A-25619, MAY 24, 1929, 8 COMP. GEN. 617

A-25619: May 24, 1929

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EMPLOYEES' COMPENSATION COMMISSION - DISABILITY COMPENSATION - IMPRISONED BENEFICIARIES THERE IS NO AUTHORITY OF LAW FOR THE PAYMENT OF DISABILITY COMPENSATION UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF THE EMPLOYEES' COMPENSATION ACT. FOR ANY PERIOD DURING WHICH THE BENEFICIARY IS IMPRISONED. IN WHIC THE QUESTION WAS RAISED WHETHER COMPENSATION MIGHT BE PAID UNDER THE ACT OF SEPTEMBER 7. THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH IS QUOTED FROM YOUR LETTER: "WHEN AN EMPLOYEE BECOMES IMPRISONED AS A RESULT OF HIS OWN CRIMINAL ACTS. IT IS EVIDENTLY THE PURPOSE AND INTENT OF THE ACT THAT THE GOVERNMENT SHALL NOT ASSUME ANY OBLIGATION TO THE FAMILY OF THE EMPLOYEE UNLESS AND UNTIL THE INJURY OR DISABILITY RESULTS IN THE DEATH OF THE EMPLOYEE.

A-25619, MAY 24, 1929, 8 COMP. GEN. 617

EMPLOYEES' COMPENSATION COMMISSION - DISABILITY COMPENSATION - IMPRISONED BENEFICIARIES THERE IS NO AUTHORITY OF LAW FOR THE PAYMENT OF DISABILITY COMPENSATION UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF THE EMPLOYEES' COMPENSATION ACT, AS ORIGINALLY ENACTED OR AS AMENDED, FOR ANY PERIOD DURING WHICH THE BENEFICIARY IS IMPRISONED, EITHER FOR HIS OWN USE OR FOR THE BENEFIT OF HIS DEPENDENTS.

COMPTROLLER GENERAL MCCARL TO THE CHAIRMAN OF THE UNITED STATES EMPLOYEES' COMPENSATION COMMISSION, MAY 24, 1929:

THERE HAS BEEN RECEIVED YOUR LETTER OF MAY 9, 1929, AS FOLLOWS:

KINDLY REFER TO YOUR LETTER OF FEBRUARY 21, 1929 (COMMISSION'S FILE 68366), REPLYING TO AN INQUIRY OF JANUARY 2, 1929, IN WHIC THE QUESTION WAS RAISED WHETHER COMPENSATION MIGHT BE PAID UNDER THE ACT OF SEPTEMBER 7, 1916 (39 STAT. 743), TO A GUARDIAN OR COMMITTEE ON BEHALF OF THE DEPENDENT WIFE AND CHILDREN OF A BENEFICIARY WHO HAD BEEN SENTENCED TO PRISON, FOR THE PERIOD OF SUCH CONFINEMENT. THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH IS QUOTED FROM YOUR LETTER:

"WHEN AN EMPLOYEE BECOMES IMPRISONED AS A RESULT OF HIS OWN CRIMINAL ACTS, AND THEREBY RENDERS HIMSELF UNABLE TO ACCEPT EMPLOYMENT, GAINFUL OR OTHERWISE, EXCEPT THAT REQUIRED BY THE PENITENTIARY AUTHORITIES, THERE WOULD SEEM TO BE SHARPLY RAISED THE QUESTION WHETHER THE RIGHT TO DISABILITY COMPENSATION DOES NOT CEASE DURING SUCH IMPRISONMENT.'

THE COMMISSION NOW HAS BEFORE IT THE CASE OF A BENEFICIARY WHO HAS BEEN SENTENCED TO PRISON, AND WHOSE COMPENSATION, IF FOUND TO BE PAYABLE, WOULD BE TURNED OVER BY HIM TO HIS DEPENDENT WIFE. IT BECOMES NECESSARY, THEREFORE, TO REQUEST YOUR OPINION AS TO WHETHER COMPENSATION MAY BE PAID UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES TO A BENEFICIARY WHO HAS BEEN IMPRISONED AFTER CONVICTION AND SENTENCE, EITHER FOR HIS OWN USE OR FOR THE BENEFIT OF HIS DEPENDENTS.

IN THE DECISION OF FEBRUARY 21, 1929, PREVIOUS TO THE PARAGRAPH QUOTED IN YOUR LETTER, APPEARS THE FOLLOWING:

THE PROVISIONS OF THE ORIGINAL EMPLOYEES' COMPENSATION ACT, AND AS SUBSEQUENTLY AMENDED, AUTHORIZE PAYMENT OF DISABILITY COMPENSATION TO THE EMPLOYEE ONLY DURING HIS LIFETIME. IT IS EVIDENTLY THE PURPOSE AND INTENT OF THE ACT THAT THE GOVERNMENT SHALL NOT ASSUME ANY OBLIGATION TO THE FAMILY OF THE EMPLOYEE UNLESS AND UNTIL THE INJURY OR DISABILITY RESULTS IN THE DEATH OF THE EMPLOYEE.

SECTION 5 OF THE ORIGINAL ACT OF SEPTEMBER 7, 1916, 39 STAT. 743, PROVIDES:

"THAT IF A PARTIALLY DISABLED EMPLOYEE REFUSES TO SEEK SUITABLE WORK OR REFUSES OR NEGLECTS TO WORK AFTER SUITABLE WORK IS OFFERED TO, PROCURED BY, OR SECURED FOR HIM, HE SHALL NOT BE ENTITLED TO ANY COMPENSATION.'

THIS PROVISION CONTEMPLATES, OF COURSE, THAT THE EMPLOYEE SHALL KEEP HIMSELF AVAILABLE FOR SUITABLE EMPLOYMENT IF "OFFERED TO, PROCURED BY, OR SECURED FOR HIM.'

THESE CONSIDERATIONS WOULD SEEM TO IMPEL THE CONCLUSION THAT PAYMENT OF COMPENSATION FOR DISABILITY, UNDER THE EMPLOYEES' COMPENSATION ACT, MAY NOT BE MADE FOR ANY PERIOD DURING WHICH THE EMPLOYEE IS IN PRISON. FURTHERMORE, THERE WOULD APPEAR TO BE NO EQUITY REQUIRING SUCH A PAYMENT. THE DISABILITY COMPENSATION IS PROVIDED IN LIEU OF THE SALARY OR WAGES WHICH THE EMPLOYEE, BY REASON OF THE DISABILITY, IS NOT PERMITTED TO EARN OR RECEIVE. AND AS THE INCARCERATION WOULD TERMINATE THE EMPLOYEE'S SALARY OR WAGES IF NOT DISABLED, IT LIKEWISE SHOULD TERMINATE THE DISABILITY COMPENSATION AUTHORIZED IN LIEU OF SUCH SALARY OR WAGES.

YOU ARE ADVISED, THEREFORE, THAT THERE APPEARS TO BE NO AUTHORITY OF LAW FOR THE PAYMENT OF DISABILITY COMPENSATION FOR ANY PERIOD DURING WHICH THE EMPLOYEE IS IMPRISONED, EITHER FOR HIS OWN USE OR FOR THE BENEFIT OF HIS DEPENDENTS.