A-80384, OCTOBER 16, 1936, 16 COMP. GEN. 384

A-80384: Oct 16, 1936

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COMPENSATION IS NOT PAYABLE BEYOND THE LAST DAY HE IS KNOWN TO HAVE BEEN ALIVE. THE CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION IS PROPERLY CONCERNED WITH THE ADJUSTMENT OF OVERPAYMENTS TO POSTAL EMPLOYEES IN CONNECTION WITH CLAIMS FOR REFUND OF RETIREMENT DEDUCTIONS BECAUSE OF THE DEATH OF THE EMPLOYEES CONCERNED. WHICH WAS FOLLOWED BY YOUR LETTER OF OCTOBER 9. IS AS FOLLOWS: IN THREE RECENT CASES THIS OFFICE HAS BEEN INFORMED BY THE CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION THAT THEY WERE IN POSSESSION OF INFORMATION WHICH INDICATED THAT OVERPAYMENT OF SALARY HAD BEEN MADE IN THREE INSTANCES OF THE DEATH OF POSTAL EMPLOYEES. THESE WERE BASED ON THE DATE LAST SEEN ALIVE AS THE OFFICIAL DATE IN COMPUTING INTEREST. THERE WOULD SEEM TO BE SOME UNCERTAINTY AS TO WHO SHOULD DIRECT THE FINAL SETTLEMENT OF THESE ACCOUNTS WHERE AN OVERPAYMENT OF ONE DAY'S SALARY IS ALLEGED.

A-80384, OCTOBER 16, 1936, 16 COMP. GEN. 384

COMPENSATION OVERPAYMENTS - POSTAL EMPLOYEES - DATE OF DEATH AND JURISDICTION OF CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION WHEN THE ACTUAL DATE OF DEATH OF AN EMPLOYEE HAS NOT BEEN ESTABLISHED BY COMPETENT EVIDENCE, COMPENSATION IS NOT PAYABLE BEYOND THE LAST DAY HE IS KNOWN TO HAVE BEEN ALIVE. THE CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION IS PROPERLY CONCERNED WITH THE ADJUSTMENT OF OVERPAYMENTS TO POSTAL EMPLOYEES IN CONNECTION WITH CLAIMS FOR REFUND OF RETIREMENT DEDUCTIONS BECAUSE OF THE DEATH OF THE EMPLOYEES CONCERNED.

ACTING COMPTROLLER GENERAL ELLIOTT TO THE ACTING POSTMASTER GENERAL, OCTOBER 16, 1936:

YOUR LETTER OF AUGUST 31, 1936, WHICH WAS FOLLOWED BY YOUR LETTER OF OCTOBER 9, 1936, ASKING THAT THE MATTER BE EXPEDITED, IS AS FOLLOWS:

IN THREE RECENT CASES THIS OFFICE HAS BEEN INFORMED BY THE CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION THAT THEY WERE IN POSSESSION OF INFORMATION WHICH INDICATED THAT OVERPAYMENT OF SALARY HAD BEEN MADE IN THREE INSTANCES OF THE DEATH OF POSTAL EMPLOYEES. THESE WERE BASED ON THE DATE LAST SEEN ALIVE AS THE OFFICIAL DATE IN COMPUTING INTEREST, IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE DECISION OF THE COMPTROLLER GENERAL DATED SEPTEMBER 27, 1928, IN THE CASE OF ROBERT L. DELLINGER, A-24334.

THIS INQUIRY CONCERNS THE FINAL SETTLEMENT OF THESE ACCOUNTS AND TO ASCERTAIN IF IT DEVOLVES UPON THE CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION TO BE CONCERNED WITH THE STATE OF POSTAL APPROPRIATIONS AS TO OVERPAYMENT AND REIMBURSEMENT. MAY WE NOT ALLOW THE MATTER TO PROCEED IN THE SETTLEMENT OF THE POSTMASTERS' ACCOUNTS THROUGH THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE IN THE USUAL WAY.

THERE WOULD SEEM TO BE SOME UNCERTAINTY AS TO WHO SHOULD DIRECT THE FINAL SETTLEMENT OF THESE ACCOUNTS WHERE AN OVERPAYMENT OF ONE DAY'S SALARY IS ALLEGED.

IF YOU CONCUR, IT WOULD SEEM THAT THE POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT SHOULD CIRCULARIZE, OR NOTIFY, ALL POSTMASTERS TO ASCERTAIN THE DATE LAST SEEN ALIVE RATHER THAN TO ACCEPT EVEN THE OFFICIAL PUBLIC RECORD AS TO DATE OF DEATH. MAY WE HAVE YOUR ADVICE ON THIS WITH THE PROPER DECISION AUTHORITY.

POSTAL APPROPRIATION ACCOUNTS ARE MAINTAINED BY THIS OFFICE. SEE ACT OF MARCH 3, 1875, 18 STAT. 343, AS AMENDED BY THE ACT OF JUNE 10, 1921, 42 STAT. 24. WHILE THE CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION IS NOT DIRECTLY CONCERNED WITH THE STATUS OF SUCH APPROPRIATION ACCOUNTS THE COMMISSION IS, HOWEVER, DIRECTLY CONCERNED IN THE ADMINISTRATION OF THE RETIREMENT FUND AND IF, IN THE ADJUDICATION OF ANY CLAIMS INVOLVING THE REFUND OF ANY AMOUNT IN SAID FUND, IT IS FOUND ON THE BASIS OF THE FACTS THEN BEFORE IT, THAT THE EMPLOYEE OR HIS ESTATE MAY HAVE BEEN OVERPAID BY A PARTICULAR DEPARTMENT IT IS THE DUTY OF THE COMMISSION TO REPORT SUCH FACTS TO THE DEPARTMENT CONCERNED OR TO THIS OFFICE OR TO BOTH FOR CONSIDERATION SO THAT PROPER ADJUSTMENT MAY BE MADE BEFORE MAKING A REFUND OF RETIREMENT DEDUCTIONS. IT IS OBVIOUS THAT THE DATE OF DEATH OF AN EMPLOYEE WHO WAS IN A PAY STATUS AT TIME OF DEATH IS AN ESSENTIAL FACTOR IN THE CONSIDERATION OF CLAIMS FOR REFUND OF RETIREMENT DEDUCTIONS AND IT IS ONLY FITTING AND PROPER THAT, IN THE EVENT OF A DISCREPANCY APPEARING BETWEEN THE DATE OF DEATH AS REPORTED TO OR FOUND BY THE COMMISSION AND THAT USED FOR FINAL SETTLEMENT BY THE DEPARTMENT IN WHICH THE PERSON WAS EMPLOYED AT TIME OF DEATH, SUCH DISCREPANCY SHOULD BE REPORTED TO THE DEPARTMENT CONCERNED FOR RECONCILIATION OF RECORDS AND ADJUSTMENT OF ACCOUNTS, IF NECESSARY. HOWEVER, IN SUCH CASES, IT HAS BEEN THE GENERAL PRACTICE OF THE COMMISSION, BEFORE TAKING ANY ACTION IN THE MATTER OF APPLYING ANY PART OF THE AMOUNT OTHERWISE DUE AS REFUND OF RETIREMENT DEDUCTIONS AGAINST AN OVERPAYMENT OF COMPENSATION, TO REFER THE CASE HERE FOR CONSIDERATION UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF SECTION 236, REVISED STATUTES, AS AMENDED BY SECTION 305 OF THE ACT OF JUNE 10, 1921, 42 STAT. 24, AS FOLLOWS:

ALL CLAIMS AND DEMANDS WHATEVER BY THE GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES OR AGAINST IT, AND ALL ACCOUNTS WHATEVER IN WHICH THE GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES IS CONCERNED, EITHER AS DEBTOR OR CREDITOR, SHALL BE SETTLED AND ADJUSTED IN THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE.

THE DECISION OF THIS OFFICE CITED IN YOUR LETTER, SUPRA, ON WHICH THE ACTION OF THE CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION APPEARS TO HAVE BEEN BASED IN THE ADJUDICATION OF THE CLAIMS FOR REFUND OF RETIREMENT DEDUCTIONS IN THE REFERRED-TO CASES, INVOLVED THE QUESTION AS TO THE LAST DATE FOR WHICH AN EMPLOYEE COULD BE PAID WHEN SUCH EMPLOYEE DISAPPEARS AND IS LATER FOUND DEAD, THE EXACT TIME OF DEATH BEING UNCERTAIN. THE DECISION HELD IN EFFECT THAT WHEN THE ACTUAL DATE OF THE DEATH OF AN EMPLOYEE HAS NOT BEEN ESTABLISHED BY COMPETENT EVIDENCE, COMPENSATION IS NOT PAYABLE BEYOND THE LAST DAY HE IS SHOWN TO HAVE BEEN ALIVE. THIS PRINCIPLE WAS APPLIED IN 9 COMP. GEN. 111, THE SYLLABUS OF WHICH IS AS FOLLOWS:

PAYMENT MAY BE MADE TO THE ONE LEGALLY ENTITLED THERETO OF THE COMPENSATION DUE A DECEASED EMPLOYEE OF THE UNITED STATES UP TO AND INCLUDING THE DATE OF DEATH, BUT PAYMENT MAY NOT BE MADE TO INCLUDE ANY DATE LATER THAN THAT ON WHICH THE EMPLOYEE WAS LAST KNOWN TO BE ALIVE.

THIS PRINCIPLE WAS APPLIED, ALSO, IN A-29322, DATED NOVEMBER 27, 1929, AND A-29671, DATED DECEMBER 5, 1929, INVOLVING CLAIMS FOR REFUND OF RETIREMENT DEDUCTIONS THEN FOR ADJUDICATION BY THE COMMISSIONER OF PENSIONS, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR.

THE ACTION OF THE CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION IN THIS MATTER, THEREFORE, WAS PROPER AND IF IN THE APPLICATION OF THE RULE ABOVE STATED IT IS FOUND IN THE CASES ALLUDED TO THAT THE EMPLOYEES OR THEIR ESTATES WERE OVERPAID BY YOUR DEPARTMENT, APPROPRIATE CLAIM SHOULD BE FILED BY YOUR DEPARTMENT WITH THE COMMISSION FOR DEDUCTION OF THE AMOUNT OF THE INDEBTEDNESS FROM THE AMOUNT IN THE RETIREMENT FUND TO THE CREDIT OF THE EMPLOYEE. IF, UPON SUBMISSION OF THE MATTER HERE, IT BE DETERMINED THAT THE DEPARTMENT'S CLAIM IS LEGAL AND PROPER UPON THE BASIS OF THE FACTS DISCLOSED, APPROPRIATE INSTRUCTIONS WILL ISSUE FOR ADJUSTMENT OF THE APPLICABLE FUNDS AND OF THE ACCOUNTS OF THE POSTMASTERS INVOLVED, IF NECESSARY. ACTION SHOULD BE ACCORDINGLY.

WITH RESPECT TO THE MATTER STATED IN THE CONCLUDING PARAGRAPH OF YOUR LETTER, YOU ARE ADVISED THAT IN THE CLASS OF CASES HERE INVOLVED ALL POSTMASTERS SHOULD BE INSTRUCTED, BY APPROPRIATE REGULATIONS OR OTHERWISE, TO APPLY HEREAFTER THE PRINCIPLE ABOVE STATED WHERE THE EXACT DATE OF DEATH OF AN EMPLOYEE CANNOT BE ESTABLISHED BY COMPETENT EVIDENCE.