Claim for Reimbursement for Dependent Day Care

B-197802: Jul 15, 1981

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A Foreign Service reserve officer appealed the disallowance of his claim for reimbursement of child care costs during the period prior to the issuance of regulations governing the reimbursement of such expenses. While the officer's wife attended orientation and language training sponsored by the Department of State, the officer incurred costs for the care of their two young children. The officer stated that, upon his entry into the Foreign Service, he was advised that Congress had authorized a new program to pay for child care expenses to enable employees' spouses to attend language classes and other training. After making further inquiry, he was advised by an agency official that, while there was such a program, the application forms had not been issued; however, he would have a legal entitlement to reimbursement when the forms became available. The record confirmed these statements. The agency denied the part of the claim incurred before the issuance of authorizing regulations on the basis that authorization could not be approved for services incurred prior to that date. Although legislation provided the Secretary of State with the discretionary authority to make grants to family members of officers and employees attending language and orientation programs of the Foreign Service Institute, the regulations implementing the grants were not issued until nearly 6 months later. In his appeal, the officer asserted that the effective date of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act should determine his entitlement to reimbursement. GAO held that the language of the Act was permissive in nature rather than mandatory and that the Act itself did not establish a right or entitlement to such grants or create a program for reimbursement. Therefore, it was not until the Secretary of State exercised his legal authority under the Act by issuing the regulations that such entitlements became effective. Thus, there was no entitlement to reimbursement of child care expenses prior to the effective date of the regulations implementing the program. Accordingly, the disallowance of the portion of the claim accruing before that date was sustained.