B-156732, MAY 24, 1965

B-156732: May 24, 1965

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BY WHICH YOU WERE ALLOWED $562.31 AS WIDOWER OF AZALEE F. THE SETTLEMENT WAS PREDICATED UPON A STATEMENT DATED SEPTEMBER 17. THE LATE AZALEE HINES FROM WHOM I HAVE BEEN SEPARATED. SHE (GLADYS TORA ELLIOTT) WILL BE FULLY RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL BILLS DUE OR ABOUT TO BECOME DUE OF SAID LATE AZALEE HINES.'. WHICH ESTABLISHED THE ORDER OF PRECEDENCE IN WHICH NEXT OF KIN OF A DECEASED EMPLOYEE OF THE UNITED STATES ARE ENTITLED TO HIS OR HER UNPAID COMPENSATION. NEITHER MAY SUCH A CLAIMANT ASSIGN HIS CLAIM AGAINST THE UNITED STATES TO ANOTHER SINCE THE LAW PROVIDES THAT SUCH ATTEMPTED ASSIGNMENTS ARE NULL AND VOID. THE SETTLEMENT IN YOUR FAVOR WAS MADE SOLELY UPON YOUR ALLEGATION IN THE ABOVE-QUOTED STATEMENT THAT AZALEE HINES WAS YOUR "LEGAL WIFE.'.

B-156732, MAY 24, 1965

TO MR. JOHN (GENERAL) ALBERT HINES:

WE REFER TO GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE SETTLEMENT OF OCTOBER 13, 1964, BY WHICH YOU WERE ALLOWED $562.31 AS WIDOWER OF AZALEE F. HINES, REPRESENTING UNPAID COMPENSATION DUE THE DECEDENT AS A FORMER EMPLOYEE OF THE VETERANS ADMINISTRATION HOSPITAL, FT. HOWARD, MARYLAND.

THE SETTLEMENT WAS PREDICATED UPON A STATEMENT DATED SEPTEMBER 17, 1964, FURNISHED BY YOU WHICH READS AS FOLLOWS:

"I, GENERAL ALBERT HINES, DO HEREBY RELINQUISH ALL MY RIGHT AND TITLE TO ANY OR ALL BENEFITS (DEATH), ACCRUED RETIREMENT, BACK WAGES, VACATION PAYS, ETC. OF MAY LEGAL WIFE, THE LATE AZALEE HINES FROM WHOM I HAVE BEEN SEPARATED.

"I HEREBY AUTHORIZE ALL BENEFITS TO BE MADE PAYABLE TO MY STEP DAUGHTER, GLADYS TORA ELLIOTT OF 413 E. 22ND ST. BALTIMORE, MARYLAND. SHE (GLADYS TORA ELLIOTT) WILL BE FULLY RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL BILLS DUE OR ABOUT TO BECOME DUE OF SAID LATE AZALEE HINES.'

THE ACT OF AUGUST 3, 1950, 64 STAT. 395, AS AMENDED, 5 U.S.C. 61F, WHICH ESTABLISHED THE ORDER OF PRECEDENCE IN WHICH NEXT OF KIN OF A DECEASED EMPLOYEE OF THE UNITED STATES ARE ENTITLED TO HIS OR HER UNPAID COMPENSATION, DOES NOT PERMIT A SURVIVOR OF A HIGHER ORDER OF PREFERENCE, SUCH AS WIDOWER, TO WAIVE HIS STATUTORY RIGHT IN FAVOR OF A CHILD OF THE DECEDENT. NEITHER MAY SUCH A CLAIMANT ASSIGN HIS CLAIM AGAINST THE UNITED STATES TO ANOTHER SINCE THE LAW PROVIDES THAT SUCH ATTEMPTED ASSIGNMENTS ARE NULL AND VOID. SECTION 3477, REVISED STATUTES, 31 U.S.C. 203. THEREFORE, THE SETTLEMENT IN YOUR FAVOR WAS MADE SOLELY UPON YOUR ALLEGATION IN THE ABOVE-QUOTED STATEMENT THAT AZALEE HINES WAS YOUR "LEGAL WIFE.'

EVIDENCE COMING INTO OUR POSSESSION SINCE THE SETTLEMENT MADE IN YOUR FAVOR SHOWS THAT PRIOR TO YOUR CEREMONIAL MARRIAGE TO AZALEE FELDER ON MARCH 18, 1936, IN BALTIMORE, MARYLAND, YOU PREVIOUSLY HAD MARRIED VICTORIA THARPS ON NOVEMBER 27, 1932, IN HOPEWELL, VIRGINIA. YOUR FIRST MARRIAGE, IE., TO VICTORIA THARPS APPARENTLY WAS NOT DISSOLVED UNTIL NOVEMBER 2, 1943, WHEN VICTORIA WAS GRANTED A DECREE OF DIVORCE A VINCULO MATRIMONII BY CIRCUIT COURT NO. 2 OF BALTIMORE CITY.

SINCE YOU WERE MARRIED TO VICTORIA THARPS OR THARPE, ON MARCH 18, 1936, THERE EXISTED A LEGAL IMPEDIMENT TO YOUR CEREMONIAL MARRIAGE TO AZALEE FELDER ON THAT DATE AND THE LATTER MARRIAGE MUST BE CONSIDERED NULL AND VOID. FURTHER, UNDER THE LAW OF THE STATE OF MARYLAND A VALID COMMON LAW MARRIAGE MAY NOT BE CONTRACTED BY ACTS OF THE PARTIES IN THAT STATE.

THEREFORE, UNLESS YOU CAN ESTABLISH BY CONCLUSIVE EVIDENCE THAT AFTER NOVEMBER 2, 1943, YOU AND AZALEE FELDER WERE EITHER CEREMONIALLY MARRIED OR LIVED TOGETHER AS HUSBAND AND WIFE AND AS LEGAL RESIDENTS OF A STATE OR OTHER JURISDICTION IN WHICH VALID COMMON LAW MARRIAGES CAN BE CONTRACTED BY THE PARTIES ALONE, WE MUST FIND THAT AZALEE FELDER WAS NOT YOUR "LEGAL WIFE" AT THE TIME OF HER DEATH.

YOU ARE REQUESTED THEREFORE TO FURNISH, IF POSSIBLE, CONCLUSIVE EVIDENCE THAT AZALEE FELDER WAS YOUR "LEGAL WIFE" AT THE TIME OF HER DEATH. OTHERWISE, YOU MUST MAKE REFUND OF $562.31 ALLOWED YOU BY OUR OFFICE SETTLEMENT OF OCTOBER 13, 1964, WHICH MAY BE REMITTED BY CHECK OR POSTAL MONEY ORDER PAYABLE TO THE "UNITED STATES GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE," 441 G STREET, N.W., WASHINGTON, D.C. 20548.