A-26401, MARCH 26, 1929, 8 COMP. GEN. 498

A-26401: Mar 26, 1929

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THE DIRECTOR OF THE VETERANS' BUREAU IS AUTHORIZED TO DETERMINE THE IDENTITY OF. OR ACCRUED MAINTENANCE AND SUPPORT ALLOWANCE WHICH HAVE BECOME PAYABLE IN AN AMOUNT NOT IN EXCESS OF $1. IF THE AMOUNTS DUE IN THE PARTICULAR CASES ARE DEEMED TOO SMALL TO WARRANT THE EXPENSE OF HAVING A LEGAL GUARDIAN APPOINTED. REQUESTING DECISION WHETHER ANY OR ALL OF THE BENEFITS PAYABLE PURSUANT TO SECTION 26 OF THE WORLD WAR VETERANS' ACT TO A MINOR CHILD MAY BE PAID TO THE LEGAL CUSTODIAN OF SUCH CHILD WHEN THE AMOUNT PAYABLE IS TOO SMALL TO JUSTIFY THE APPOINTMENT OF A GUARDIAN. DIED BEFORE RECEIVING ALL THE DEATH COMPENSATION AND TERM INSURANCE TO WHICH HE WAS ENTITLED. THERE WAS A SMALL AMOUNT OF ACCRUED INSURANCE REMAINING TO BE DISTRIBUTED AMONG THE HEIRS OF THE DECEDENT.

A-26401, MARCH 26, 1929, 8 COMP. GEN. 498

VETERANS' BUREAU - PAYMENTS TO NATURAL GUARDIANS OF MINORS PURSUANT TO THE PROVISIONS OF SECTIONS 21 AND 26 OF THE WORLD WAR VETERANS' ACT OF JUNE 7, 1924, THE DIRECTOR OF THE VETERANS' BUREAU IS AUTHORIZED TO DETERMINE THE IDENTITY OF, AND TO MAKE PAYMENTS TO, THE NATURAL GUARDIAN OR LEGAL CUSTODIAN OF MINORS ENTITLED TO MONTHLY INSTALLMENTS OF COMPENSATION, YEARLY RENEWABLE TERM INSURANCE, OR ACCRUED MAINTENANCE AND SUPPORT ALLOWANCE WHICH HAVE BECOME PAYABLE IN AN AMOUNT NOT IN EXCESS OF $1,000, IF THE AMOUNTS DUE IN THE PARTICULAR CASES ARE DEEMED TOO SMALL TO WARRANT THE EXPENSE OF HAVING A LEGAL GUARDIAN APPOINTED.

COMPTROLLER GENERAL MCCARL TO THE DIRECTOR, UNITED STATES VETERANS' BUREAU, MARCH 26, 1929:

CONSIDERATION HAS BEEN GIVEN TO YOUR LETTER OF MARCH 7, 1929, REQUESTING DECISION WHETHER ANY OR ALL OF THE BENEFITS PAYABLE PURSUANT TO SECTION 26 OF THE WORLD WAR VETERANS' ACT TO A MINOR CHILD MAY BE PAID TO THE LEGAL CUSTODIAN OF SUCH CHILD WHEN THE AMOUNT PAYABLE IS TOO SMALL TO JUSTIFY THE APPOINTMENT OF A GUARDIAN. YOU REQUEST FURTHER, IF THE DECISION BE IN THE AFFIRMATIVE, THAT THE MAXIMUM AMOUNT BE SPECIFIED WHICH SHOULD BE PAID TO SUCH CUSTODIAN.

AS ILLUSTRATIVE OF THE QUESTION, YOU SUBMIT A CONCRETE CASE, AS FOLLOWS:

IN THE CASE OF WILLIAM T. LAWRENCE, XC-353,984, THE DECEASED VETERAN'S FATHER, MR. A. M. LAWRENCE, DIED BEFORE RECEIVING ALL THE DEATH COMPENSATION AND TERM INSURANCE TO WHICH HE WAS ENTITLED, THE ACCRUED AMOUNT OF COMPENSATION AND INSURANCE BEING $10.18 AND $142.35, RESPECTIVELY. AS NO ADMINISTRATOR HAD BEEN APPOINTED FOR THE ESTATE OF THIS DECEASED BENEFICIARY, HIS WIDOW PRESENTED A CLAIM FOR PAYMENT OF BURIAL EXPENSES AND UPON ADJUSTMENT UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF SECTION 26 OF THE WORLD WAR VETERANS' ACT, 1924, AS AMENDED, THERE WAS A SMALL AMOUNT OF ACCRUED INSURANCE REMAINING TO BE DISTRIBUTED AMONG THE HEIRS OF THE DECEDENT. AFTER EVIDENCE OF HEIRSHIP WAS SECURED, IT WAS DETERMINED THAT THE SUM OF $4.01 WAS PAYABLE TO GLADE MARTIN, A MINOR HEIR.

SECTION 26 OF THE WORLD WAR VETERANS' ACT, AS AMENDED BY THE ACT OF JULY 2, 1926, 44 STAT. 792, PROVIDES, IN PART, AS FOLLOWS:

THAT THE AMOUNT OF THE MONTHLY INSTALLMENTS OF COMPENSATION, YEARLY RENEWABLE TERM INSURANCE, OR ACCRUED MAINTENANCE AND SUPPORT ALLOWANCE WHICH HAS BECOME PAYABLE UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF TITLES II, III, OR IV HEREOF, BUT WHICH HAS NOT BEEN PAID PRIOR TO THE DEATH OF THE PERSON ENTITLED TO RECEIVE THE SAME, MAY BE PAYABLE TO THE PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVES OF SUCH PERSON, OR IN THE ABSENCE OF A DULY APPOINTED LEGAL REPRESENTATIVE WHERE THE COMBINED AMOUNTS PAYABLE ARE $1,000 OR LESS, THE DIRECTOR SHALL ALLOW AND PAY SUCH SUM TO SUCH PERSON OR PERSONS AS WOULD UNDER THE LAWS OF THE STATE OF RESIDENCE OF THE DECEDENT BE ENTITLED TO HIS PERSONAL PROPERTY IN CASE OF INTESTACY: * * *

PARAGRAPH (1) OF SECTION 21 OF THE ACT, AS AMENDED BY THE ACT OF JULY 2, 1926, 44 STAT. 791, PROVIDES, IN PART, AS FOLLOWS:

THAT WHERE ANY PAYMENT UNDER THIS ACT IS TO BE MADE TO A MINOR, OTHER THAN A PERSON IN THE MILITARY OR NAVAL FORCES OF THE UNITED STATES, OR TO A PERSON MENTALLY INCOMPETENT, OR UNDER OTHER LEGAL DISABILITY ADJUDGED BY A COURT OF COMPETENT JURISDICTION, SUCH PAYMENT MAY BE MADE TO THE PERSON WHO IS CONSTITUTED GUARDIAN, CURATOR, OR CONSERVATOR BY THE LAWS OF THE STATE OF RESIDENCE OF CLAIMANT, OR IS OTHERWISE LEGALLY VESTED WITH THE CARE OF THE CLAIMANT OR HIS ESTATE: * * * PROVIDED FURTHER, THAT FOR THE PURPOSE OF PAYMENTS OF BENEFITS UNDER TITLE II HEREOF, WHERE NO GUARDIAN, CURATOR, OR CONSERVATOR OF THE PERSON UNDER A LEGAL DISABILITY HAS BEEN APPOINTED UNDER THE LAWS OF THE STATE OF RESIDENCE OF THE CLAIMANT, THE DIRECTOR SHALL DETERMINE THE PERSON WHO IS OTHERWISE LEGALLY VESTED WITH THE CARE OF THE CLAIMANT OR HIS ESTATE.

THIS LAST PROVISO REFERS ONLY TO PAYMENTS OF DISABILITY COMPENSATION UNDER TITLE II OF THE ACT. (6 COMP. GEN. 191.) UNDER THE TERMS THEREOF THERE CAN BE NO DOUBT BUT THAT THE DIRECTOR WOULD BE AUTHORIZED TO PAY SMALL AMOUNTS OF DISABILITY COMPENSATION DUE MINORS TO THEIR NATURAL GUARDIANS OR LEGAL CUSTODIANS WHEN NO LEGAL GUARDIAN HAD BEEN APPOINTED.

THE OTHER BENEFITS AUTHORIZED BY SECTION 26 ARE MONTHLY INSTALLMENTS OF YEARLY RENEWABLE TERM INSURANCE UNDER TITLE III AND ACCRUED MAINTENANCE AND SUPPORT ALLOWANCE UNDER TITLE IV. IT IS UNDERSTOOD YOUR QUESTION RELATES MORE PARTICULARLY TO INSURANCE PAYMENTS. AS TO THESE PAYMENTS THERE EXISTS NO SPECIFIC PROVISION OF LAW AUTHORIZING THE DIRECTOR TO PAY SMALL AMOUNTS DUE MINORS TO OTHER THAN THEIR LEGALLY APPOINTED GUARDIANS, BUT THERE IS FOR CONSIDERATION THE PURPOSE AND INTENT OF SECTION 26 OF THE STATUTE IN ITS ENTIRETY, AS WELL AS PRACTICABILITY AND THE INTERESTS OF THE MINORS.

IT MAY REASONABLY BE HELD THAT THE AUTHORITY VESTED IN THE DIRECTOR BY SECTION 26 OF THE ACT TO DISTRIBUTE, WITHOUT THE EXPENSE AND DELAY OF ADMINISTRATION, AMOUNTS OF $1,000 OR LESS, INCLUDING INSURANCE INSTALLMENTS, TO SUCH PERSON OR PERSONS AS HE MAY DETERMINE, INCLUDING MINORS, ARE ENTITLED UNDER THE LAWS OF THE STATE, WOULD ALSO GRANT AUTHORITY TO THE DIRECTOR TO DETERMINE THE NATURAL GUARDIAN OR LEGAL CUSTODIAN OF SUCH MINORS WITHOUT THE EXPENSE AND DELAY OF GUARDIANSHIP PROCEEDINGS. OTHERWISE THE PRIMARY PURPOSE AND INTENT OF THE STATUTE, TO WIT, THE SAVING OF EXPENSE AND DELAY IN DISTRIBUTION OF ESTATES OF SMALL AMOUNTS, WOULD BE DEFEATED.

THE REASON IS NOT APPARENT FOR NOT VESTING IN THE DIRECTOR THE SAME PLENARY POWER AND JURISDICTION TO DETERMINE THE PERSON TO WHOM BENEFITS DUE MINORS UNDER TITLES III AND IV SHOULD BE MADE WHEN NO LEGAL GUARDIAN HAS BEEN APPOINTED AS HAS BEEN VESTED IN HIM WITH RESPECT TO BENEFITS UNDER TITLE II. BUT IT IS NOT TO BE ASSUMED THAT THE CONGRESS BY THE OMISSION INTENDED TO REQUIRE A PROCEDURE TO COMPLY WITH THE LETTER OF THE LAW WHICH WOULD DISSIPATE ALL, OR THE GREATER PORTION OF INSURANCE FUNDS DUE A MINOR. FOR INSTANCE, TO REQUIRE GUARDIANSHIP PROCEEDINGS COSTING IN EXCESS OF THE AMOUNT DUE AS INSURANCE WOULD SERVE NO GOOD PURPOSE WHATEVER. IN DECISION OF MAY 20, 1916, 22 COMP. DEC. 620, ADDRESSED TO THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR, THE COMPTROLLER OF THE TREASURY HELD, IN THE CONCLUDING PARAGRAPH, AS FOLLOWS:

I CONCLUDE THAT YOU ARE AUTHORIZED TO MAKE SUCH REGULATIONS AS YOU DEEM EXPEDIENT, AND TO THE BEST INTEREST OF THE MINOR LESSORS IN QUESTION, WITH SUCH SAFEGUARDS AS IN YOUR DISCRETION ARE DEEMED NECESSARY IN SECURING OPINIONS OF PROBATE ATTORNEYS OR OTHERWISE; SUCH REGULATIONS TO INCLUDE APPROVAL OF PAYMENT TO NATURAL GUARDIANS OF PROCEEDS FROM LEASES OF MINOR LESSORS, WHEN SUCH PROCEEDS ARE DEEMED TOO SMALL TO WARRANT EXPENSE OF HAVING LEGAL GUARDIANS APPOINTED.

IN THE INSTANT MATTER, THE DIRECTOR OF THE VETERANS' BUREAU IS AUTHORIZED TO DETERMINE THE IDENTITY OF, AND TO MAKE LAWFUL PAYMENTS TO, THE NATURAL GUARDIAN OR LEGAL CUSTODIAN OF MINORS ENTITLED TO BENEFITS UNDER SECTION 26 OF THE WORLD WAR VETERANS' ACT, WHEN THE AMOUNTS DUE ARE DEEMED TOO SMALL TO WARRANT EXPENSE OF HAVING A LEGAL GUARDIAN APPOINTED.

IT WOULD NOT APPEAR NECESSARY OR ADVISABLE TO FIX ANY DEFINITE MAXIMUM AMOUNT THAT MAY THUS BE PAID EXCEPT THE MAXIMUM OF $1,000 FIXED IN SECTION 26 OF THE STATUTE. THE MAXIMUM AMOUNT THAT MAY THUS BE PAID WITH SAFETY TO THE NATURAL GUARDIAN OR LEGAL CUSTODIAN TO PROTECT THE INTERESTS OF THE MINORS, WOULD DEPEND ON THE FACTS AND CIRCUMSTANCES IN EACH CASE. WHILE NOT CONTROLLING IN ALL CASES, IT WOULD BE REASONABLE TO PAY A GREATER AMOUNT WHEN THE NATURAL GUARDIAN OR LEGAL CUSTODIAN OF THE MINOR WAS A CLOSE RELATIVE RATHER THAN A STRANGER IN BLOOD. THE BUREAU SHOULD SATISFY ITSELF IN ALL CASES THAT THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE MINORS WILL BE SERVED BY THE PROPOSED PAYMENTS TO NATURAL GUARDIANS OR LEGAL CUSTODIANS. PAYMENTS IN THE CASE OF WILLIAM T. LAWRENCE MAY BE MADE IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE VIEWS HEREIN EXPRESSED.