A-37515, JULY 24, 1931, 11 COMP. GEN. 33

A-37515: Jul 24, 1931

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VETERANS' ADMINISTRATION - ADJUSTED COMPENSATION - CHANGE OF BENEFICIARY THERE IS NO PROVISION IN THE WORLD WAR ADJUSTED COMPENSATION ACT. IS VALID IN VIEW OF THE SUBSEQUENT DESIGNATION OF MISS MURPHY COCKRELL. WHICH WAS APPROVED BY THE DIRECTOR OF THE VETERANS' BUREAU PRIOR TO THE DEATH OF THE VETERAN. THE VETERAN WAS ADJUDGED INSANE. HIS WIFE WAS APPOINTED HIS GUARDIAN BY THE COUNTY COURT OF PULASKI COUNTY. THE JURISDICTION OF THE CASE WAS THEREAFTER TRANSFERRED TO THE COUNTY COURT OF VAN ZANDT COUNTY. WHERE THE WIFE WAS CONTINUED AS GUARDIAN BY THAT COURT UNDER AN ORDER DATED AUGUST 10. A FEW DAYS LATER INFORMATION WAS RECEIVED AT THE HOSPITAL THAT THE VETERAN WAS AT HOME WITH HIS PARENTS AND SEEMED TO BE DOING NICELY.

A-37515, JULY 24, 1931, 11 COMP. GEN. 33

VETERANS' ADMINISTRATION - ADJUSTED COMPENSATION - CHANGE OF BENEFICIARY THERE IS NO PROVISION IN THE WORLD WAR ADJUSTED COMPENSATION ACT, OR IN ANY OTHER STATUTE, VESTING IN THE DIRECTOR OF THE VETERANS' BUREAU, OR HIS SUCCESSOR, THE ADMINISTRATOR OF VETERANS' AFFAIRS, AUTHORITY TO MAKE A POST-MORTEM LEGAL FINDING OF INCOMPETENCY OF A VETERAN SO AS TO INVALIDATE A CHANGE OF BENEFICIARY OF AN ADJUSTED-SERVICE CERTIFICATE WHICH HAD BEEN APPROVED BY THE DIRECTOR PRIOR TO THE DEATH OF THE VETERAN, WHERE A DECREE OF COURT HAD DETERMINED THE COMPETENCY OF THE VETERAN JUST PRIOR TO THE TIME HE MADE THE CHANGE OF BENEFICIARY.

COMPTROLLER GENERAL MCCARL TO THE ADMINISTRATOR OF VETERANS' AFFAIRS, JULY 24, 1931:

THERE HAS BEEN PRESENTED TO THIS OFFICE FOR PREAUDIT THE WORLD WAR ADJUSTED COMPENSATION CASE OF RANDOLPH COCKRELL, A-3299096, XC-1426068, INVOLVING THE QUESTION WHETHER THE ADMINISTRATIVELY APPROVED AWARD OF $1,211.41, PROCEEDS OF AN ADJUSTED-SERVICE CERTIFICATE, LESS UNPAID LOANS WITH INTEREST, IN FAVOR OF MRS. OTHO PAULINE COCKRELL, WIDOW, AS DESIGNATED BENEFICIARY, IS VALID IN VIEW OF THE SUBSEQUENT DESIGNATION OF MISS MURPHY COCKRELL, NIECE, AS BENEFICIARY, WHICH WAS APPROVED BY THE DIRECTOR OF THE VETERANS' BUREAU PRIOR TO THE DEATH OF THE VETERAN.

IN APPLICATION FOR AN ADJUSTED-SERVICE CERTIFICATE FILED FEBRUARY 10, 1925, THE VETERAN DESIGNATED HIS WIFE, OTHO PAULINE COCKRELL AS BENEFICIARY. ON JUNE 4, 1927, THE VETERAN WAS ADJUDGED INSANE, AND ON JUNE 28, 1927, HIS WIFE WAS APPOINTED HIS GUARDIAN BY THE COUNTY COURT OF PULASKI COUNTY, ARK. THE JURISDICTION OF THE CASE WAS THEREAFTER TRANSFERRED TO THE COUNTY COURT OF VAN ZANDT COUNTY, TEX., WHERE THE WIFE WAS CONTINUED AS GUARDIAN BY THAT COURT UNDER AN ORDER DATED AUGUST 10, 1927, THE VETERAN CONTINUING TO STAY IN THE HOSPITAL AT LITTLE ROCK, ARK. THE VETERAN, HOWEVER, DESERTED THE HOSPITAL AT LITTLE ROCK ON DECEMBER 3, 1927, AND A FEW DAYS LATER INFORMATION WAS RECEIVED AT THE HOSPITAL THAT THE VETERAN WAS AT HOME WITH HIS PARENTS AND SEEMED TO BE DOING NICELY, WHEREUPON HIS HOSPITAL RECORD WAS CHANGED TO SHOW HIM FURLOUGHED HOME FOR 90 DAYS.

ON FEBRUARY 20, 1928, WHICH WAS DURING THE PERIOD THE VETERAN WAS ON FURLOUGH FROM THE HOSPITAL AT LITTLE ROCK, HE FILED AN APPLICATION IN THE COUNTY COURT OF VAN ZANDT COUNTY IN TEXAS, DEMANDING THAT HIS GUARDIAN BE REMOVED AND THAT HE BE DECLARED A PERSON OF SOUND MIND AND BE RESTORED TO COMPETENCY. HIS CASE WAS HEARD ON FEBRUARY 20, 1928, AND HE WAS FOUND COMPETENT, THE COURT ENTERING AN ORDER THE NEXT DAY FINDING THE VETERAN COMPETENT TO MANAGE HIS AFFAIRS, DISCHARGING THE GUARDIAN, AND TURNING THE GUARDIANSHIP FUNDS, AFTER PAYMENT OF EXPENSES, OVER TO THE VETERAN. THE SAME DAY THE VETERAN ADDRESSED A LETTER TO THE VETERANS' BUREAU REQUESTING A CHANGE OF BENEFICIARY OF HIS ADJUSTED-SERVICE CERTIFICATE, AS FOLLOWS:

I WOULD LIKE TO HAVE MY POLICY NO. 204562 CHANGED FROM MRS. OTHO COCKRELL TO MISS MURPHY COCKRELL AS ME AND MY WIFE ARE SEPARATED. WE HAVE BEEN APART FOR TWO YEARS. THE POLICY CALLS FOR $1,518. PLEASE LET ME KNOW IF THIS CAN BE DONE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. MY NUMBER IS A 3299096.

THE NECESSARY FORMS WERE FORWARDED TO THE VETERAN UNDER DATE OF MARCH 26, 1928, WHICH HE EXECUTED AND RETURNED MARCH 30, 1928, WHEREIN HE NAMED AS BENEFICIARY HIS NIECE, MISS MURPHY COCKRELL. THIS CHANGE WAS DULY APPROVED BY THE DIRECTOR OF THE VETERANS' BUREAU ON APRIL 11, 1928, AND IS NOW ON FILE AS AN APPROVED CHANGE OF BENEFICIARY.

THE VETERAN DIED SEPTEMBER 17, 1930, OVER TWO YEARS AFTER THE CHANGE OF BENEFICIARY HAD BEEN APPROVED. SUBSEQUENT TO HIS DEATH THE VETERANS' BUREAU PURPORTED TO DETERMINE FROM A MEDICAL VIEWPOINT THAT THIS VETERAN WAS INCOMPETENT AT THE TIME HE CHANGED HIS BENEFICIARY FROM HIS WIFE, FROM WHOM HE HAD BEEN SEPARATED, TO HIS NIECE. THE MEDICAL DIRECTOR ON FEBRUARY 6, 1931, MADE THE FOLLOWING FINDING:

THE MEDICAL SERVICE IS OF THE OPINION THAT FROM A PURELY MEDICAL POINT OF VIEW AND FROM THE REPORT SUBMITTED BY THE UNITED STATES VETERANS' HOSPITAL AT NORTH LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS, THAT MR. COCKRELL DID NOT POSSESS A TESTAMENTARY CAPACITY ON MARCH 30, 1928.

APPARENTLY, ON THE BASIS OF THIS FINDING, THE VETERANS' BUREAU REFUSED PAYMENT OF THE CLAIM OF THE NIECE AS THE LAST DESIGNATED BENEFICIARY OF THE ADJUSTED SERVICE CERTIFICATE, NOTIFIED THE WIDOW OF HER RIGHTS, AND, UPON RECEIPT OF HER CLAIM, APPROVED AWARD IN HER FAVOR. IT IS NOTED THAT DURING THE PERIOD BETWEEN APRIL 11, 1928, AND THE DATE OF DEATH THE VETERANS' BUREAU PAID DIRECTLY TO THE VETERAN, ON THE BASIS THAT HE WAS COMPETENT, DISABILITY COMPENSATION AND ALSO PERMITTED HIM TO MAKE SEVERAL LOANS ON HIS ADJUSTED SERVICE CERTIFICATE.

SECTION 501 OF THE WORLD WAR ADJUSTED COMPENSATION ACT OF MAY 19, 1924, 43 STAT. 125, PROVIDES THAT---

* * * THE VETERAN SHALL NAME THE BENEFICIARY OF THE CERTIFICATE AND MAY FROM TIME TO TIME, WITH THE APPROVAL OF THE DIRECTOR, CHANGE SUCH BENEFICIARY. * * *

SEE ALSO SECTION 508 TO THE SAME EFFECT, ADDED TO THE STATUTE BY THE AMENDATORY ACT OF MAY 29, 1928, 45 STAT. 948.

WHATEVER AUTHORITY THERE EXISTS FOR RETROACTIVE MEDICAL RATINGS OF INCOMPETENCY UNDER THE TERMS OF THE WORLD WAR VETERANS' ACT FOR THE PURPOSES OF COMPENSATION OR INSURANCE, THERE IS NO AUTHORITY UNDER THE QUOTED PROVISION, OR ANY OTHER PROVISION OF THE WORLD WAR ADJUSTED COMPENSATION ACT, OR ANY OTHER STATUTE, VESTING IN THE DIRECTOR OF THE VETERANS' BUREAU OR HIS SUCCESSOR, THE ADMINISTRATOR OF VETERANS' AFFAIRS, AUTHORITY TO MAKE A POST-MORTEM LEGAL FINDING OF INCOMPETENCY OF A VETERAN SO AS TO INVALIDATE A CHANGE OF BENEFICIARY OF AN ADJUSTED SERVICE CERTIFICATE WHICH HAD BEEN APPROVED BY THE DIRECTOR OVER TWO YEARS PRIOR TO THE DEATH OF THE VETERAN, PARTICULARLY IN A CASE SUCH AS THIS, WHERE A DECREE OF COURT HAD DETERMINED THE COMPETENCY OF THE VETERAN JUST PRIOR TO THE TIME HE MADE THE CHANGE OF BENEFICIARY.

PAYMENT IN THIS CASE IS AUTHORIZED ONLY TO THE LAST-NAMED BENEFICIARY, THE NIECE OF THE VETERAN. YOU ARE ADVISED, THEREFORE, THAT THE ADMINISTRATIVELY APPROVED VOUCHER IN FAVOR OF THE WIDOW OF THE VETERAN WILL NOT BE CERTIFIED FOR PAYMENT.