[Conflicting Claims for Annuities]

B-217743: Jul 15, 1985

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A Navy disbursing officer requested a decision regarding the resolution of conflicting claims for survivors' benefits filed by two persons, each claiming to be the widow of a deceased Navy officer. In 1944, the officer married a woman, whom he established as his beneficiary under the Retired Serviceman's Family Protection Plan and later under the Survivor Benefit Plan. The woman predeceased the officer and he remarried. Subsequently, he obtained a foreign divorce and remarried a woman he claimed to have initially married in Germany in 1941. He stated that he and his third wife had rediscovered one another after mutually believing that the other had died in World War II. After the officer's death, both his second and third wives claimed benefits under the two plans, but a state court held that the second wife was to be considered his sole survivor. GAO held that: (1) neither claimant could receive any benefits under the Retired Serviceman's Family Protection Plan because neither was married to the officer at the time of his retirement; and (2) since the second wife qualified as the officer's eligible widow by virtue of the court ruling and was married to him for more than a year before his death, the Navy could properly pay her benefits under the Survivors Benefit Plan provided such payments were otherwise correct. Accordingly, the third wife's claim was denied and the second wife's claim was sustained in part and denied in part.