Request for Reconsideration Concerning Claim for Travel Expenses

B-203623: Mar 23, 1982

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An Air Force member requested reconsideration of a Claims Group settlement disallowing his claim for reimbursement of expenses he incurred for commercial airline travel when he and his family returned from the United States to his duty station overseas. The member traveled to the United States under ordinary leave orders to accompany his family to the overseas duty station. Prior to his departure for the United States, the member made arrangements for their return on a military flight on a space-available basis. While he was on leave, the member received a telephone call advising him that his commanding officer had ordered him to return to duty immediately. The member stated that, because he was unable to verify the availability of space on the arranged flight, he purchased commercial airline tickets. Subsequently, the member claimed reimbursement of the cost of the commercial air fare. In support of his claim, he submitted two sets of travel orders issued 13 months after the travel was performed purportedly comfirming the verbal orders authorizing the return travel of the member and his family at Government expense. Under regulations, the travel of service members and their dependents under leave orders generally precludes reimbursement for the costs of commercial transportation even when the member's leave is unexpectedly interrupted by a recall to duty. GAO has held that legal rights to travel allowances vest when the travel is performed under the traveler's orders and that the orders may not be revoked or modified retroactively to increase or decrease rights which have been fixed under the applicable statutes or regulations. GAO held that the issuance of the written orders contravened the well-established principal prohibiting the retroactive modification of executed orders. Further, to the extent that the written orders purport to confirm a verbal order given 13 months previously, they were ineffective. Accordingly, the Claims Group disallowance of the claim was sustained.