Claim for Damages Allegedly Incurred as a Result of Discharge From the Uniformed Services

B-199606: Mar 9, 1981

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A former Army member appealed a Claims Division decision which denied a claim for damages allegedly incurred as a result of his discharge. The member received an undesirable discharge from the Army and later was notified that, after review of the findings of the Army Discharge Review Board, his discharge had been changed to a general discharge under honorable conditions. He was found to be entitled to a payment of an amount equal to the reduction in pay and allowances due at the time of separation which resulted from a reduction in grade mandated by Army regulations. The member's claim was not for pay and allowances due incident to his discharge, but for damages as compensation for alleged injury to earning capacity and for non-pecuniary harm incident to the undesirable discharge. He contended that he was illegally separated from the Army and sought relief for the injustice allegedly caused by the stigma attached to an undesirable discharge. GAO held that, while the Federal Government is made liable for certain classes of torts, an injury to earning capacity and damages consequent to an improperly imposed discharge is not one of the torts for which the Federal Government is liable. Such injuries are settled by the head of each Federal agency in accordance with regulations prescribed by the Attorney General and with his consent on amounts over $25,000. The U.S. District Courts have jurisdiction over these claims. GAO has no authority to settle tort claims against other agencies. The action of the Claims Division was sustained, and the claimant was directed to the Army or the courts for further action.