A-17522, MARCH 18, 1927, 6 COMP. GEN. 599

A-17522: Mar 18, 1927

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WORLD WAR ADJUSTED COMPENSATION - CHANGE OF BENEFICIARY A FORM PRESCRIBED FOR CHANGE OF BENEFICIARY UNDER AN ADJUSTED SERVICE CERTIFICATE SIGNED BY A VETERAN BUT WHICH DID NOT LEAVE HIS POSSESSION AND THEREFORE WAS NOT DELIVERED OR PROPERLY MAILED TO THE VETERANS' BUREAU DURING THE LIFETIME OF THE VETERAN AND APPROVED BY THE DIRECTOR AS REQUIRED BY THE REGULATIONS OF THE BUREAU IS WITHOUT ANY FORCE AND EFFECT TO CHANGE THE BENEFICIARY. WHEN A VETERAN MAKES A PROPER DESIGNATION OF A BENEFICIARY UNDER AN ADJUSTED-SERVICE CERTIFICATE AND LATER TWICE ATTEMPTS TO CHANGE THE BENEFICIARY BUT FAILS BECAUSE THE ATTEMPTED CHANGES WERE NOT IN ACCORDANCE WITH LAW AND REGULATIONS. YOUR OPINION IS REQUESTED AS TO THE APPLICATION OF SAID DECISIONS TO THE FOLLOWING FACTS.

A-17522, MARCH 18, 1927, 6 COMP. GEN. 599

WORLD WAR ADJUSTED COMPENSATION - CHANGE OF BENEFICIARY A FORM PRESCRIBED FOR CHANGE OF BENEFICIARY UNDER AN ADJUSTED SERVICE CERTIFICATE SIGNED BY A VETERAN BUT WHICH DID NOT LEAVE HIS POSSESSION AND THEREFORE WAS NOT DELIVERED OR PROPERLY MAILED TO THE VETERANS' BUREAU DURING THE LIFETIME OF THE VETERAN AND APPROVED BY THE DIRECTOR AS REQUIRED BY THE REGULATIONS OF THE BUREAU IS WITHOUT ANY FORCE AND EFFECT TO CHANGE THE BENEFICIARY. WHEN A VETERAN MAKES A PROPER DESIGNATION OF A BENEFICIARY UNDER AN ADJUSTED-SERVICE CERTIFICATE AND LATER TWICE ATTEMPTS TO CHANGE THE BENEFICIARY BUT FAILS BECAUSE THE ATTEMPTED CHANGES WERE NOT IN ACCORDANCE WITH LAW AND REGULATIONS, SUCH ACTION SHOULD BE CONSIDERED AS CANCELING THE FIRST DESIGNATION, AND PAYMENTS UNDER THE CERTIFICATE SHOULD BE MADE TO THE ESTATE OF THE VETERAN AS THOUGH NO BENEFICIARY HAD BEEN DESIGNATED.

COMPTROLLER GENERAL MCCARL TO THE DIRECTOR, UNITED STATES VETERANS' BUREAU, MARCH 18, 1927:

CONSIDERATION HAS BEEN GIVEN TO YOUR LETTER OF FEBRUARY 19, 1927, AS FOLLOWS:

IN CONNECTION WITH YOUR DECISIONS OF JANUARY 6, 1926 (A-12274), AND OF APRIL 3, 1926 (A-13437), YOUR OPINION IS REQUESTED AS TO THE APPLICATION OF SAID DECISIONS TO THE FOLLOWING FACTS, PRESENTED TO THIS BUREAU IN THE CASE OF JOHN WILLIAM CORUDLE (DECEASED) A 1,009,260.

THIS VETERAN APPLIED FOR THE BENEFITS OF WORLD WAR ADJUSTED COMPENSATION ON AUGUST 5, 1924, AND NAMED HIS WIFE AS BENEFICIARY. ON FEBRUARY 4, 1926, THE VETERAN NOTIFIED THE ADJUTANT GENERAL THAT HE WISHED TO CHANGE THE BENEFICIARY OF THE CERTIFICATE TO MR. AND MRS. JONOTHAN MADISON JONES, BECAUSE THE VETERAN WAS THEN SICK, UNABLE TO WORK, AND HAD NO PLACE TO STAY, AND BECAUSE THESE RELATIVES WERE TAKING CARE OF HIM AND WOULD CONTINUE TO DO SO. THE EXACT RELATIONSHIP OF MR. AND MRS. JONES TO THE VETERAN WAS NOT INDICATED. THE VETERAN'S LETTER OF FEBRUARY 4, 1926, CONTAINING THE REQUEST FOR THE CHANGE TO MR. AND MRS. JONES WAS FORWARDED BY THE ADJUTANT GENERAL TO THE VETERANS' BUREAU, WHERE IT WAS RECEIVED ON OR ABOUT MARCH 3, 1926.

THE VETERANS' BUREAU PROMPTLY NOTIFIED THE VETERAN ON OR ABOUT MARCH 4, 1926, THAT MORE THAN ONE BENEFICIARY COULD NOT BE NAMED ON THE CERTIFICATE, AND THAT IF HE WISHED THE PROCEEDS OF THE CERTIFICATE TO BE DIVIDED AMONG TWO OR MORE PERSONS HE SHOULD DESIGNATE HIS ESTATE. THE VETERAN DIED ON MAY 9, 1926. ON MAY 13, 1926, BUREAU FORM 6212--- A FORM FOR THE CHANGE OF BENEFICIARY--- SIGNED BY THE VETERAN, WAS RECEIVED BY THE BUREAU. ON THIS FORM THE VETERAN'S MOTHER, MRS. A. B. CORUDLE, WAS NAMED BENEFICIARY.

THE EVIDENCE IN THE FILE INDICATES THAT THE CHANGE OF BENEFICIARY ON FORM 6212 NEVER LEFT THE CUSTODY OF THE VETERAN DURING HIS LIFE AND WAS NOT PLACED IN THE MAILS UNTIL AFTER HIS DEATH. IT SEEMS CLEAR THAT THIS CHANGE OF BENEFICIARY TO THE MOTHER MUST BE DISREGARDED, FOR THE REASON THAT THE REQUIREMENTS OF VETERANS' BUREAU REGULATION NO. 118 WERE NOT MET. THIS REGULATION (SECTION 13030), EFFECTIVE OCTOBER 15, 1925, PROVIDES AS FOLLOWS:

"A CHANGE OF BENEFICIARY TO BE VALID MUST BE MADE BY NOTICE SIGNED BY THE VETERAN, OR HIS DULY AUTHORIZED AGENT, AND DELIVERED OR PROPERLY MAILED TO THE U.S. VETERANS' BUREAU DURING THE LIFETIME OF THE VETERAN, AND SHALL NOT TAKE EFFECT UNTIL APPROVED BY THE DIRECTOR. AFTER SUCH APPROVAL THE CHANGE SHALL BE DEEMED TO HAVE BEEN MADE AS OF THE DATE THE VETERAN SIGNED SAID WRITTEN NOTICE AND CHANGE, WHETHER THE VETERAN BE LIVING AT THE TIME OF SAID APPROVAL OR NOT: PROVIDED, HOWEVER, THAT ANY PAYMENT MADE TO A BENEFICIARY OF RECORD BEFORE NOTICE OF CHANGE OF BENEFICIARY HAS BEEN RECEIVED IN THE BUREAU AND APPROVED BY THE DIRECTOR SHALL NOT BE MADE AGAIN TO THE CHANGED BENEFICIARY.'

HAVING THUS DISPOSED OF THE CHANGE OF DESIGNATION ON BUREAU FORM 6212 IN FAVOR OF THE VETERAN'S MOTHER, THE NEXT QUESTION FOR CONSIDERATION IS THE CHANGE UNDER DATE OF FEBRUARY 4, 1926, RECEIVED BY THE VETERANS' BUREAU IN MARCH, 1926, IN FAVOR OF MR. AND MRS. JONOTHAN MADISON JONES. IN YOUR OPINION OF JANUARY 6, 1926 (A-12274), YOU CONSIDERED A CASE WHERE A VETERAN HAD NAMED HIS PARENTS AS BENEFICIARIES ON HIS APPLICATION FOR THE BENEFIT OF ADJUSTED SERVICE COMPENSATION AND WHERE THERE HAD BEEN NO OPPORTUNITY TO ADVISE HIM OF THE NECESSITY OF NAMING BUT ONE BENEFICIARY. YOU HELD, IN VIEW OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES SET OUT, WITH PARTICULAR REFERENCE TO THE LACK OF ANY OPPORTUNITY ON THE PART OF THE VETERAN TO MEET THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE BUREAU, THAT THE DESIGNATION OF THE MOTHER AND FATHER, BOTH MEMBERS OF THE SAME HOUSEHOLD, MIGHT BE REGARDED AS A DESIGNATION OF ONE PERSON WITHIN THE PURVIEW OF THE LAW. UNDER SIMILAR FACTS, AS TO THE ABSENCE OF AN OPPORTUNITY TO COMPLY WITH THE BUREAU REQUIREMENTS, YOU LATER RULED, ON APRIL 3, 1926, TO THE SAME GENERAL EFFECT IN A CASE WHERE A MOTHER AND SISTER HAD BEEN DESIGNATED, BOTH BEING MEMBERS OF THE SAME HOUSEHOLD.

IN THE PRESENT CASE, UPON WHICH YOUR OPINION IS REQUESTED, THE VETERAN DID RECEIVE NOTICE THAT MORE THAN ONE BENEFICIARY COULD NOT BE NAMED AND HE DID IN FACT ATTEMPT TO TAKE SUBSEQUENT ACTION, CERTAINLY TO THE EXTENT OF EXECUTING A BUREAU FORM, NAMING HIS MOTHER, THOUGH SAID FORM WAS RETAINED IN HIS CUSTODY DURING HIS LIFETIME. AT LEAST THE PRESENT CASE MAY BE DISTINGUISHED FROM THE TWO CASES PREVIOUSLY CONSIDERED BY YOU, TO THE EXTENT OF SAYING THAT THE VETERAN HERE TRIED TO ACT ON THE ADVICE GIVEN HIM RELATIVE TO THE CHANGE OF BENEFICIARY AND THEREFORE IT MAY BE ARGUED THAT HE INTENDED TO ABANDON THE DESIGNATION IN FAVOR OF MR. AND MRS. JONOTHAN MADISON JONES.

YOUR OPINION IS RESPECTFULLY REQUESTED, FIRST WHETHER YOUR PREVIOUS DECISIONS, HEREIN CITED, WOULD GOVERN IN THE DISPOSITION OF THIS CASE, SO AS TO RECOGNIZE THE DESIGNATION OF MR. AND MRS. JONOTHAN MADISON JONES, OR WHETHER THE PRESENT FACTS MAY BE DISTINGUISHED IN PRINCIPLE FROM THOSE PREVIOUSLY CONSIDERED BY YOU, SO AS TO HOLD THAT YOUR TWO DECISIONS HEREIN CITED WOULD NOT GOVERN IN THE PRESENT CASE, IN WHICH EVENT THE DESIGNATION OF MR. AND MRS. JONOTHAN MADISON JONES WOULD NECESSARILY FAIL.

SECTION 501 OF THE WORLD WAR ADJUSTED COMPENSATION ACT, DATED MAY 19, 1924, 43 STAT. 125, PROVIDES IN PART AS FOLLOWS:

* * * THE VETERAN SHALL NAME THE BENEFICIARY OF THE CERTIFICATE AND MAY FROM TIME TO TIME, WITH THE APPROVAL OF THE DIRECTOR, CHANGE SUCH BENEFICIARY. THE AMOUNT OF THE FACE VALUE OF THE CERTIFICATE * * * SHALL BE PAYABLE * * * TO THE BENEFICIARY NAMED; EXCEPT THAT IF SUCH BENEFICIARY DIES BEFORE THE VETERAN AND NO NEW BENEFICIARY IS NAMED, * * * THE AMOUNT OF THE FACE VALUE OF THE CERTIFICATE SHALL BE PAID TO THE ESTATE OF THE VETERAN.

ANY CHANGE IN BENEFICIARY TO BE EFFECTIVE MUST BE "WITH THE APPROVAL OF THE DIRECTOR; " THAT IS, IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE RULES AND REGULATIONS PRESCRIBED BY THE DIRECTOR, WHICH PROVIDE THAT AN APPLICATION FOR CHANGE MUST BE "DELIVERED OR PROPERLY MAILED TO THE UNITED STATES VETERANS' BUREAU DURING THE LIFETIME OF THE VETERAN, AND SHALL NOT TAKE EFFECT UNTIL APPROVED BY THE DIRECTOR.' A REGULARLY PRESCRIBED FORM OF CHANGE OF BENEFICIARY SIGNED BY A VETERAN, BUT WHICH NEVER LEFT OF CHANGE OF BENEFICIARY SIGNED BY A VETERAN, BUT WHICH NEVER LEFT HIS POSSESSION DURING HIS LIFETIME, IS NOT A CHANGE OF BENEFICIARY WITHIN THE MEANING OF THE STATUTE AND REGULATIONS ISSUED PURSUANT THERETO. ACCORDINGLY THE MOTHER OF THE VETERAN IN THE CASE PRESENTED MAY NOT BE CONSIDERED AS THE DESIGNATED BENEFICIARY.

THE DESIGNATION OF MR. AND MRS. JONOTHAN MADISON JONES WAS FOR A DEFINITE PURPOSE, VIZ, TO REIMBURSE THEM FOR TAKING CARE OF HIM WHILE HE WAS SICK, APPARENTLY HIS LAST SICKNESS. HOWEVER, THE DESIGNATION WAS NOT IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE STATUTE AND REGULATIONS FOR THE REASON THAT THE VETERAN NAMED TWO BENEFICIARIES INSTEAD OF ONE. HAD THE VETERAN DIED BEFORE HAVING AN OPPORTUNITY TO COMPLY WITH REQUIREMENTS OF THE VETERANS' BUREAU REGULATIONS WITH RESPECT TO LIMITING THE BENEFICIARY TO ONE PERSON, THE PRINCIPLE OF THE TWO PRIOR DECISIONS YOU CITE, AUTHORIZING JOINT PAYMENT TO TWO BENEFICIARIES BEARING A COMMON RELATIONSHIP TO THE VETERAN, MIGHT HAVE BEEN APPLIED. BUT BY SUBSEQUENTLY ATTEMPTING TO DESIGNATE HIS MOTHER HE FINALLY EXPRESSED THE CLEAR INTENTION THAT MR. AND MRS. JONES SHOULD NOT BE THE BENEFICIARIES. WHILE THIS ACTION WAS INEFFECTIVE TO CONSTITUTE A LAWFUL CHANGE OF BENEFICIARY TO THE MOTHER, IT WAS EFFECTIVE TO FINALLY RENDER INOPERATIVE THE ATTEMPTED DESIGNATION OF MR. AND MRS. JONES. IT IS ALSO CLEAR THAT THE TWO ATTEMPTED DESIGNATIONS OF MR. AND MRS. JONES AND OF THE MOTHER SHOW THAT THE VETERAN DID NOT INTEND THAT HIS WIFE SHOULD BE HIS BENEFICIARY. THE ACTION OF THE VETERAN IN THUS TWICE ATTEMPTING TO CHANGE THE BENEFICIARY MAY BE CONSIDERED AS HAVING CANCELED THE DESIGNATION OF THE WIFE.

IT MUST BE CONCLUDED, THEREFORE, THAT THERE IS NO PROPERLY DESIGNATED BENEFICIARY AND THAT PAYMENT UNDER THE CERTIFICATE SHOULD BE MADE TO THE ESTATE OF THE VETERAN UNDER THE TERMS OF THE STATUTE AS THOUGH NO BENEFICIARY HAD BEEN DESIGNATED. SEE 5 COMP. GEN. 651.

IF MR. AND MRS. JONES HAVE A VALID UNSETTLED CLAIM FOR REIMBURSEMENT FOR CARE OF THE VETERAN DURING HIS LAST SICKNESS, IT WOULD APPEAR THAT SAME COULD BE ASSERTED AGAINST THE ESTATE AS A PREFERRED CLAIM.