Request for Reconsideration of Indebtedness Waiver

B-201814: Sep 18, 1981

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A Navy legal assistance officer, acting on behalf of a chief petty officer, requested reconsideration of a GAO decision denying the serviceman's application for waiver of his indebtedness. The debt arose from erroneous payments of a basic allowance for quarters (BAQ) that the petty officer received during the period from December 1975 to September 1976. Since the petty officer and members of his family were residing in Government quarters, he was ineligible for BAQ. Through an administrative error, the petty officer was erroneously credited with BAQ. The error was eventually detected and corrected in September 1976. The petty officer was advised that he was liable for the overpayments. He then applied for a waiver, indicating that he had not been aware that he was receiving BAQ because his net pay had fluctuated during the period in question due to various deductions including indebtedness from other pay errors, and he had not noticed any unusual increases in his pay. The petty officer suggested that a waiver should be granted because collection of the overpayments would cause his family to suffer financial hardship. The commanding officer of his ship added an endorsement recommending that the waiver be granted because the petty officer's superior performance of duty made him an invaluable asset to his ship and to the Navy. GAO concluded that the petty officer should have known from the outset that the payments were erroneous, and he was thus partially at fault in the matter for not taking prompt corrective action. Partial waiver may not be allowed on the basis that the applicable statute precludes waiver if there is an indication of fault on the serviceman's part. GAO further concluded that neither the petty officer's exemplary conduct and duty performance nor his circumstances of personal financial hardship are factors which may properly be considered in determining whether he was without fault. As a result, the prior decision was sustained.