B-128358, JUL. 9, 1956

B-128358: Jul 9, 1956

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FULCHER: RECEIPT IS ACKNOWLEDGED OF YOUR LETTER DATED MAY 16. HE WAS INDEBTED TO THE UNITED STATES IN THE TOTAL AMOUNT OF $909.50 FOR HOSPITAL SERVICES RENDERED IN HIS BEHALF DURING THE PERIOD FROM NOVEMBER 18 TO DECEMBER 22. YOU WERE ADVISED THAT THE ABOVE- DESCRIBED CHECK. WAS CANCELED AND THE PROCEEDS WERE APPLIED IN PARTIAL LIQUIDATION OF HIS INDEBTEDNESS TO THE UNITED STATES LEAVING AN UNPAID BALANCE OF $844.50. YOU INDICATE THAT THE ARRANGEMENTS FOR HOSPITAL TREATMENT IN RICHMOND WERE NOT MADE BY MR. FULCHER NOTIFIED OFFICIALS THERE THAT HE WAS FINANCIALLY UNABLE TO PAY FOR HOSPITALIZATION. THAT AFTER EXAMINATION "HE WAS ASKED TO STAY WITH THE UNDERSTANDING HE WAS NOT TO PAY FOR HIS HOSPITAL EXPENSES.'.

B-128358, JUL. 9, 1956

TO MRS. GERTIE J. FULCHER:

RECEIPT IS ACKNOWLEDGED OF YOUR LETTER DATED MAY 16, 1956, RELATIVE TO YOUR CLAIM FOR THE PROCEEDS OF TREASURY CHECK NO. 2,158,368, FOR $65, DATED JANUARY 31, 1956, DRAWN TO THE ORDER OF ARTHUR J. FULCHER, NOW DECEASED.

INFORMATION ON FILE HERE DISCLOSES THAT AT THE TIME OF MR. FULCHER'S DEATH ON JANUARY 31, 1956, HE WAS INDEBTED TO THE UNITED STATES IN THE TOTAL AMOUNT OF $909.50 FOR HOSPITAL SERVICES RENDERED IN HIS BEHALF DURING THE PERIOD FROM NOVEMBER 18 TO DECEMBER 22, 1953, AND FROM APRIL 19 TO MAY 13, 1955, BY THE VETERANS ADMINISTRATION HOSPITAL, RICHMOND, VIRGINIA. IN OUR LETTER OF MAY 14, 1956, YOU WERE ADVISED THAT THE ABOVE- DESCRIBED CHECK, WHICH REPRESENTED RETIRED PAY DUE THE DECEDENT FOR THE MONTH OF JANUARY 1956, WAS CANCELED AND THE PROCEEDS WERE APPLIED IN PARTIAL LIQUIDATION OF HIS INDEBTEDNESS TO THE UNITED STATES LEAVING AN UNPAID BALANCE OF $844.50.

YOU EXPRESS THE VIEW THAT AS WIDOW OF THE DECEDENT YOU SHOULD BE ENTITLED TO PAYMENT ON THE CHECK AND REQUEST TO BE INFORMED AS TO THE LEGAL AUTHORITY OF THE GOVERNMENT TO WITHHOLD THE PROCEEDS FROM YOU. YOU INDICATE THAT THE ARRANGEMENTS FOR HOSPITAL TREATMENT IN RICHMOND WERE NOT MADE BY MR. FULCHER BUT BY PERSONNEL IN CHARGE OF THE UNITED STATES MARINE HOSPITAL (PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE HOSPITAL), NORFOLK, VIRGINIA. ALSO, YOU STATE THAT UPON ENTERING THE HOSPITAL AT RICHMOND MR. FULCHER NOTIFIED OFFICIALS THERE THAT HE WAS FINANCIALLY UNABLE TO PAY FOR HOSPITALIZATION, AND THAT AFTER EXAMINATION "HE WAS ASKED TO STAY WITH THE UNDERSTANDING HE WAS NOT TO PAY FOR HIS HOSPITAL EXPENSES.'

WE HAVE NO DETAILED INFORMATION CONCERNING THE ARRANGEMENTS FOR TREATMENT OF MR. FULCHER AT THE VETERANS ADMINISTRATION HOSPITAL. THERE IS NOTHING OF RECORD HERE, HOWEVER, TO INDICATE THAT HE WAS ELIGIBLE TO RECEIVE MEDICAL TREATMENT AND HOSPITALIZATION FREE OF CHARGE. ON THE CONTRARY, THE RECORD SHOWS THAT THE DECEDENT WAS NOT A VETERAN AND, THEREFORE, HE WAS NOT ENTITLED TO VETERANS ADMINISTRATION BENEFITS. BY LETTER DATED SEPTEMBER 2, 1955, DEMAND FOR PAYMENT OF $909.50 DUE THE UNITED STATES WAS MADE UPON THE DEBTOR BY THE VETERANS ADMINISTRATION HOSPITAL, RICHMOND, VIRGINIA. THEREAFTER, BY LETTER DATED FEBRUARY 6, 1956, THE ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE FORWARDED THE CLAIM HERE FOR COLLECTION.

THE RIGHT OF SETOFF HAS BEEN HELD TO BE INHERENT IN THE UNITED STATES AND TO BE GROUNDED IN THE COMMON-LAW RIGHT OF EVERY CREDITOR TO APPLY THE MONEYS OF HIS DEBTOR IN HIS HANDS TO THE EXTINGUISHMENT OF THE AMOUNTS DUE HIM FROM THE DEBTOR. GRATIOT V. UNITED STATES, 40 U.S. 336; MCKNIGHT V. UNITED STATES, 98 U.S. 178; BARRY V. UNITED STATES, 229 U.S. 47. THUS, WHERE A PERSON IS BOTH DEBTOR AND CREDITOR TO THE GOVERNMENT IN ANY FORM, THE ACCOUNTING OFFICERS ARE REQUIRED BY LAW TO CONSIDER BOTH THE DEBITS AND CREDITS AND TO SET OFF ONE INDEBTEDNESS AGAINST THE OTHER, AND CERTIFY ONLY THE BALANCE. TAGGART V. UNITED STATES, 17 C.CLS. 322.

IN VIEW OF THE ABOVE, THE ACTION TAKEN TO SET OFF THE SUM DUE THE ESTATE OF THE DECEDENT AGAINST THE AMOUNT DUE THE UNITED STATES IS FOUND TO HAVE BEEN JUSTIFIED AND IN COMPLIANCE WITH THE LAW. CONSEQUENTLY, SUCH ACTION MUST BE SUSTAINED.