B-178243 May 1, 1973

B-178243: May 1, 1973

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Schneebeli: Further reference is made to letter dated March 12. It appears that household goods and personal property of Colonel Colbert were placed in nontemporary storage with the Ace Van and Storage Company. 721.82 representing the loss of his property as a result of the fire was submitted by Colonel Colbert under the provisions of the Military Personnel and Civilian Employees' Claims Act. All the appropriate determinations as to whether the loss was compensable under the above-cited act were made by the Department of the Army. A determination was made by the Department of the Army on the basis of depreciation and adjustments reflecting values of the goods at the time of the loss. That the loss sustained was $21.

B-178243 May 1, 1973

The Honorable Herman T. Schneebeli House of Representatives

Dear Mr. Schneebeli:

Further reference is made to letter dated March 12, 1973, in which you request that we review the circumstances of Colonel Walter F. Colbert's loss of household goods and inform you as to whether he may be entitled to any additional compensation from the United States Government other than that which he has already received.

From the information before us, it appears that household goods and personal property of Colonel Colbert were placed in nontemporary storage with the Ace Van and Storage Company, Inc., Washington, D.C., on June 26, 1967, pursuant to competent orders. On April 12, 1970, it appears a warehouse fire destroyed the member's household goods and personal property.

A claim in the amount of $31, 721.82 representing the loss of his property as a result of the fire was submitted by Colonel Colbert under the provisions of the Military Personnel and Civilian Employees' Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 240-243. All the appropriate determinations as to whether the loss was compensable under the above-cited act were made by the Department of the Army.

Apparently under the law and regulations promulgated pursuant thereto, a determination was made by the Department of the Army on the basis of depreciation and adjustments reflecting values of the goods at the time of the loss, that the loss sustained was $21,707.97.

On October 13, 1970, Colonel Colbert was paid $10,000 by the Department of the Army. The sum of $10,000 represented the maximum amount payable under 31 U.S.C. 241. The Army reports that Colonel Colbert was paid the additional amount of $7,000 for the loss under a private insurance contract. This resulted in a loss of $4,707.97 on the basis of the $21,707.97 total loss figure established by the Department of the Army.

A bill for the relief of Colonel Colbert, H.R. 3478 (copy enclosed with your letter), was intruduced by you in the 92nd Congress on February 2, 1971, which if enacted would have authorized and directed the Secretary of the Treasury to pay Colonel Colbert the amount of $4,707.97 in full settlement of his claim against the United States. Apparently the bill was never reported out of the House Judiciary Committee, notwithstanding a favorable report thereon by the Department of the Army.

In your latter you indicate you have been told that the problem of dealing with larger losses in such cases has been met by the enactment of amendments increasing the amounts payable under public law rather than on a case by case basis by private law.

Under the provisions of the Military Personnel and Civilian Employees' Claims Act of 1964, approved August 31, 1964, 78 Stat. 767, as amended, 31 U.S.C. 240=243, the Secretary of a military department or the Secretary of Transportation with respect to the Coast Guard, may settle and pay all claims of military and civilian personnel under the jurisdiction of such department arising after August 31, 1964, against the United States for not more than $10,000 for damage to, or loss of, personal property incident to their service. The law provides that, if the claim is substantiated and the possession of that property is determined to be reasonable, useful, or proper under the circumstances, the claim may be paid or the property replaced in kind. Such settlements are final and conclusive.

Concerning your comments with regard to increasing the amounts payable, the act of September 15, 1965, Public Law 89-185, 79 Stat. 789, which amended the 1964 act, increased the limitation of the amount that may be paid by the appropriate Secretary in settling these claims from $6,500 to $10,000. However, the $10,000 limitation provided by that act still exists, and we are not aware of any pending legislation which would raise that limitation, if enacted into law.

Perhaps the information which you received concerning the raising of the limitation on the amounts payable, referred to an amendment to the law which raised the limitations of $6,500 payable to employees of non- military agencies of the Government to $10,000 for certain non-military agencies. See Public Law 92-352, approved July 13, 1972. This amendment, however, did not authorize an increase in the $10,000 limitation applicable to the military departments.

We are not aware of any provision of public law under which Colonel Colbert may be compensated for the loss of his personal property other than the Military Personnel and Civilian Employees' Claims Act of 1964.

We regret that we are unable to furnish a reply more favorable to your constituent.

Sincerely yours,

Paul G. Dembling Comptroller General of the United States