B-180184, AUG 21, 1974

B-180184: Aug 21, 1974

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AIR FORCE MEMBER WHO SHIPPED HOUSEHOLD EFFECTS IN EXCESS OF AUTHORIZED ALLOWABLE WEIGHT MAY NOT BE RELIEVED OF LIABILITY TO AIR FORCE SINCE IT IS WELL SETTLED THAT GOVERNMENT IS NOT BOUND BY INCORRECT STATEMENTS OF ITS AGENTS AND EMPLOYEES. FURTHER SINCE EXCESS WEIGHT IS AN ADMINISTRATIVE DETERMINATION MADE BY A DESIGNATED OFFICER. JR.: THIS ACTION IS IN RESPONSE TO A REQUEST FOR RECONSIDERATION OF OUR TRANSPORTATION AND CLAIMS DIVISION SETTLEMENT OF MARCH 3. THE MEMBER WAS REASSIGNED FROM BRADY AIR FORCE BASE. WERE PUT IN STORAGE UNTIL SEPTEMBER 4. WHEN THEY WERE DELIVERED TO THE MEMBER'S RESIDENCE IN WASHINGTON. THE INDEBTEDNESS AROSE DUE TO THE EXCESS COST INCURRED WHEN THE HOUSEHOLD GOODS SHIPPED WERE IN EXCESS OF THE WEIGHT LIMITATIONS AUTHORIZED BY THE JOINT TRAVEL REGULATIONS FOR A MEMBER OF THE ARMED FORCES OF HIS GRADE OR RATING.

B-180184, AUG 21, 1974

AIR FORCE MEMBER WHO SHIPPED HOUSEHOLD EFFECTS IN EXCESS OF AUTHORIZED ALLOWABLE WEIGHT MAY NOT BE RELIEVED OF LIABILITY TO AIR FORCE SINCE IT IS WELL SETTLED THAT GOVERNMENT IS NOT BOUND BY INCORRECT STATEMENTS OF ITS AGENTS AND EMPLOYEES. FURTHER SINCE EXCESS WEIGHT IS AN ADMINISTRATIVE DETERMINATION MADE BY A DESIGNATED OFFICER, THIS OFFICE WOULD NOT BE WARRANTED IN QUESTIONING SUCH DETERMINATION WITHOUT CLEAR EVIDENCE OF ERROR. INDEBTEDNESS TO THE AIR FORCE INCURRED IN PERMANENT CHANGE OF STATION

HOUSEHOLD GOODS SHIPMENT - CARL H. LIPPOLD, JR.:

THIS ACTION IS IN RESPONSE TO A REQUEST FOR RECONSIDERATION OF OUR TRANSPORTATION AND CLAIMS DIVISION SETTLEMENT OF MARCH 3, 1971, WHICH DISALLOWED THE CLAIM OF CARL H. LIPPOLD, JR. FOR RELIEF FROM INDEBTEDNESS TO THE AIR FORCE FOR EXCESS COST IN THE AMOUNT OF $795.80 INCURRED IN SHIPPING HOUSEHOLD GOODS INCIDENT TO A PERMANENT CHANGE OF STATION WHILE SERVING IN THE UNITED STATES AIR FORCE IN 1962.

THE RECORD SHOWS THAT BY SPECIAL ORDERS NO. A-203, DATED APRIL 14, 1962, ISSUED BY HEADQUARTERS, 6143D AIR BASE GROUP (PACAF), UNITED STATES AIR FORCE, APO 929, SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA, THE MEMBER WAS REASSIGNED FROM BRADY AIR FORCE BASE, JAPAN, TO THE 6590TH SPECIAL ACTIVITIES SQUADRON AT ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE, MARYLAND. THE ORDERS PROVIDED FOR THE TRANSPORTATION OF THE MEMBER'S DEPENDENTS AND THE SHIPMENT OF HIS HOUSEHOLD GOODS AT GOVERNMENT EXPENSE.

THE RECORD FURTHER SHOWS THAT THE MEMBER SHIPPED 10,250 POUNDS ON GOVERNMENT BILL OF LADING B-2744069 DATED JUNE 21, 1962, FROM BRADY AIR FORCE BASE, JAPAN, BY DELCHER INTERCONTINENTAL MOVING SERVICE. THE GOODS ARRIVED IN BALTIMORE, MARYLAND, ON AUGUST 13, 1962, AND WERE PUT IN STORAGE UNTIL SEPTEMBER 4, 1962, WHEN THEY WERE DELIVERED TO THE MEMBER'S RESIDENCE IN WASHINGTON, D.C.

THE INDEBTEDNESS AROSE DUE TO THE EXCESS COST INCURRED WHEN THE HOUSEHOLD GOODS SHIPPED WERE IN EXCESS OF THE WEIGHT LIMITATIONS AUTHORIZED BY THE JOINT TRAVEL REGULATIONS FOR A MEMBER OF THE ARMED FORCES OF HIS GRADE OR RATING. THE NET WEIGHT OF THE GOODS SHIPPED WAS 10,250 POUNDS LESS 526 POUNDS OF PROFESSIONAL ITEMS AND 486 POUNDS OF PACKING WHICH EQUALS 9,238 POUNDS. THE MEMBER AT THE TIME WAS A FIRST LIEUTENANT AND WAS AUTHORIZED TO TRANSPORT 7,500 POUNDS UNDER PARAGRAPH M8003 OF THE JOINT TRAVEL REGULATIONS (CH. 110, DECEMBER 1, 1961). THE NET WEIGHT OF 9,238 POUNDS MINUS THE AUTHORIZED ALLOWANCE OF 7,500 POUNDS LEAVES AN EXCESS OF 1,738 POUNDS. IN ADDITION, 91 POUNDS OF PACKING WERE ADDED TO THE NET EXCESS WEIGHT FOR A TOTAL EXCESS WEIGHT OF 1,829 POUNDS. THE TOTAL COST OF $4,459.78 FOR 10,250 POUNDS WHEN PRORATED TO 1,829 POUNDS YIELDS AN EXCESS SHIPMENT COST OF $795.80. THIS EXCESS SHIPMENT COST IS THE AMOUNT OF THE INDEBTEDNESS TO THE UNITED STATES.

THE MEMBER CONTENDS THAT HE RELIED ON ADVICE OF PROFESSIONAL TRANSPORTATION EMPLOYEES SENT TO HIM BY AIR FORCE REPRESENTATIVES AND THAT THE MEMBER, BASED ON ADVICE RECEIVED, DESTROYED OR DISCARDED CERTAIN ITEMS IN ORDER TO PERMIT HIM TO COME WITHIN WHAT HE WAS TOLD WAS THE AUTHORIZED WEIGHT LIMITATION. THE MEMBER FURTHER CONTENDS THAT HE WAS ENTITLED TO RELY ON THE PROFESSIONAL OPINION OF THE AIR FORCE AGENTS AND EMPLOYEES AND THAT ANY EXCESS POUNDAGE WAS NOT DUE TO HIS FAULT BUT WAS THE FAULT OF THESE AGENTS. FURTHER, THAT THE AIR FORCE SHOULD NOT DEMAND THAT HE ASSUME LIABILITY DUE TO A SITUATION CREATED BY THE IMPROPER ADVICE OF ITS AGENTS AND EMPLOYEES.

SECTION 406 OF TITLE 37, U.S.C. PROVIDES THAT UNDER SUCH CONDITIONS AND LIMITATIONS AS THE SECRETARIES CONCERNED MAY PRESCRIBE, A MEMBER OF A UNIFORMED SERVICE SHALL BE ENTITLED TO TRANSPORTATION OF HOUSEHOLD GOODS IN CONNECTION WITH A CHANGE OF STATION.

PARAGRAPH M8002 OF THE JOINT TRAVEL REGULATIONS PROMULGATED PURSUANT TO THAT AUTHORITY PROVIDES THAT HOUSEHOLD GOODS OF MEMBERS, NOT IN EXCESS OF THE WEIGHT LIMIT IN POUNDS THEREIN PRESCRIBED, MAY BE TRANSPORTED AT GOVERNMENT EXPENSE IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE PROVISIONS OF THESE REGULATIONS. PARAGRAPH M8002 ALSO PROVIDES THAT IF GOODS ARE SHIPPED BY MOTOR VAN IN AN UNCRATED CONDITION THE NET WEIGHT OF THE GOODS CHARGEABLE AGAINST THE MEMBER'S PRESCRIBED WEIGHT ALLOWANCE WILL BE DETERMINED BY SUBTRACTING 5 PERCENT FROM THE GROSS WEIGHT OF THE SHIPMENT.

THE REGULATIONS CONTEMPLATE SHIPMENT AT GOVERNMENT EXPENSE OF HOUSEHOLD GOODS, AS PACKED FOR SHIPMENT, AT THE NOT TO EXCEED AN OVERALL WEIGHT ALLOWANCE OF NET WEIGHT PLUS AN ALLOWANCE FOR PACKING AND CRATING. SUCH OVERALL WEIGHT ALLOWANCE, OF WHICH THE NET WEIGHT OF THE HOUSEHOLD GOODS IS BUT ONE COMPONENT PART, REPRESENTS THE MAXIMUM WEIGHT THAT MAY BE SHIPPED AT GOVERNMENT EXPENSE IRRESPECTIVE OF WHETHER THE ACTUAL NET WEIGHT OF THE GOODS SHIPPED EQUALS THE NET WEIGHT ALLOWANCE SET FORTH IN THE REGULATIONS. THE REGULATIONS FURTHER PROVIDE THAT WHERE SHIPMENTS INVOLVE WEIGHTS EXCEEDING THE PRESCRIBED ALLOWANCE, THE TRANSPORTATION CHARGES ON SUCH EXCESS WEIGHTS WILL BE BORNE BY THE OWNER.

CONCERNING THE ALLEGED ERRONEOUS INFORMATION GIVEN THE MEMBER BY AGENTS OF THE AIR FORCE, IT IS WELL SETTLED THAT THE GOVERNMENT IS NOT BOUND NOR RESPONSIBLE FOR THE UNAUTHORIZED OR INCORRECT STATEMENTS OF ITS AGENTS AND EMPLOYEES. POSEY V. UNITED STATES, 449 F.2D 228, 234 (1971). ALL GOVERNMENT AGENTS AND EMPLOYEES ARE SPECIAL AGENTS OF LIMITED AUTHORITY AND ALL PERSONS DEALING WITH SUCH AGENTS AND EMPLOYEES ARE CHARGED WITH NOTICE OF THAT FACT AND OF THE LIMITATIONS UPON THE AUTHORITY OF THE AGENTS WITH WHOM THEY DEAL. UNITED STATES V. THOMPSON, 293 F. SUPP 1307 (1967), AFFIRMED 408 F.2D 1075 (1969).

THE MEMBER ALSO CONTENDS THAT THE AMOUNT OF THE DEBT, WHICH IS BASED ON THE NET EXCESS WEIGHT, IS INCORRECT. PARAGRAPH M8400-5 OF THE JOINT TRAVEL REGULATIONS, IN EFFECT DURING THE TIME INVOLVED, PROVIDED THAT THE OFFICER DESIGNATED BY THE SERVICE CONCERNED WOULD DETERMINE ANY COST IN EXCESS OF AUTHORIZED ALLOWANCES FOR WEIGHT, DISTANCE, AND METHOD OF SHIPMENT AND WOULD NOTIFY THE MEMBER OF THE AMOUNT PAYABLE AND METHOD OF PAYMENT. IT FURTHER PROVIDED THAT AMOUNTS DETERMINED BY PERSONS OTHER THAN SUCH DESIGNATED OFFICER WILL BE CONSIDERED AS MERE ESTIMATES NOT TO BE USED TO DISPUTE THE AMOUNTS DETERMINED BY HIM. THUS, THE QUESTION AS TO WHAT EXTENT THE WEIGHT OF THE MEMBER'S HOUSEHOLD EFFECTS EXCEEDED HIS WEIGHT ALLOWANCE IS A MATTER PRIMARILY FOR ADMINISTRATIVE DETERMINATION WHICH THIS OFFICE WOULD NOT BE WARRANTED IN QUESTIONING IN THE ABSENCE OF THE CLEAREST EVIDENCE OF ERROR. SEE B-156396, JUNE 8, 1965.

THE RECORD INDICATES THAT THE TRANSPORTATION OFFICER AT ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE PERSONALLY REWEIGHED THE SHIPMENT UPON ITS ARRIVAL. HE CONCLUDED THAT THE SHIPMENT WAS IN EXCESS OF THE AUTHORIZED ALLOWABLE WEIGHT AND SO INFORMED THE MEMBER. HE ALSO CONCLUDED THAT THERE WAS NO EXCESS PACKING. UNDER THE ESTABLISHED DEBT COLLECTION PROCEDURES, IT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF EACH AGENCY OF THE GOVERNMENT TO TAKE ALL REASONABLE STEPS TO COLLECT DEBTS ARISING IN THAT AGENCY BEFORE REPORTING THEM AS UNCOLLECTABLE. GENERAL REGULATION NO. 120, 33 COMP. GEN. 667 AND 669 (1954). THE DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE HAS NOT REFERRED THE MEMBER'S INDEBTEDNESS HERE FOR COLLECTION AND UNTIL THE DEBT IS REPORTED HERE, IT IS A MATTER FOR SETTLEMENT BETWEEN THE MEMBER AND AIR FORCE DISBURSING OFFICE CONCERNED.

SINCE THE HOUSEHOLD GOODS SHIPPED TO ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE, MARYLAND, EXCEEDED THE MEMBER'S AUTHORIZED WEIGHT ALLOWANCE, HE WAS PROPERLY CHARGED WITH THE EXCESS COST AND THERE IS NO BASIS ON THE RECORD BEFORE US TO RELIEVE THE MEMBER OF HIS INDEBTEDNESS. ACCORDINGLY, THE ACTION TAKEN BY OUR TRANSPORTATION AND CLAIMS DIVISION DATED MARCH 3, 1971, IS SUSTAINED.