXPENSES OF A VETERAN OF THE WORLD WAR WHO DIED WHILE NOT UNDER THE JURISDICTION OR CONTROL OF VETERANS' BUREAU, UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF THE WORLD WAR VETERANS' ACT OF 1924, THERE IS NO GENERAL REQUIREMENT THAT THE AMOUNT FOR INDIVIDUAL ITEMS FOR BURIAL SHOWN TO HAVE BEEN EXPENDED AND AUTHORIZED UNDER THE TERMS OF THE REGULATIONS, MUST BE LIMITED TO THE AMOUNT CHARGED THE VETERANS' BUREAU FOR SIMILAR ITEMS UNDER A CONTRACT WITH THE SAME UNDERTAKER FOR BURIAL OF VETERANS DYING IN A VETERANS' BUREAU HOSPITAL OR OTHERWISE WHILE UNDER THE JURISDICTION AND CONTROL OF THE BUREAU.

COMPTROLLER GENERAL MCCARL TO THE DIRECTOR, UNITED STATES VETERANS' BUREAU, SEPTEMBER 17, 1926:

I HAVE YOUR LETTER OF AUGUST 11, 1926, AS FOLLOWS:

REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR DECISION A-13755 DATED APRIL 13, 1926, RELATIVE TO PAYMENT OF BURIAL, FUNERAL, AND TRANSPORTATION EXPENSES OF THE REMAINS OF VETERANS UNDER SECTION 201, SUBSECTION (1), OF THE WORLD WAR VETERANS' ACT, 1924, AS AMENDED.

AS I HAVE CONSTRUED YOUR DECISION, REGARDLESS OF THE STATUS OF A VETERAN, OR THE WISHES OF THOSE WHO ASSUME RESPONSIBILITY FOR HIS BURIAL, IF THE SERVICES OF BURIAL AND FUNERAL ARE PERFORMED BY AN UNDERTAKER WITH WHOM THE BUREAU HAS A CONTRACT, THE BUREAU IS AUTHORIZED TO PAY OR REIMBURSE ONLY THE COST OF THE CONTRACT SERVICES, UNLESS EVIDENCE CAN BE ADDUCED AND A CERTIFICATION IS MADE THAT THE SERVICES WERE DIFFERENT THAN ITEMS BEARING THE SAME DESIGNATION IN THE CONTRACT, THAT THE SERVICES WERE ADDITIONAL, AND THAT THEY WERE ALSO A NECESSARY BURIAL, FUNERAL, OR PREPARATION OF THE BODY EXPENSE.

SINCE THE RECEIPT OF YOUR DECISION BY THE BUREAU, AN ATTEMPT HAS BEEN MADE IN THOSE CASES AFFECTED THEREBY TO OBTAIN THE REQUIRED EVIDENCE, HOWEVER, OWING TO THE MANY DIFFICULTIES AND COMPLICATIONS ATTENDANT TO A FURTHER OBSERVATION OF THE DECISION IN QUESTION, I AM CONSTRAINED TO REQUEST YOUR REVIEW OF THE ENTIRE SUBJECT, IN THE HOPE THAT TO SOME EXTENT, AT LEAST, THE DECISION MIGHT BE MODIFIED.

UNDER THE LAW, WHERE A VETERAN HAS A STATUS ENTITLING HIM TO THE BENEFITS PROVIDED IN SECTION 201, SUBSECTION (1), OF THE WORLD WAR VETERANS' ACT AS AMENDED, AND THE SERVICES OF A CONTRACT UNDERTAKER ARE NOT UTILIZED, REIMBURSEMENT OR PAYMENT IS AUTHORIZED TO THE EXTENT OF $100.00 COVERING ITEMS OF BURIAL, FUNERAL, AND TRANSPORTATION, IF EXPENSES IN THE AMOUNT STATED WERE INCURRED. MANY VETERANS, OR AT LEAST THEIR RELATIVES, ARE IN IGNORANCE OF THE PROVISION MADE FOR THE BURIAL OF VETERANS UNTIL LONG AFTER EXPENSES WERE INCURRED. THEY DO NOT KNOW WHO THE CONTRACT UNDERTAKERS ARE, AND THE CONTRACT UNDERTAKERS DO NOT KNOW THAT THE DECEASED, FOR WHOM THEY ARE RENDERING SERVICES WAS A VETERAN. FURTHER, ASSUMING THAT A CONTRACT UNDERTAKER DID KNOW THE DECEASED WAS A VETERAN, HE WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO LEARN EXCEPT IN A COMPARATIVELY FEW CASES, WHETHER OR NOT THE VETERAN WAS ENTITLED TO BURIAL AT THE EXPENSE OF THE GOVERNMENT.

TAKE THOSE CASES, FOR EXAMPLE, WHEREIN THE QUESTION OF ASSETS IS A FACTOR IN THE DETERMINATION OF THE RIGHT OF A VETERAN TO BURIAL AT GOVERNMENT EXPENSE. IT MAY NOT, EXCEPT IN A VERY FEW INSTANCES, BE DETERMINED THAT THE VETERAN IS ENTITLED TO BURIAL BEFORE THE ACTUAL SERVICES ARE PERFORMED. THE NEAREST RELATIVES OF A DECEASED PERSON ARE USUALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR HIS BURIAL. THEY ORDER THE SERVICES WHICH IT IS THOUGHT ARE NECESSARY TO THE PROPER BURIAL AND FUNERAL OF THE DECEASED. AFTER THE SERVICES ARE RENDERED AND THE RELATIVES BECOME COGNIZANT THAT THE BUREAU IS AUTHORIZED, UNDER CERTAIN CONDITIONS, TO PAY FOR THE BURIAL, FUNERAL, AND TRANSPORTATION OF THE REMAINS WITHIN THE LIMITS OF $100 NATURALLY THEY LOOK TO THE BUREAU FOR REIMBURSEMENT, AND CAN NOT UNDERSTAND THE NECESSITY OF ESTABLISHING THE FACT THAT THE SERVICES SO ORDERED WERE ADDITIONAL TO THOSE WHICH THE UNDERTAKER MIGHT HAVE FURNISHED UNDER A CONTRACT WHICH HE HELD WITH THE BUREAU, OR THAT SUCH ADDITIONAL SERVICES WERE NECESSARY FOR THE PROPER BURIAL AND FUNERAL OF THE DECEASED.

WHERE, PERCHANCE, THE UNDERTAKER WHOSE SERVICES WERE UTILIZED DID NOT HAVE A CONTRACT WITH THE BUREAU, THE FULL AMOUNT OF $100 MAY BE ALLOWED IF THE BILL WAS SUFFICIENTLY LARGE TO COVER; HOWEVER, IF THE SERVICES WERE ORDERED FROM AN UNDERTAKER WHO, IT HAPPENED, HAD A CONTRACT WITH THE BUREAU, THE AMOUNT ALLOWABLE AS REIMBURSEMENT WOULD BE FIXED BY THE CONTRACT PRICE UNLESS A SHOWING SUCH AS IS REQUIRED BY YOUR DECISION IS MADE. THUS IT WOULD HAPPEN IN TWO CASES WHERE ABSOLUTELY IDENTICAL SERVICES WERE RENDERED, DIFFERENT AMOUNTS WOULD BE ALLOWABLE ON CLAIMS SUBMITTED TO THIS OFFICE. SUCH A PROCEDURE IS OBVIOUSLY ONE WHICH THE BUREAU HAS FOUND DIFFICULTY IN DEFENDING.

THERE APPEARS NOTHING IN THE ACT WHICH REQUIRES, AS A CONDITION PRECEDENT TO REIMBURSEMENT OR PAYMENT FOR SERVICES OF BURIAL, FUNERAL, AND TRANSPORTATION OF THE REMAINS OF VETERANS, THAT CONTRACT UNDERTAKERS, OR SERVICES SPECIFIED BY THE BUREAU, MUST BE UTILIZED; THEREFORE TO APPLY THE DECISION FURTHER WITHOUT KNOWING THAT YOU WERE FULLY COGNIZANT OF ALL THE PHASES OF THE QUESTION AT THE TIME THE DECISION WAS RENDERED APPEARS IMPROPER WITHOUT AGAINS BRINGING THE MATTER TO YOUR ATTENTION FOR FURTHER CONSIDERATION.

WITH RESPECT TO ONE ITEM OF PROOF REQUIRED, VIZ, THAT THE ADDITIONAL SERVICES WERE NECESSARY, YOU WILL APPRECIATE THAT THIS WOULD LARGELY BE DEPENDENT ON THE STATION IN LIFE HELD BY THE DECEASED OR OF HIS RELATIVES AND THEIR FINANCIAL CIRCUMSTANCES. THERE BEING NO UNIFORM STANDARD OR CRITERION BY WHICH IT CAN BE SAID, FOR EXAMPLE, WHETHER A CASKET COSTING $50, $100, OR $150 WAS NECESSARY, IT IS FOUND PRACTICALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO OBTAIN THE EVIDENCE WHICH YOUR DECISION REQUIRES.

THE DECISION OF APRIL 13, 1926, A-13755, TO WHICH YOU REFER, HELD THAT PAYMENT WAS NOT AUTHORIZED FOR BURIAL OF FRANCIS A. DUNN, JR., BENEFICIARY OF THE VETERANS' BUREAU, WHO DIED IN VETERANS' BUREAU HOSPITAL NO. 95, IN EXCESS OF THE CONTRACT RATES STIPULATED IN THE CONTRACT BETWEEN THE GOVERNMENT AND THE UNDERTAKER FOR THE BURIAL OF BENEFICIARIES DYING IN THAT HOSPITAL, WHERE THE SERVICES OF THE UNDERTAKER WERE PROCURED AS A SUBCONTRACTOR BY ANOTHER UNDERTAKER ENGAGED BY THE FATHER OF THE DECEDENT WHO HAD NO CONTRACT WITH THE GOVERNMENT, IN THE ABSENCE OF EVIDENCE SHOWING THAT ADDITIONAL OR DIFFERENT SERVICES THEN THOSE CALLED FOR BY THE CONTRACT HAD BEEN RENDERED. THE PRINCIPLE INVOLVED WAS THAT A CONTRACTOR COULD NOT INCREASE HIS RATES FOR THE VARIOUS ITEMS OF BURIAL SERVICES OF A BENEFICIARY COMING WITHIN THE TERMS OF THE CONTRACT BY THE INDIRECT METHOD OF SERVING AS SUBCONTRACTOR FOR ANOTHER UNDERTAKER WHO HAD NO CONTRACT WITH THE GOVERNMENT. THE DECISION DID NOT RELATE TO VETERANS DYING OUTSIDE THE HOSPITAL NOT WITHIN THE TERMS OF THE CONTRACT WITH THE UNDERTAKER AND OVER WHICH THE VETERANS' BUREAU HAD NO JURISDICTION OR CONTROL. IN SUCH CASES THE STATUTE FIXES THE MAXIMUM OF $100, AND THE ITEMS THAT MAY BE INCLUDED ARE FIXED BY REGULATIONS OF THE BUREAU THERE WOULD BE NO GENERAL REQUIREMENT THAT INDIVIDUAL ITEMS AUTHORIZED BY THE REGULATIONS WITHIN THE MAXIMUM OF $100, FOR WHICH A RELATIVE IS MAKING CLAIM FOR REIMBURSEMENT, SHOULD IN ALL CASES BE LIMITED TO THE CONTRACT RATES SPECIFIED IN A CONTRACT WITH THE SAME UNDERTAKER FOR THE BURIAL OF BENEFICIARIES DYING IN A CERTAIN HOSPITAL AND IN NO WAY CONNECTED WITH THE BURIAL OF A VETERAN DYING OUTSIDE THE HOSPITAL. OBVIOUSLY, THE RELATIVES MAY NOT BE PRESUMED TO HAVE NOTICE OF CONTRACTS BETWEEN THE UNDERTAKER AND THE GOVERNMENT, NOR COULD IT BE HELD THAT THE UNDERTAKER IS RESTRICTED IN QUOTING PRICES TO PRIVATE PARTIES FOR THE BURIAL OF ALL VETERANS IN THE VICINITY TO THE AMOUNTS STIPULATED IN A CONTRACT HE MAY HAVE WITH THE GOVERNMENT WITH RESPECT TO THOSE VETERANS DYING UNDER THE JURISDICTION AND CONTROL OF THE GOVERNMENT.

IF THE SERVICES OF AN UNDERTAKER WERE ENGAGED TO BURY A VETERAN DYING OUTSIDE A HOSPITAL BECAUSE OF THE FACT OF HAVING THE HOSPITAL CONTRACT, IT MIGHT BE CONSIDERED UNREASONABLE TO CHARGE A GREATER RATE FOR SIMILAR ITEMS THAN THOSE SET FORTH IN THE CONTRACT FOR VETERANS DYING IN THE HOSPITAL. DECISION OF AUGUST 18, 1926, A-15084. BUT THIS IS A MATTER FOR CONSIDERATION IN CONNECTION WITH DETERMINING THE REASONABLENESS OF THE CHARGES MADE BY THE UNDERTAKER AND IS NOT CONTROLLING OF THE PRESENT SITUATION.

YOU ARE ADVISED, THEREFORE, THAT IN REIMBURSEMENT CLAIMS FILED BY RELATIVES FOR BURIAL EXPENSES OF A VETERAN DYING OUTSIDE THE JURISDICTION AND CONTROL OF THE VETERANS' BUREAU FOR AN AMOUNT WITHIN A MAXIMUM OF $100 UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF THE WORLD WAR VETERANS' ACT THERE IS NO GENERAL REQUIREMENT THAT THE AMOUNT OF INDIVIDUAL ITEMS FOR BURIAL SHOWN TO HAVE BEEN EXPENDED AND AUTHORIZED BY THE TERMS OF THE REGULATIONS, MUST BE LIMITED TO THE AMOUNT CHARGED THE VETERANS' BUREAU FOR SIMILAR ITEMS UNDER A CONTRACT BETWEEN THE SAME UNDERTAKER AND THE VETERANS' BUREAU FOR THE BURIAL OF VETERANS DYING IN A VETERANS' BUREAU HOSPITAL OR OTHERWISE UNDER THE JURISDICTION AND CONTROL OF THE VETERANS' BUREAU.