Request for Waiver of the Government's Claim

B-195649: Feb 22, 1980

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A Naval service member requested reconsideration of his debt to the United States arising out of erroneous military quarters allowance payments. The service member argued that at the time he received the additional monies his normal pay varied from one payday to the next. Consequently, the service member claimed he did not know he was being overpaid and repayment would cause finanical hardship. However, the Navy accounting and finance officials disagreed and recommended that the service member's request be denied when they forwarded the matter to the Claims Division of GAO for resolution. The Claims Division concluded that the monthly overpayments were simply too large to have been reasonably overlooked. Thus, the service member was at fault and therefore precluded favorable consideration of his waiver application under the law. Subsequently, the service member questioned the correctness of the conclusions reached by the Claims Division. In his request for reconsideration, the service member stated that he actually did notice an unexpected increase, and had promptly reported it to his disbursing officer. But he was told that everything was correct, and he assumed that he had previously miscalculated his pay. Under these circumstances, the service member claimed that he had acted in good faith and had done everything that could reasonably be expected of him. With regard to the reconsideration, GAO held that there does not appear to have been any fraud or misrepresentation on the service member's part. However, it does appear that the service member had reason to know, and did suspect, that erroneous payments were being made as he had taken action to inquire about the correctness of his pay. In view of the substantial amounts of the overpayments and the service member's rank and experience, GAO held that the service member was not without fault in the matter. Thus, requiring the service member to pay his debt would be neither against equity and good conscience nor contrary to the best interest of the United States. Accordingly, the action taken by the Claims Division in denying waiver in this case was sustained.