B-202476.OM, DEC 7, 1981

B-202476.OM: Dec 7, 1981

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DIGEST: REIMBURSEMENT FOR AN EMPLOYEE'S ACTUAL MEAL EXPENSES WHILE AT A TEMPORARY DUTY LOCATION DESIGNATED AS A HIGH-RATE GEOGRAPHICAL AREA IS AUTHORIZED. THE AMOUNTS HE CLAIMS FOR MEALS WERE NOT EXORBITANT. AFMD - CLAIMS GROUP (ROOM 5858): YOUR FILE Z-2828007 IS RETURNED FOR ACTION IN ACCORDANCE WITH THIS MEMORANDUM. SUSTAINS THE CERTIFYING OFFICER'S DISALLOWANCE OF MEAL COSTS IN EXCESS OF $16 PER DAY ON THE BASIS THAT THE DISALLOWANCE WAS NOT CLEARLY ERRONEOUS. WE HELD THAT AN EMPLOYEE IS ENTITLED TO REIMBURSEMENT ONLY FOR REASONABLE EXPENSES FOR MEALS. SINCE TRAVELERS ARE REQUIRED TO ACT PRUDENTLY IN INCURRING EXPENSES. WHILE HIS BREAKFAST AND LUNCH EXPENSES WERE SOMEWHAT HIGH. HIS CLAIM FOR DINNER EXPENSES IS REASONABLE.

B-202476.OM, DEC 7, 1981

SUBJECT: CLAIM OF RALPH J. WHITE (Z-2828007) - B-202476-O.M. DIGEST: REIMBURSEMENT FOR AN EMPLOYEE'S ACTUAL MEAL EXPENSES WHILE AT A TEMPORARY DUTY LOCATION DESIGNATED AS A HIGH-RATE GEOGRAPHICAL AREA IS AUTHORIZED. ALTHOUGH THE COMBINATION OF HIS ACTUAL DAILY LODGING AND MEAL EXPENSES TOTALED CLOSE TO THE DAILY MAXIMUM AMOUNT AUTHORIZED, THE AMOUNTS HE CLAIMS FOR MEALS WERE NOT EXORBITANT.

ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, AFMD - CLAIMS GROUP (ROOM 5858):

YOUR FILE Z-2828007 IS RETURNED FOR ACTION IN ACCORDANCE WITH THIS MEMORANDUM.

THE SETTLEMENT CERTIFICATE DATED JANUARY 22, 1981, SUSTAINS THE CERTIFYING OFFICER'S DISALLOWANCE OF MEAL COSTS IN EXCESS OF $16 PER DAY ON THE BASIS THAT THE DISALLOWANCE WAS NOT CLEARLY ERRONEOUS, ARBITRARY OR CAPRICIOUS IN LIGHT OF OUR HOLDING IN NORMA J. KEPHART, B-186078, OCTOBER 12, 1976. UPON REVIEW OF THE RECORD, IT APPEARS THAT THE CERTIFYING OFFICER HAS APPLIED A MORE STRINGENT STANDARD THAN CONTEMPLATED BY THAT HOLDING.

IN THE KEPHART DECISION, AS IN CHARLES B. FRISCH, B-186740, MARCH 15, 1977, WE HELD THAT AN EMPLOYEE IS ENTITLED TO REIMBURSEMENT ONLY FOR REASONABLE EXPENSES FOR MEALS, SINCE TRAVELERS ARE REQUIRED TO ACT PRUDENTLY IN INCURRING EXPENSES, AND THAT THE EMPLOYING AGENCY HAS THE PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITY TO DETERMINE WHAT CONSTITUTES REASONABLE EXPENSES FOR MEALS IN THE CIRCUMSTANCES INVOLVED. IN THOSE DECISIONS, THE CLAIMANTS SPENT RELATIVELY LITTLE OR NOTHING ON LODGINGS, YET SPENT EXORBITANT AMOUNTS OF THEIR MAXIMUM SUBSISTENCE ALLOWANCE ON MEALS AND SOUGHT REIMBURSEMENT FOR ALL FOOD COSTS. SEE ALSO HARRY G. BAYNE, B-201554, OCTOBER 8, 1981, AND MICHELINE METTER AND LINN HUSKEY, B-197621, FEBRUARY 26, 1981. IN CONTRAST, MR. WHITE DID SPEND A SUBSTANTIAL AMOUNT FOR LODGINGS. HE SPENT THE BALANCE OF HIS SUBSISTENCE ALLOWANCE ON MEALS. HE INCURRED LODGING COSTS OF $21.20 DAILY, AND HIS MEAL COSTS DURING HIS TWO TRIPS AVERAGED $6.43 FOR BREAKFAST, $10.10 FOR LUNCH, AND $10.64 FOR DINNER. WHILE HIS BREAKFAST AND LUNCH EXPENSES WERE SOMEWHAT HIGH, HIS CLAIM FOR DINNER EXPENSES IS REASONABLE. MOREOVER, NONE OF THE EXPENSES CLAIMED APPEAR TO BE EXORBITANT IN LIGHT OF THE MENU PRICES WHICH HE HAS INDICATED ARE PREVELANT IN THE BURLINGTON AREA.

THE EMPLOYEE PROBABLY COULD HAVE SPENT LESS FOR MEALS, BUT UNDER THE ACTUAL EXPENSE REIMBURSEMENT PROVISIONS, EMPLOYEES CAN ONLY BE URGED TO ECONOMIZE. WHEN THEIR EXPENSES FOR MEALS ARE NOT SO UNREASONABLE AS TO BE EXORBITANT, REIMBURSEMENT MUST BE ALLOWED. ACCORDINGLY, MR. WHITE'S CLAIM FOR MEAL EXPENSES IN EXCESS OF THE $16 PER DAY HE HAS ALREADY RECEIVED SHOULD BE ALLOWED. THE CLAIMS GROUP'S SETTLEMENT IS HEREBY REVERSED.