B-166677, MAY 29, 1969, 48 COMP. GEN. 762

B-166677: May 29, 1969

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DIRECT TRAVELING REQUIREMENT THE SIX MONTHS' DEATH GRATUITY PRESCRIBED IN 32 U.S.C. 321 (A) (3) FOR PAYMENT TO THE BENEFICIARY OF A MEMBER OF THE NATIONAL GUARD WHO DIES FROM AN INJURY INCURRED WHILE TRAVELING DIRECTLY TO OR FROM INACTIVE TRAINING IS NOT PAYABLE INCIDENT TO THE DEATH OF A MEMBER WHO WHEN DISMISSED FROM A REGULARLY SCHEDULED DRILL PROCEEDED TO A TRUCK STOP IN A DIRECTION AWAY FROM HIS RESIDENCE WHERE HE STAYED APPROXIMATELY 1 HOUR. THEN WHILE EN ROUTE TO HIS HOME WAS INVOLVED IN THE ACCIDENT THAT RESULTED IN HIS DEATH. AS THE MEMBER IS NOT CONSIDERED TO HAVE BEEN TRAVELING DIRECTLY FROM THE TRAINING PLACE TO HIS HOME. 1969: REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR LETTER DATED MARCH 3.

B-166677, MAY 29, 1969, 48 COMP. GEN. 762

GRATUITIES--SIX MONTHS' DEATH--INACTIVE DUTY TRAINING--DIRECT TRAVELING REQUIREMENT THE SIX MONTHS' DEATH GRATUITY PRESCRIBED IN 32 U.S.C. 321 (A) (3) FOR PAYMENT TO THE BENEFICIARY OF A MEMBER OF THE NATIONAL GUARD WHO DIES FROM AN INJURY INCURRED WHILE TRAVELING DIRECTLY TO OR FROM INACTIVE TRAINING IS NOT PAYABLE INCIDENT TO THE DEATH OF A MEMBER WHO WHEN DISMISSED FROM A REGULARLY SCHEDULED DRILL PROCEEDED TO A TRUCK STOP IN A DIRECTION AWAY FROM HIS RESIDENCE WHERE HE STAYED APPROXIMATELY 1 HOUR, AND THEN WHILE EN ROUTE TO HIS HOME WAS INVOLVED IN THE ACCIDENT THAT RESULTED IN HIS DEATH, AS THE MEMBER IS NOT CONSIDERED TO HAVE BEEN TRAVELING DIRECTLY FROM THE TRAINING PLACE TO HIS HOME, EITHER IN POINT OF TIME OR ROUTE, WHEN THE ACCIDENT OCCURRED AND, THEREFORE, THE CASE DOES NOT FALL WITHIN THE MEANING OF SECTION 321 (A) (3) AND IMPLEMENTING REGULATIONS.

TO LIEUTENANT COLONEL J. E. FARR, DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY, MAY 29, 1969:

REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR LETTER DATED MARCH 3, 1969, WITH ENCLOSURES, FORWARDED HERE BY LETTER DATED APRIL 14, 1969, FROM THE OFFICE OF THE COMPTROLLER OF THE ARMY, REQUESTING AN ADVANCE DECISION AS TO PROPRIETY OF PAYMENT OF A SUBMITTED VOUCHER FOR $1,339.20, REPRESENTING THE 6 MONTHS' GRATUITY PAYMENT INCIDENT TO THE DEATH OF SPECIALIST FOUR ROSWELL S. WILLIS, NG 24803914. YOUR REQUEST HAS BEEN ASSIGNED D.O. NO. A-1033 BY THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE MILITARY PAY AND ALLOWANCE COMMITTEE.

THE RECORD DISCLOSES THE FOLLOWING FACTS WITH RESPECT TO THE DEATH OF SPECIALIST WILLIS. HE WAS A MEMBER OF THE MAINTENANCE SECTION AND 3D RIFLE PLATOON, COMPANY A, 2D BATTALION (M) 121ST INFANTRY, GEORGIA ARMY NATIONAL GUARD, QUITMAN, GEORGIA. HE WAS PRESENT FOR A REGULARLY SCHEDULED DRILL ON FEBRUARY 3, 1968, AND WAS DISMISSED FROM DUTY AT 9:30 P.M. HE THEN PROCEEDED TO THE QUITMAN TRUCK STOP, WHERE HE STAYED FOR APPROXIMATELY 1 HOUR. HE LEFT THERE FOR HIS HOME NEAR BOSTON, GEORGIA, AND WHILE TRAVELING AT A HIGH RATE OF SPEED HIS AUTOMOBILE OVERTURNED AT ABOUT 10:45 P.M; RESULTING IN HIS INJURY. HE WAS TAKEN TO ARCHBOLD MEMORIAL HOSPITAL, BROOKS COUNTY, GEORGIA, AND DIED AS A RESULT OF THE ACCIDENT ON FEBRUARY 27, 1968, WITHOUT EVER REGAINING CONSCIOUSNESS.

THE REPORT OF INVESTIGATION AND SUPPORTING PAPERS SHOW THAT THE TRUCK STOP IS LOCATED 2 MILES EACH OF QUITMAN, GEORGIA, AND THAT THE ACCIDENT OCCURRED 2 MILES WEST OF THAT CITY ON THE MOST DIRECT ROUTE TO THE DECEDENT'S HOME.

YOUR QUESTION IS WHETHER SPECIALIST WILLIS WAS TRAVELING DIRECTLY FROM INACTIVE DUTY TRAINING PURSUANT TO SECTION 321 (A) (3) OF TITLE 32, U.S. CODE, AT THE TIME OF THE ACCIDENT.

SECTION 321 (A) (3) OF TITLE 32, U.S. CODE, PROVIDES THAT THE BENEFICIARY OF A MEMBER OF THE NATIONAL GUARD IS ENTITLED TO PAYMENT OF THE 6 MONTHS' DEATH GRATUITY IF THE MEMBER DIED FROM AN INJURY INCURRED WHILE TRAVELING DIRECTLY TO OR FROM INACTIVE DUTY TRAINING. PARAGRAPH 80342A (2) MILITARY PAY AND ALLOWANCES ENTITLEMENTS MANUAL PROVIDES THAT THE ELIGIBLE BENEFICIARIES OF A MEMBER OF A RESERVE COMPONENT ARE ENTITLED TO PAYMENT OF A DEATH GRATUITY, REGARDLESS OF WHETHER DEATH OCCURRED IN THE LINE OF DUTY OR WAS THE RESULT OF THE MEMBER'S MISCONDUCT, IF HE DIED FROM AN INJURY INCURRED WHILE TRAVELING DIRECTLY TO OR FROM INACTIVE DUTY TRAINING.

THE SOLE ISSUE PRESENTED HERE IS WHETHER OR NOT WILLIS WAS TRAVELING DIRECTLY FROM THE NATIONAL GUARD ARMORY TO HIS HOME WITHIN THE MEANING OF SECTION 321 (A) (3) AND IMPLEMENTING REGULATIONS, AS SET FORTH ABOVE, AT THE TIME OF THE ACCIDENT.

THE DEATH GRATUITY EQUAL TO 6 MONTHS PAY IS A GRATUITOUS PAYMENT TO SURVIVORS OF DECEASED SERVICEMEN AND IS SIMILAR TO INSURANCE IN THAT IT MAY BE PAID ONLY TO CERTAIN PERSONS REGARDED AS HAVING AN INSURABLE INTEREST IN THE MEMBER. THUS, WHAT THE COURTS HAVE SAID IN INSURANCE CASES APPEARS TO BE FOR APPLICATION.

IN THE CASE OF METZLER V LONDON GUARANTEE AND ACCIDENT COMPANY, 90 A.2D 81, THE 8-YEAR OLD PLAINTFF WAS INSURED UNDER A STUDENT MEDICAL ACCIDENT POLICY ISSUED BY THE DEFENDANT, WHICH INSURED HIM AGAINST MEDICAL EXPENSE CAUSED BY ACCIDENTAL BODILY INJURIES SUSTAINED: "WHILE GOING DIRECTLY FROM HOME TO SCHOOL AND DIRECTLY FROM SCHOOL TO HOME."

THE PLAINTIFF HAD CROSSED THE STREET WHILE ON HIS WAY HOME FROM SCHOOL TO GO UPON PRIVATE PROPERTY AND WAS INJURED WHILE PLAYING ON A DWELLING UNDER CONSTRUCTION. THE COURT HELD THAT THE WORD "DIRECTLY" MEANT IN A STRAIGHT LINE OR COURSE, WITHOUT DIGRESSION OR DEVIATION AND THEREFOR, WHERE THE STUDENT CROSSED THE STREET AND WENT ONTO PRIVATE PROPERTY AND WAS INJURED, THE LOSS WAS NOT WITHIN THE PROTECTION OF THE POLICY. IN DEFINING THE WORD "DIRECTLY" THE COURT CONSULTED WEBSTER'S NEW INTERNATIONAL DICTIONARY, BLACK'S LAW DICTIONARY, WORDS AND PHRASES, AND CORPUS JURIS SECUNDUM, ALL OF WHICH IN EFFECT DEFINE THE WORD "DIRECTLY" TO MEAN IN A DIRECT MANNER; IN A STRAIGHT LINE; WITHOUT DEVIATION, ETC. SEE ALSO GARRETT V PILOT LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, 128 S.E. 2D 171.

ALSO, IN CONSTRUING LANGUAGE OF INSURANCE POLICIES, THE COURTS HAVE HELD THAT WHERE THE PROVISIONS ARE PLAIN AND CERTAIN THERE IS NO ROOM FOR CONSTRUCTION, AND THE LANGUAGE SHOULD BE TAKEN IN ITS PLAIN, ORDINARY, POPULAR SENSE. LUNDQUIST V ILLINOIS LIFE AND ACC. INS. CO; 164 N.E. 2D 293, 297. SIMILARLY, IN CONSTRUING LANGUAGE OF STATUTES, WE HAVE HELD THAT IF THE LANGUAGE OF A STATUTE IS PLAIN AND FREE FROM AMBIGUITY, AND EXPRESSES A SINGLE, DEFINITE, AND SENSIBLE MEANING, THAT MEANING IS PRESUMED TO BE THE MEANING WHICH THE LEGISLATIVE BODY INTENDED TO CONVEY. 21 COMP. GEN. 510, 512; 43 ID. 783, 785.

AS STATED ABOVE, WILLIS DID NOT PROCEED DIRECTLY TO HIS RESIDENCE WHEN DISMISSED FROM THE DRILL AT 9:30 P.M; BUT PROCEEDED TO THE TRUCK STOP 2 MILES EAST OF QUITMAN AND IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION FROM HIS RESIDENCE. AFTER REMAINING THERE FOR APPROXIMATELY 1 HOUR, HE COMMENCED TRAVEL TO HIS RESIDENCE AND WAS INVOLVED IN AN ACCIDENT EN ROUTE WHICH RESULTED IN HIS DEATH. IN THESE CIRCUMSTANCES, WE ARE OF THE OPINION THAT HE WAS NOT TRAVELING DIRECTLY, EITHER IN POINT OF TIME OR BY THE DIRECT ROUTE, FROM THE PLACE OF TRAINING TO HIS RESIDENCE WHEN THE ACCIDENT OCCURRED. SEE GRASER V MUTUAL OF OMAHA INSURANCE COMPANY, 217 N.E. 2D 373, 376. CONSEQUENTLY, HIS CASE DOES NOT FALL WITHIN THE COVERAGE OF SECTION 321 (A) (3) OF TITLE 32, U.S.C. CF. B-164204, JULY 12, 1968, AND DECISIONS CITED THEREIN.

ACCORDINGLY, PAYMENT ON THE VOUCHER, WHICH WILL BE RETAINED HERE, IS NOT AUTHORIZED.