B-126296, FEB. 20, 1956

B-126296: Feb 20, 1956

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WAS COMMITTED TO THE ABOVE-MENTIONED INSTITUTION FOR THE TREATMENT OF A SERIOUS MENTAL DISORDER. ALTHOUGH HIS CONDITION IS REPORTED TO HAVE IMPROVED. IT IS ALSO REPORTED THAT AT THE TIME OF SUCH RELEASE A DETERMINATION WAS MADE THAT HE WAS NOT MENTALLY CAPABLE OF MANAGING HIS OWN AFFAIRS AND THAT THE APPOINTMENT OF A GUARDIAN WAS RECOMMENDED. IT WAS CONCLUDED IN OUR SETTLEMENT THAT PAYMENT OF THE CLAIM FROM FUNDS TO HIS CREDIT WITH THE GOVERNMENT MAY BE MADE ONLY TO A DULY APPOINTED GUARDIAN. YOU IMPLY THAT UNDER THE LAWS OF THE STATE OF WASHINGTON THE DETERMINATION BY THE COURT THAT A PERSON IS INSANE AND SHOULD BE COMMITTED TO A STATE HOSPITAL DOES NOT NECESSARILY MEAN THAT SUCH PERSON IS MENTALLY INCOMPETENT TO HANDLE HIS AFFAIRS.

B-126296, FEB. 20, 1956

TO DR. THOMAS A. HARRIS, DIRECTOR, DEPARTMENT OF INSTITUTIONS:

YOUR RECENT LETTER REQUESTS RECONSIDERATION OF OUR SETTLEMENT WHICH DISALLOWED THE CLAIM OF THE EASTERN STATE HOSPITAL, MEDICAL LAKE, WASHINGTON, FOR THE SUM OF $305.24, REPRESENTING UNPAID CHARGES FOR MEDICAL AND HOSPITAL SERVICES RENDERED IN BEHALF OF MR. WALTER W. STERBA (E 17742) DURING THE PERIOD FROM OCTOBER 23, 1953, TO AUGUST 24, 1954.

THE RECORD SHOWS THAT MR. STERBA, AN EMPLOYEE OF THE BONNEVILLE POWER ADMINISTRATION, WAS COMMITTED TO THE ABOVE-MENTIONED INSTITUTION FOR THE TREATMENT OF A SERIOUS MENTAL DISORDER. ALTHOUGH HIS CONDITION IS REPORTED TO HAVE IMPROVED, RESULTING IN HIS RELEASE (PAROLE) BY THE HOSPITAL ON AUGUST 28, 1954, IT IS ALSO REPORTED THAT AT THE TIME OF SUCH RELEASE A DETERMINATION WAS MADE THAT HE WAS NOT MENTALLY CAPABLE OF MANAGING HIS OWN AFFAIRS AND THAT THE APPOINTMENT OF A GUARDIAN WAS RECOMMENDED. CONSEQUENTLY, IT WAS CONCLUDED IN OUR SETTLEMENT THAT PAYMENT OF THE CLAIM FROM FUNDS TO HIS CREDIT WITH THE GOVERNMENT MAY BE MADE ONLY TO A DULY APPOINTED GUARDIAN.

IN YOUR LETTER OF NOVEMBER 18, 1955, YOU IMPLY THAT UNDER THE LAWS OF THE STATE OF WASHINGTON THE DETERMINATION BY THE COURT THAT A PERSON IS INSANE AND SHOULD BE COMMITTED TO A STATE HOSPITAL DOES NOT NECESSARILY MEAN THAT SUCH PERSON IS MENTALLY INCOMPETENT TO HANDLE HIS AFFAIRS. YOU EXPRESS THE VIEW THAT SINCE MR. STERBA HAS NEVER BEEN DECLARED LEGALLY INCOMPETENT, AND NOW IS ON PAROLE FROM THE STATE HOSPITAL, THE SUPERINTENDENT CAN BE MADE THE CUSTODIAN OF HIS PERSONAL PROPERTY AND RECEIVE PAYMENT OF THE SUM CLAIMED IN ACCORDANCE WITH SECTION 71.02.570, REVISED CODE OF WASHINGTON.

IT IS A PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITY OF THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE IN EFFECTING THE SETTLEMENT OF CLAIMS OF CREDITORS OF THE GOVERNMENT, SUCH AS THAT OF MR. STERBA-S, TO OBTAIN IN THE SETTLEMENT A VALID ACQUITTANCE FOR THE UNITED STATES. WHILE SUBSECTION (1) OF SECTION 71.02.570, REVISED CODE OF WASHINGTON, PROVIDES THAT THE SUPERINTENDENT OF A STATE HOSPITAL SHALL BE THE GUARDIAN OF SUCH PERSONAL PROPERTY AS MAY COME INTO HIS CUSTODY WHILE THE PATIENT IS UNDER THE JURISDICTION OF THE HOSPITAL, IT IS NOT APPARENT FROM THE STATUTE THAT HE IS AUTHORIZED TO COLLECT THE ASSETS OF THE ESTATE OF PERSONS COMMITTED TO HIS JURISDICTION AND GIVE GOOD ACQUITANCES TO DEBTORS OF THE PERSONS SO COMMITTED.

ACCORDINGLY, ON THE BASIS OF THE PRESENT RECORD, WE WOULD NOT BE WARRANTED IN EFFECTING SETTLEMENT WITH ANY ONE OTHER THAN A DULY APPOINTED GUARDIAN OF THE ESTATE OF MR. STERBA AND OUR DISALLOWANCE OF NOVEMBER 10, 1955, MUST BE AND IS SUSTAINED.

FOR YOUR INFORMATION, IT IS UNDERSTOOD THAT THE UNITED STATES CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION, RETIREMENT DIVISION, WASHINGTON 25, D.C., HAS RECEIVED AND APPROVED AN APPLICATION ON BEHALF OF THE FORMER EMPLOYEE FOR DISABILITY RETIREMENT, BUT THAT THE COMMISSION ALSO IS WITHHOLDING THE MONTHLY PAYMENTS DUE IN THE ABSENCE OF A CLAIM THEREFOR FROM HIS DULY APPOINTED GUARDIAN.