A-26791, MAY 4, 1929, 8 COMP. GEN. 585

A-26791: May 4, 1929

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Edda Emmanuelli Perez
(202) 512-2853
EmmanuelliPerezE@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

THE DIRECTOR OF THE VETERANS' BUREAU WAS WITHIN HIS AUTHORITY. SUCH ACTION HAVING BEEN NECESSARY TO DETERMINE WHETHER PAYMENT TO THE DESIGNATED BENEFICIARY WAS PROPER OR WHETHER THE RIGHTS OF THE BENEFICIARY OR THOSE CLAIMING THROUGH HER HAD BEEN FORFEITED BY HER ACT. A STATEMENT IN A CORONER'S REPORT IS NOT BINDING UPON THE DIRECTOR. NO PAYMENT UNDER AN ADJUSTED SERVICE CERTIFICATE IS AUTHORIZED TO BE MADE TO THE ESTATE OF A DESIGNATED BENEFICIARY DETERMINED BY THE DIRECTOR OF THE VETERANS' BUREAU TO HAVE MURDERED THE VETERAN WHEN OF SOUND MIND AND IMMEDIATELY COMMITTING SUICIDE. IT IS SUFFICIENT TO STATE THAT THE DIRECTOR HAS FOUND AND DETERMINED THAT THE VETERAN WAS MURDERED BY HIS DIVORCED WIFE.

A-26791, MAY 4, 1929, 8 COMP. GEN. 585

VETERAN'S BUREAU - ADJUSTED COMPENSATION - AUTHORITY OF DIRECTOR TO DETERMINE QUESTIONS OF LAW AND FACT UNDER THE PRINCIPLE ANNOUNCED BY THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES, IN THE CASE OF UNITED STATES V. WILLIAMS, 278 U.S. 255, 257, THE DIRECTOR OF THE VETERANS' BUREAU WAS WITHIN HIS AUTHORITY, VESTED IN HIM BY THE WORLD WAR ADJUSTED COMPENSATION ACT, IN THE ABSENCE OF ACTION BY A COURT OF RECORD, IN DETERMINING THE CAUSE OF THE DEATH OF A VETERAN AND THE DEGREE OF RESPONSIBILITY OF THE DESIGNATED BENEFICIARY, SUCH ACTION HAVING BEEN NECESSARY TO DETERMINE WHETHER PAYMENT TO THE DESIGNATED BENEFICIARY WAS PROPER OR WHETHER THE RIGHTS OF THE BENEFICIARY OR THOSE CLAIMING THROUGH HER HAD BEEN FORFEITED BY HER ACT. A STATEMENT IN A CORONER'S REPORT IS NOT BINDING UPON THE DIRECTOR. NO PAYMENT UNDER AN ADJUSTED SERVICE CERTIFICATE IS AUTHORIZED TO BE MADE TO THE ESTATE OF A DESIGNATED BENEFICIARY DETERMINED BY THE DIRECTOR OF THE VETERANS' BUREAU TO HAVE MURDERED THE VETERAN WHEN OF SOUND MIND AND IMMEDIATELY COMMITTING SUICIDE, NOR DOES THE INCAPACITY OF THE DESIGNATED BENEFICIARY AND HER ESTATE UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES PERMIT PAYMENT TO THE ESTATE OF THE VETERAN.

COMPTROLLER GENERAL MCCARL TO THE DIRECTOR, UNITED STATES VETERANS' BUREAU, MAY 4, 1929:

CONSIDERATION HAS BEEN GIVEN TO YOUR LETTER OF APRIL 10, 1929, SUBMITTING THE WORLD WAR ADJUSTED COMPENSATION CASE OF RUSSELL R. LAFRAUGH, DECEASED, A-3679854, AND REQUESTING DECISION AS TO THE PROPER DISPOSITION TO BE MADE OF THE FACE VALUE OF HIS ADJUSTED SERVICE CERTIFICATE, AMOUNTING TO $1,477.

WITHOUT REPEATING IN DETAIL THE FACTS AND ALTERNATE PROPOSITIONS AS TO THE DISPOSITION TO BE MADE OF THE AMOUNT OF THE CERTIFICATE, AS SET FORTH IN THE SUBMISSION, IT IS SUFFICIENT TO STATE THAT THE DIRECTOR HAS FOUND AND DETERMINED THAT THE VETERAN WAS MURDERED BY HIS DIVORCED WIFE, THE DESIGNATED BENEFICIARY, WHO IMMEDIATELY COMMITTED SUICIDE, AND THAT, NOTWITHSTANDING A STATEMENT IN THE VERDICT OR REPORT ON A CORONER'S INQUEST OVER THE BODY OF THE DECEASED WIFE AND BENEFICIARY THAT THE WIFE WAS DESPONDENT AND TEMPORARILY INSANE WHEN SHE MURDERED HER HUSBAND, THE DIRECTOR HAS FOUND AND DETERMINED FROM ALL EVIDENCE ADDUCED THAT THE WIFE WAS NOT INSANE AND THAT THE MURDER WAS PREMEDITATED.

THE QUESTIONS INVOLVED ARE (1) WHETHER THE DIRECTOR HAS THE AUTHORITY UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF THE WORLD WAR ADJUSTED COMPENSATION ACT, AS AMENDED, TO DETERMINE THE CAUSE OF DEATH AND THE DEGREE OF RESPONSIBILITY OF THE DESIGNATED BENEFICIARY; (2) WHETHER THE DIRECTOR IS BOUND BY THE VERDICT OR REPORT ON CORONER'S INQUEST; AND (3) WHETHER, IN VIEW OF THE FACTS AND CIRCUMSTANCES DISCLOSED AND THE FINDINGS OF THE DIRECTOR, PAYMENT OF THE FACE VALUE OF THE ADJUSTED SERVICE CERTIFICATE MAY BE MADE EITHER TO THE ESTATE OF THE DESIGNATED BENEFICIARY OR TO THE ESTATE OF THE VETERAN.

THE QUESTIONS WILL BE CONSIDERED IN THE ORDER ABOVE STATED.

(1) IN DECISION OF JANUARY 2, 1929, THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES IN THE CASE OF UNITED STATES V. WILLIAMS, 278 U.S. 255, 257, HELD:

* * * IT IS EVIDENT THAT WHEN A CERTIFICATE IS PRESENTED TO THE DIRECTOR BY ONE CLAIMING TO BE THE BENEFICIARY THAT OFFICER MUST, AS A NECESSARY PREREQUISITE TO THE PAYMENT, ASCERTAIN AND DETERMINE THAT THE VETERAN IS DEAD, THAT THE PERSON CLAIMING PAYMENT IS IN FACT THE BENEFICIARY, AND ANY OTHER MATTER OF FACT OR LAW WHICH MAY AFFECT THE RIGHT OF THE CLAIMANT IN ANY GIVEN CASE. WE MAY ASSUME THAT THE DIRECTOR PERFORMED THAT DUTY HERE. THE RECORD DOES NOT DISCLOSE THE BASIS FOR HIS ACTION; BUT WHATEVER IT MAY HAVE BEEN, HIS DECISION IS FINAL, AT LEAST UNLESS IT BE WHOLLY WITHOUT EVIDENTIAL SUPPORT OR WHOLLY DEPENDENT UPON A QUESTION OF LAW OR CLEARLY ARBITRARY OR CAPRICIOUS. SILBERSCHEIN V. UNITED STATES, 296 U.S. 221, 225, AND CASES THERE CITED.

THE FACTS IN THE WILLIAMS CASE, WHICH, APPARENTLY, WERE NOT PRESENTED TO THE SUPREME COURT, WERE THAT THE WIFE OF THE VETERAN, WHO WAS THE DESIGNATED BENEFICIARY, FELONIOUSLY KILLED HER HUSBAND. PAYMENT TO HER WAS DENIED BY THE DIRECTOR PURSUANT TO THE DECISION OF THIS OFFICE DATED MAY 29, 1926, A-13608. WITHOUT INQUIRING INTO THESE FACTS, THE SUPREME COURT RENDERED THE ABOVE-QUOTED DECISION. UNDER THE PRINCIPLE ANNOUNCED BY THE COURT, THE DIRECTOR WOULD BE WITHIN HIS AUTHORITY OR JURISDICTION, IN THE ABSENCE OF ACTION BY A COURT OF RECORD, IN DETERMINING THE CAUSE OF DEATH OF THE VETERAN AND THE DEGREE OF RESPONSIBILITY OF THE DESIGNATED BENEFICIARY, SUCH ACTION BEING NECESSARY TO DETERMINE WHETHER PAYMENT TO THE DESIGNATED BENEFICIARY WAS PROPER OR WHETHER THE RIGHTS OF THE BENEFICIARY OR THOSE CLAIMING THROUGH HER HAD BEEN FORFEITED BY HER ACT.

(2) AS ABOVE STATED, THE WORLD WAR ADJUSTED COMPENSATION ACT, AS CONSTRUED AND APPLIED BY THE SUPREME COURT, IMPOSES ON THE DIRECTOR OF THE VETERANS' BUREAU THE DUTY TO DETERMINE THE DEGREE OF RESPONSIBILITY, IF ANY, OF THE DESIGNATED BENEFICIARY FOR THE DEATH OF THE VETERAN WHERE THE FACTS AND CIRCUMSTANCES ARE SUCH AS TO MAKE IT UNNECESSARY FOR A COURT TO ACT IN A CRIMINAL PROCEEDING, SUCH AS THE INSTANT CASE. THE WEIGHT TO BE GIVEN BY THE DIRECTOR TO THE VERDICT OR REPORT ON A CORONER'S INQUEST SHOULD APPROXIMATE THAT RECOGNIZED BY THE COURTS. IN 13 CORPUS JURIS 1256 IT IS STATED:

* * * BY THE WEIGHT OF AUTHORITY, HOWEVER, WHILE SUCH VERDICT IS COMPETENT TO BE RECEIVED IN EVIDENCE AS A PART OF THE PROOF THAT THE DEATH OF THE INSURED OCCURRED, IT IS NOT EVEN PRIMA FACIE COMPETENT AS TENDING TO PROVE THE CAUSE OF SUCH DEATH; AND THIS IS TRUE WHEN IT IS INTRODUCED BY EITHER PARTY. THUS, IN A CONTEST WITH A LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, IT HAS BEEN HELD THAT THE VERDICT OF A CORONER'S JURY IS NOT ADMISSIBLE, ON THE PART OF DEFENDANT, TO PROVE THAT THE DECEASED COMMITTED SUICIDE.

A NUMBER OF CASES HAVE BEEN CITED IN SUPPORT OF THESE PRINCIPLES. ACCORDINGLY, THE STATEMENT IN THE CORONER'S REPORT IN THIS CASE THAT THE DESIGNATED BENEFICIARY WAS INSANE AND, THEREFORE, NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR HER ACT, IS NOT BINDING OR CONCLUSIVE UPON THE DIRECTOR, BUT IT WAS PROPER FOR THE DIRECTOR TO DETERMINE, AS HE HAS DONE, THAT THE DESIGNATED BENEFICIARY WAS NOT INSANE WHEN SHE KILLED THE VETERAN.

(3) IN DECISION OF MAY 29, 1926, CONSIDERING THE WILLIAMS CASE, IT WAS CONCLUDED THAT NO PAYMENT UNDER AN ADJUSTED SERVICE CERTIFICATE IS AUTHORIZED TO BE MADE TO A DESIGNATED BENEFICIARY CONVICTED OF FELONIOUSLY KILLING THE VETERAN ON THE BASIS OF WHOSE SERVICE THE CERTIFICATE WAS ISSUED; AND THAT THE INCAPACITY OF THE DESIGNATED BENEFICIARY UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES WOULD NOT PERMIT PAYMENT TO THE ESTATE OF THE VETERAN. THIS RULE WOULD BE EQUALLY APPLICABLE TO A CASE SUCH AS THIS WHERE THE CAUSE OF DEATH AND THE DEGREE OF RESPONSIBILITY OF THE DESIGNATED BENEFICIARY ARE DETERMINED BY THE DIRECTOR IN THE ABSENCE OF ACTION BY A COURT IN A CRIMINAL PROCEEDING.

A DISTINCTION IS SUGGESTED BETWEEN THE TWO CASES BECAUSE OF THE FACT THAT THE DESIGNATED BENEFICIARY IN THIS CASE DIED IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE DEATH OF THE VETERAN AND THAT THERE IS NOW NO DESIGNATED BENEFICIARY INCAPACITATED FROM TAKING WHICH WOULD PRECLUDE PAYMENT TO THE ESTATE OF THE VETERAN. RIGHTS TO THE PROCEEDS OF THE CERTIFICATE ARE FINALLY DETERMINED AS OF TIME OF DEATH OF THE VETERAN IN WHOSE FAVOR THE CERTIFICATE IS ISSUED. IT IS TO BE PRESUMED IN THIS CASE, AND THE DIRECTOR HAS SO FOUND, THAT THE DESIGNATED BENEFICIARY SURVIVED THE VETERAN, AT LEAST FOR AN INSTANT. THE PROVISIONS OF THE STATUTE ARE THAT PAYMENT SHALL BE MADE EITHER TO A DESIGNATED BENEFICIARY OR "IF SUCH BENEFICIARY DIES BEFORE THE VETERAN AND NO NEW BENEFICIARY IS NAMED, OR IF THE BENEFICIARY IN THE FIRST INSTANCE HAS NOT YET BEEN NAMED, THE AMOUNT OF THE FACE VALUE OF THE CERTIFICATE SHALL BE PAID TO THE ESTATE OF THE VETERAN.'

IN THIS CASE, AS THERE WAS A DESIGNATED BENEFICIARY WHO SURVIVED THE VETERAN, THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE STATUTE TO ENTITLE THE ESTATE TO THE PROCEEDS OF THE CERTIFICATE ARE NOT MET. THE VETERAN DESIGNATED A BENEFICIARY, THEREBY DEPRIVING HIS ESTATE. IT MUST BE ASSUMED, IN THE ABSENCE OF ANY EXPRESS PROVISION IN THE STATUTE AUTHORIZING PAYMENT TO THE ESTATE OF THE VETERAN IN CASES WHERE THE DESIGNATED BENEFICIARY SURVIVES HIM, THAT NO PAYMENT MAY BE MADE OF THE FACE VALUE OF THE CERTIFICATE IF THE SURVIVING DESIGNATED BENEFICIARY IS INCAPACITATED TO TAKE, WHETHER SHE REMAINS ALIVE OR DIES SUBSEQUENT TO THE VETERAN. YOU ARE ADVISED, THEREFORE, THAT PAYMENT IS NOT AUTHORIZED IN THIS CASE TO EITHER THE ESTATE OF THE BENEFICIARY OR THE ESTATE OF THE VETERAN.

Sep 27, 2016

Sep 22, 2016

Sep 21, 2016

Sep 20, 2016

Looking for more? Browse all our products here