B-141311, DECEMBER 21, 1959, 39 COMP. GEN. 455

B-141311: Dec 21, 1959

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MILITARY PERSONNEL - GRATUITIES - REENLISTMENT BONUS PAYMENTS - RECOUPMENT - EFFECTIVE DATE OF DECISIONS OF THE COMPTROLLER GENERAL A DECISION OF THE COMPTROLLER GENERAL WHICH INVOLVES AN ORIGINAL CONSTRUCTION OF A STATUTE MUST BE REGARDED AS EFFECTIVE FROM THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF THE STATUTE WHICH IS BEING INTERPRETED. WHICH WAS RENDERED ON MAY 22. IS EFFECTIVE FROM JULY 16. THE CONCLUSION THAT MEMBERS WHO WERE PAID REENLISTMENT BONUSES ON THE DATE OF THE EXTENSION AGREEMENT. RATHER THAN THE NORMAL DATE OF EXPIRATION OF THE THEN CURRENT ENLISTMENT ARE INDEBTED FOR SUCH REENLISTMENT BONUS. HE WAS CREDITED A REENLISTMENT BONUS AS FOR A FIRST REENLISTMENT FOR THREE YEARS IN THE AMOUNT OF $538.20.

B-141311, DECEMBER 21, 1959, 39 COMP. GEN. 455

MILITARY PERSONNEL - GRATUITIES - REENLISTMENT BONUS PAYMENTS - RECOUPMENT - EFFECTIVE DATE OF DECISIONS OF THE COMPTROLLER GENERAL A DECISION OF THE COMPTROLLER GENERAL WHICH INVOLVES AN ORIGINAL CONSTRUCTION OF A STATUTE MUST BE REGARDED AS EFFECTIVE FROM THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF THE STATUTE WHICH IS BEING INTERPRETED; THEREFORE, THE DECISION 35 COMP. GEN. 663, WHICH WAS RENDERED ON MAY 22, 1956, AND WHICH CONSTRUED THE REENLISTMENT BONUS PROVISIONS OF SECTION 208 (A), OF THE CAREER COMPENSATION ACT OF 1949, AS ADDED BY SECTION 2 OF THE ACT OF JULY 16, 1954, 37 U.S.C. 239, IS EFFECTIVE FROM JULY 16, 1954, AND THE CONCLUSION THAT MEMBERS WHO WERE PAID REENLISTMENT BONUSES ON THE DATE OF THE EXTENSION AGREEMENT, RATHER THAN THE NORMAL DATE OF EXPIRATION OF THE THEN CURRENT ENLISTMENT ARE INDEBTED FOR SUCH REENLISTMENT BONUS, MUST BE APPLIED TO ANY APPLICABLE CASE WHETHER ARISING BEFORE OF AFTER MAY 22, 1956, THE DATE OF THE DECISION.

TO THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE, DECEMBER 21, 1959:

ON FEBRUARY 18, 1959, THE ARMY FINANCE CENTER, INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA, MADE A DETERMINATION OF UNCOLLECTIBILITY OF THE INDEBTEDNESS IN THE AMOUNT OF $896.19 OF A FORMER MEMBER OF THE U.S. ARMY, RALPH F. HOOKER, JR., RA 44 163 106, AND REPORTED THE DEBT TO THIS OFFICE FOR COLLECTION.

THE RECORD SHOWS THAT THE MEMBER ENLISTED IN THE REGULAR ARMY ON FEBRUARY 28, 1955, FOR A PERIOD OF THREE YEARS AND THAT ON JANUARY 24, 1956, HE EXTENDED SUCH ENLISTMENT TO SIX YEARS. BY REASON OF THE EXTENSION, HE WAS CREDITED A REENLISTMENT BONUS AS FOR A FIRST REENLISTMENT FOR THREE YEARS IN THE AMOUNT OF $538.20, UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF SECTION 208 (A) OF THE CAREER COMPENSATION ACT OF 1949, AS ADDED BY SECTION 2 OF THE ACT OF JULY 16, 1954, 68 STAT. 488, 37 U.S.C. 239. HE WAS DISCHARGED FROM ACTIVE MILITARY SERVICE ON NOVEMBER 2, 1956, PRIOR TO COMPLETING HIS THREE-YEAR TERM OF SERVICE, BY REASON OF MEDICAL DISQUALIFICATION WHICH EXISTED PRIOR TO ENTRY INTO THE SERVICE. THE REENLISTMENT BONUS WAS INCLUDED IN THE ITEMS OF INDEBTEDNESS REPORTED AS UNCOLLECTIBLE.

IN RESPONSE TO AN INJURY MADE BY THIS OFFICE ON OCTOBER 7, 1959, CONCERNING THE REASON FOR RECOUPMENT OF THE REENLISTMENT BONUS IN THE AMOUNT OF $538.20, THE FINANCE CENTER, U.S. ARMY, INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA, REPORTED ON OCTOBER 16, 1959, THAT RECOUPMENT OF THE REENLISTMENT BONUS WAS PROPERLY MADE ON THE SERVICE MEMBER'S MILITARY PAY RECORD IN ACCORDANCE WITH OUR DECISION DATED MAY 22, 1956, 35 COMP. GEN. 663, BUT THAT COLLECTION ACTION SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN TAKEN IN THIS CASE IN VIEW OF THE INFORMATION FURNISHED BY FIRST ENDORSEMENT FROM THE CHIEF OF FINANCE, FINEM 242.15, IN REPLY TO LETTER FROM THE COMMANDING GENERAL, FINANCE CENTER, U.S. ARMY, INDIANAPOLIS, 49, INDIANA, DATED JULY 10, 1956. THE ENDORSEMENT CITED STATES IN PART THAT NO COLLECTION ACTION SHOULD BE TAKEN IN THOSE CASES WHERE PRIOR TO MAY 22, 1956, MEMBERS WERE PAID REENLISTMENT BONUSES ON THE DATE OF THE EXTENSION AGREEMENT RATHER THAN AFTER THE NORMAL DATE OF EXPIRATION OF THE ENLISTMENT THEN CURRENT.

THUS IT IS INDICATED THAT THE DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY IS GIVING ONLY PROSPECTIVE EFFECT TO THE ABOVE-CITED DECISION IN THIS AND SIMILAR CASES. HOWEVER, THE DECISION DID NOT AUTHORIZE SUCH APPLICATION NOR DO WE CONSIDER IT IN OUR PROVINCE TO LIMIT THE EFFECT OF THAT DECISION SO THAT IT WILL APPLY PROSPECTIVELY ONLY. THAT DECISION IS AN ORIGINAL CONSTRUCTION OF SECTION 208 (A) OF THE CAREER COMPENSATION ACT AND UNDER WELL-ESTABLISHED RULES IT MUST BE REGARDED AS EFFECTIVE ON THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF THE STATUTORY PROVISIONS THAT IT CONSTRUES. SEE 32 COMP. GEN. 17, 18 AND 27 ID. 686, 688. CONSEQUENTLY, THE CONCLUSION IS REQUIRED THAT THE HOLDING IN OUR DECISION OF MAY 22, 1956, APPLIES TO ANY APPLICABLE CASE--- WHETHER ARISING BEFORE OR AFTER THE DATE OF SUCH DECISION--- IN WHICH A MEMBER OF THE ARMY OR AIR FORCE IS PAID A REENLISTMENT BONUS UNDER SECTION 208 (A) OF THE CAREER COMPENSATION ACT FOR AN EXTENSION OF AN ENLISTMENT.

ACCORDINGLY, IT IS REQUESTED THAT APPROPRIATE ACTION BE TAKEN TO CORRECT THE ADMINISTRATIVE ACTION REFERRED TO ABOVE AND TO GIVE PROPER EFFECT TO THE DECISION FROM THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF SECTION 208 AS ADDED BY THE 1954 ACT.