A-80578, OCTOBER 13, 1936, 16 COMP. GEN. 371

A-80578: Oct 13, 1936

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THE VETERANS' ADMINISTRATION MAKES FINAL SETTLEMENT ON AN ADJUSTED-SERVICE CERTIFICATE OF A LIVE VETERAN ON THE BASIS THAT HE IS DEAD. THERE IS SATISFACTORY EVIDENCE OF A COMMON-LAW MARRIAGE. THERE IS NO FURTHER LIABILITY ON THE GOVERNMENT UNDER SAID CERTIFICATE. SUCH PAYMENT TO BE REGARDED AS APPLIED TO THE SUPPORT OF THE WIFE OR AS OTHERWISE CONSTITUTING A PAYMENT TO HIM THROUGH THE DOCTRINE THAT THE MAN AND WIFE ARE ONE IN THE EYES OF THE LAW. AS FOLLOWS: AN ADJUSTED SERVICE CERTIFICATE WAS ISSUED TO HARRY WESTERN RHODES. WHEN A DEATH CERTIFICATE WAS RECEIVED IN THE VETERANS' ADMINISTRATION SHOWING THAT HARRY RHODES. THE CASE WAS CONFUSED WITH THAT OF HARRY WESTERN RHODES. WAS INFORMED ON MAY 14.

A-80578, OCTOBER 13, 1936, 16 COMP. GEN. 371

VETERANS' ADMINISTRATION - ADJUSTED COMPENSATION - ERRONEOUS PAYMENTS BECAUSE OF CONFUSION OF NAMES - FURTHER LIABILITY UNDER ADJUSTED SERVICE CERTIFICATE INVOLVED WHERE, DUE TO A MISTAKE OF FACT AND IN THE ABSENCE OF FRAUD, THE VETERANS' ADMINISTRATION MAKES FINAL SETTLEMENT ON AN ADJUSTED-SERVICE CERTIFICATE OF A LIVE VETERAN ON THE BASIS THAT HE IS DEAD, TO THE DESIGNATED BENEFICIARY DESCRIBED AS THE WIFE OF THE VETERAN, AND THERE IS SATISFACTORY EVIDENCE OF A COMMON-LAW MARRIAGE, THERE IS NO FURTHER LIABILITY ON THE GOVERNMENT UNDER SAID CERTIFICATE, SUCH PAYMENT TO BE REGARDED AS APPLIED TO THE SUPPORT OF THE WIFE OR AS OTHERWISE CONSTITUTING A PAYMENT TO HIM THROUGH THE DOCTRINE THAT THE MAN AND WIFE ARE ONE IN THE EYES OF THE LAW.

ACTING COMPTROLLER GENERAL ELLIOTT TO THE ADMINISTRATOR OF VETERANS' AFFAIRS, OCTOBER 13, 1936:

THERE HAS BEEN CONSIDERED THE QUESTION PRESENTED IN YOUR LETTER OF SEPTEMBER 18, 1936, AS FOLLOWS:

AN ADJUSTED SERVICE CERTIFICATE WAS ISSUED TO HARRY WESTERN RHODES, A- 66682, EFFECTIVE MAY 1, 1929, IN THE AMOUNT OF $760.00. IN FILING APPLICATION FOR HIS ADJUSTED SERVICE CREDIT THE VETERAN NAMED HIS WIFE, MARY RHODES, AS BENEFICIARY. ON MAY 1, 1931, THE VETERAN PLEDGED HIS ADJUSTED SERVICE CERTIFICATE WITH THE OFFICE OF THIS ADMINISTRATION AT OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA, AS COLLATERAL SECURITY FOR A LOAN OF $380.00, ONE -HALF OF THE FACE VALUE THEREOF.

WHEN A DEATH CERTIFICATE WAS RECEIVED IN THE VETERANS' ADMINISTRATION SHOWING THAT HARRY RHODES, XC-845821, DIED AT MIDDLE HOPE, NEW YORK, ON MARCH 19, 1932, THE CASE WAS CONFUSED WITH THAT OF HARRY WESTERN RHODES, A -66682, AND MRS. MARY RHODES, WIFE AND BENEFICIARY OF HARRY WESTERN RHODES, A-66682, WAS INFORMED ON MAY 14, 1932, OF HER RIGHTS AS DESIGNATED BENEFICIARY OF HIS ADJUSTED SERVICE CERTIFICATE AND REQUESTED TO SUBMIT A CERTIFIED COPY OF THE PUBLIC RECORD OF THE DEATH OF THE VETERAN AND DEMAND FOR PAYMENT (FORM 582) AT WHICH TIME THE MATTER OF SETTLEMENT OF THE ADJUSTED SERVICE CERTIFICATE WOULD BE GIVEN CONSIDERATION.

A COMMUNICATION WAS RECEIVED FROM MRS. RHODES DATED MAY 27, 1932, IN WHICH SHE STATED THAT SHE WOULD BE PLEASED TO OBTAIN A CERTIFIED COPY OF THE PUBLIC RECORD OF THE DEATH OF MR. RHODES, BUT THAT SHE HAD NO IDEA AS TO WHERE SUCH COPY MIGHT BE OBTAINED AND REQUESTED THAT SHE BE INFORMED BY WIRE THE PLACE FROM WHICH THE CERTIFIED COPY COULD BE PROCURED. IN A COMMUNICATION FROM MRS. RHODES DATED JUNE 8, 1932, SHE STATED "YOUR LETTER OF MAY 14TH STATED YOUR RECORDS SHOWED HIM DECEASED AND I WOULD LIKE TO HAVE SOME DATA AS TO WHERE YOUR RECORDS CAME FROM AS MR. RHODES LEFT ME ALMOST A YEAR AGO ON SEARCH OF WORK AND HAVE BEEN UNABLE TO HEAR FROM HIM. NEEDLESS TO SAY YOUR LETTER HAS ALMOST DRIVEN ME CRAZY AND I HAVE LOOKED IN VAIN FOR YOUR REPLY TO MY LETTER OF MAY 27TH.' SHE WAS INFORMED ON JUNE 9, 1932, THAT THERE HAD BEEN RECEIVED A DEATH CERTIFICATE WHICH SHOWED THAT HARRY RHODES DIED AT MIDDLE HOPE, NEW YORK, ON MARCH 19, 1932, AND THEREFORE IT WOULD NOT BE NECESSARY FOR HER TO FURNISH A DEATH CERTIFICATE.

UPON RECEIPT OF THE DEMAND FOR PAYMENT (FORM 582) PROPERLY EXECUTED, ADJUDICATION WAS MADE IN FAVOR OF MRS. MARY RHODES, WIFE AND BENEFICIARY OF HARRY WESTERN RHODES, A-66682, AND A CHECK IN THE AMOUNT OF $364.89, THE BALANCE DUE HER AS BENEFICIARY AFTER DEDUCTING $395.11, REPRESENTING LOAN OBTAINED BY THE VETERAN WITH INTEREST TO AND INCLUDING MARCH 19, 1932, WAS MAILED TO HER AT POST-OFFICE BOX 619, OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA. AT THE TIME OF THIS SETTLEMENT THE VETERAN'S ADJUSTED SERVICE CERTIFICATE WAS CANCELLED AND FORWARDED TO THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE.

THE RECORDS SHOW THAT TWO APPLICATIONS (FORM 1701) WERE EXECUTED WHICH WERE ACKNOWLEDGED BY THE OFFICE OF THIS ADMINISTRATION AT OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA, ON FEBRUARY 17, 1936, AND APRIL 13, 1936, RESPECTIVELY. ON JUNE 12, 1936, THAT OFFICE FORWARDED ONE APPLICATION TO CENTRAL OFFICE, WHICH WAS THE FIRST INFORMATION RECEIVED IN THE CENTRAL OFFICE THAT HARRY WESTERN RHODES, A-66682, WAS STILL ALIVE. A THOROUGH SEARCH OF THE RECORDS HAS FAILED TO DISCLOSE ITS WHEREABOUTS AND THAT OFFICE HAS BEEN REQUESTED TO FORWARD THE OTHER APPLICATION TO THE CENTRAL OFFICE AS PROMPTLY AS POSSIBLE.

AN EFFORT WAS MADE TO COMMUNICATE WITH MRS. MARY RHODES ON JUNE 25, 1936. THE COMMUNICATION FORWARDED TO HER AT THE LATEST ADDRESS OF RECORD, POST-OFFICE BOX 619, OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA, WAS RETURNED UNCLAIMED. THE OFFICE OF THIS ADMINISTRATION AT OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA, HAS BEEN REQUESTED TO ASCERTAIN HER WHEREABOUTS AND OBTAIN A REFUND OF THE AMOUNT OF $364.89 PAID TO HER IN ERROR AS THE RESULT OF THE CONFUSION OF THE RECORDS.

AS SETTLEMENT OF THIS VETERAN'S ADJUSTED SERVICE CERTIFICATE HAS ALREADY BEEN EFFECTED WITH THE DESIGNATED BENEFICIARY AND THE ADJUSTED SERVICE CERTIFICATE CANCELLED AND FILED WITH THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE, THE ABOVE FACTS IN THE CASE ARE SUBMITTED FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION AND DECISION AS TO WHETHER OR NOT, UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES, THE VETERANS' ADMINISTRATION MAY CERTIFY A VOUCHER IN SETTLEMENT DIRECT WITH THE VETERAN OF ANY BALANCE OF HIS ADJUSTED SERVICE CERTIFICATE AFTER DEDUCTING THE LOAN WHICH HE OBTAINED FROM THE OFFICE OF THIS ADMINISTRATION AT OKLAHOMA, WITH INTEREST THROUGH SEPTEMBER 30, 1931.

IN A LETTER DATED SEPTEMBER 12, 1936, TO CONGRESSMAN GEORGE N. SEGER, THE VETERAN STATED:

THE MRS. MARY RHODES NAMED AS MY BENEFICIARY ON MY CERTIFICATE A 66682 WAS NOT MY LEGAL WIFE, AS WE WERE NEVER MARRIED, BUT IT IS TRUE WE LIVED TOGETHER FOR SEVERAL YEARS.

HOWEVER WE SEPARATED ON OR ABOUT MAY 1, 1931, AND I HAVE NOT SEEN OR HEARD FROM HER FROM THAT DATE TO THIS. I LEFT OKLA. MAY 2, 1931, AND CAME TO N.Y. STATE BUT NEVER HAVE BEEN IN MIDDLE HOPE, N.Y. I SEE NO REASON WHY I SHOULD BE BLAMED FOR HIDING FROM SAID MRS. RHODES.

THE VETERAN FAILS TO STATE THE REASON FOR HIS "SEPARATION" FROM HIS WIFE. IN THIS CONNECTION THE FILE SHOWS THAT IN A LETTER DATED JUNE 8, 1932, TO THE VETERANS' ADMINISTRATION MRS. RHODES STATED IN PART:

* * * MR. RHODES LEFT ME ALMOST A YEAR AGO ON SEARCH OF WORK AND HAVE BEEN UNABLE TO HEAR FROM HIM. * * *

UNDER THE WORLD WAR ADJUSTED COMPENSATION ACT, AS AMENDED, THE VALIDITY OF THE DESIGNATION OF A BENEFICIARY FOR THE PROCEEDS OF AN ADJUSTED SERVICE CERTIFICATE IS IN NO WISE DEPENDENT UPON ANY RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE DESIGNATED BENEFICIARY AND THE VETERAN. HENCE, THE VALIDITY OF THE DESIGNATION OF BENEFICIARY HERE MAY NOT BE QUESTIONED BY THE VETERAN UPON THE GROUND THAT HE WAS NOT LEGALLY MARRIED TO THE BENEFICIARY DESIGNATED BY HIM AS HIS WIFE, AS HE NOW ALLEGES.

THE VETERAN'S DOMICILE PRIOR TO HIS ALLEGED SEPARATION FROM HIS WIFE APPEARS TO HAVE BEEN OKLAHOMA. WHILE HE STATES HE WAS NEVER LEGALLY MARRIED TO MRS. RHODES, HE ADMITS HAVING LIVED WITH HER "FOR SEVERAL YEARS" UNDER THE OSTENSIBLE RELATIONSHIP OF MAN AND WIFE AND, IN THE ABSENCE OF ANY LEGAL IMPEDIMENT, SUCH LIVING TOGETHER CONSTITUTES A COMMON -LAW MARRIAGE, WHICH, UNDER THE LAWS OF OKLAHOMA, IS RECOGNIZED AS A VALID MARRIAGE. IT IS A GENERAL LAW OF DOMESTIC RELATIONS THAT THE HUSBAND IS REQUIRED TO SUPPORT HIS WIFE AND THIS APPEARS A STATUTORY REQUIREMENT IN THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA. WHETHER THE VETERAN SEPARATED FROM HIS WIFE WITH THE VIEW OF NOT RETURNING, OR LEFT IN QUEST OF WORK AS ALLEGED BY MRS. RHODES, THE FACT REMAINS THAT THE VETERAN, AS HUSBAND, WAS NEVERTHELESS UNDER DUTY TO SUPPORT HIS WIFE, AND WHILE HIS ADJUSTED-SERVICE CERTIFICATE UNDER A MISTAKE OF FACT WAS PAID TO HIS WIFE, AS DESIGNATED BENEFICIARY, SUCH PAYMENT MAY NOW BE VIEWED AS APPLIED TO THE SUPPORT WHICH HE OTHERWISE WOULD HAVE BEEN REQUIRED TO FURNISH, OR AS OTHERWISE CONSTITUTING A PAYMENT TO HIMSELF THROUGH THE DOCTRINE THAT MAN AND WIFE ARE ONE IN THE EYES OF THE LAW- - THE ACTION OF THE WIFE IN THE MATTER OF PERFECTING HER CLAIM HAVING BEEN BONA FIDE. CF. A-57909, NOVEMBER 20, 1934, AND A-75119, JULY 23, 1936, TO YOU.

IN VIEW OF THE FACTS OF RECORD AND THE CIRCUMSTANCES APPEARING, IT MUST BE HELD THAT THE GOVERNMENT'S LIABILITY UNDER THE VETERAN'S ADJUSTED- SERVICE CERTIFICATE HAS BEEN EXTINGUISHED BY THE PAYMENT OF THE VETERAN'S CERTIFICATE TO HIS WIFE AND THAT THERE IS THEREFORE NO APPROPRIATION AVAILABLE FOR ANY FURTHER PAYMENT ON SAID CERTIFICATE--- THE MATTER BEING NOW FOR ADJUSTMENT BETWEEN THE VETERAN AND HIS WIFE.