Application for Waiver of Claim

B-198170: Jun 25, 1980

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A Navy member requested reconsideration of a decision wherein the waiver of his debt to the United States was denied. Due to an administrative error, erroneous payments were made to the member for basic allowance for quarters (BAQ) while he was living in rent-free Government quarters. The member contended that since he had reenlisted and was not required to take recruit training, he did not receive instruction regarding the new computerized pay system which was implemented before he reenlisted. Consequently, he was uncertain about his entitlements and did not understand how to read his pay statements. He requested instruction and specifically questioned the BAQ entry. Because did not understand the explanation he received, he questioned the fairness of the action denying his waiver application. Regulations provide that the Comptroller General or the Secretary concerned may waive a claim if no indication of fraud, misrepresentation, fault, or lack of good faith exists on the part of the member. Fault is considered to exist if a member should have known that an error existed but failed to take action to have it corrected. Thus, if a member, furnished with leave and earnings statements which reveal the error, fails to take corrective action, he is not without fault and waiver will be denied. In this case, the member should have known that he was not entitled to BAQ while living in Government quarters. It was the view of GAO that a reasonably prudent person would not have been satisfied with an explanation he did not understand concerning his Leave and Earnings Statement. Accordingly, GAO considered the member partially at fault and was precluded by law from granting his application for waiver. Therefore, the action of the Claims Division denying the waiver was sustained.