Entitlement to Death Benefit of Military Member Not on Duty Status

B-194189: Jan 7, 1980

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The National Guard Bureau questioned the duty status of a Major General at the time of his death and the benefits to which his beneficiaries were entitled. The officer had stated that he was planning to perform military duty at home on the day he died. His periods of duty were frequently validated by after-the-fact orders with the presumed approval of the National Guard. Based on this practice, the National Guard suggested that he be placed in an active duty/special training status at the time of his death. It was also suggested that the officer perhaps had the authority to issue himself orders for duty status. GAO held that a National Guard member may not be placed in a duty status in the absence of advance written or verbal orders, nor may he issue such orders to himself. Furthermore, he may not be placed in a duty status retroactively after his death since the regulations requiring advance authorization may not be disregarded as a matter of routine, and since retroactive orders are permissible only to confirm an apparent error or previously issued verbal orders. Accordingly, it was concluded that the officer was not in a duty status at the time of his death, and any benefits payable as a result of his death must be determined on the basis of that status.