B-225311, Jul 13, 1987

B-225311: Jul 13, 1987

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CIVILIAN PERSONNEL - Travel - Actual subsistence expenses - Additional expenses - Dependents - Eligibility DIGEST: A Department of the Army employee who was selected to attend the Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk. Although he was invited to bring his family. He was advised in advance that only the single-type quarters rate was authorized for him. He was paid on the single-rate basis. This is in accord with the general rule that agencies are obligate to pay only the subsistence expenses of their employees in such cases. Ralston: This is in response to a request for an advance decision regarding a Department of the Army civilian employee's entitlement to subsistence payments based on the cost of family-type quarters he and his family occupied when they accompanied him on his training assignment at the Armed Forces Staff College. /1/ In light of the limitations the Army generally imposes upon the payment of subsistence expenses to civilian employees who are away from their permanent duty stations on temporary duty (TDY) or in training.

B-225311, Jul 13, 1987

CIVILIAN PERSONNEL - Travel - Actual subsistence expenses - Additional expenses - Dependents - Eligibility DIGEST: A Department of the Army employee who was selected to attend the Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia, may not be reimbursed subsistence expenses based on the rate for family-type government quarters he and his family occupied in Norfolk when they accompanied him during his training. The Army follows a policy of not paying for family quarters for its civilian employees selected to attend the staff college. Although he was invited to bring his family, he was advised in advance that only the single-type quarters rate was authorized for him. Consistent with this advice, he was paid on the single-rate basis, as provided in Volume 2 of the Joint Travel Regulations (JTR), Para. C4552. This is in accord with the general rule that agencies are obligate to pay only the subsistence expenses of their employees in such cases. Betty D. Gardner, B-214482, September 7, 1984, distinguished.

Robert N. Ralston:

This is in response to a request for an advance decision regarding a Department of the Army civilian employee's entitlement to subsistence payments based on the cost of family-type quarters he and his family occupied when they accompanied him on his training assignment at the Armed Forces Staff College. /1/ In light of the limitations the Army generally imposes upon the payment of subsistence expenses to civilian employees who are away from their permanent duty stations on temporary duty (TDY) or in training, and in accordance with prior Comptroller General decisions addressing this issue, we are unable to authorize payment in this case since the employee decided to take his family with him after being informed that he would only be reimbursed for his personal subsistence expenses.

BACKGROUND

Mr. Robert W. Ralston, a civilian employee at the U.S. Army Strategic Defense Command, Huntsville, Alabama, was selected to attend the Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia, from January 22 through June 26, 1986. In the selection letter Mr. Ralston received from the Commandant of the College, he was encouraged to bring his family with him to Norfolk to accompany him during him during his stay.

Mr. Ralston's travel orders, issued January 10, 1986, authorized his travel only, but stated that government quarters were available at the staff college for $658 per month, which rate applied to government family quarters. Pursuant to Mr. Ralston's inquiry whether the agency would pay for his family to accompany him during his training assignment, the agency finance and accounting officer responded on January 13, 1986, that in accordance with the Joint Travel Regulations (JTR), Volume 2, Para. C4552- 2i(3)(c), Mr. Ralston would be entitled to 46 percent of the daily high- cost area rate in the amount prescribed for the Norfolk area increased by the amount paid for government quarters at the single-occupancy rate. January 19, Mr. Ralston departed Huntsville for his training in Norfolk and took his family with him. He and his family occupied government family quarters at the staff college for which Mr. Ralston paid the family rate of $657.56 per month. He, however, was reimbursed monthly by his agency based on only the single rate.

The Army has determined that Mr. Ralston's reimbursement for subsistence expenses must be limited to the rate for single-type government quarters. Mr. Ralston asks review of that determination on the bases that he was encouraged to bring his family to the college, the college assigned him family quarters and his travel order referred to government quarters at the family rate. He also states that because he received the finance officer's advice that he would be reimbursed only at the single rate shortly before he left for Norfolk, he was unable to dispute the matter until he returned from the training assignment. As support for his position, he refers to a 1984 decision of our Office, concerning another employee who attended the staff college, wherein we allowed the family rate in computing the subsistence allowance.

ANALYSIS

Pursuant to the Training Act, 5 U.S.C. Secs. 4101-4118, an agency may authorize and pay for all or a part of the expense of training for an employee under regulations prescribed by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The expenses that may be paid or reimbursed include all or part of the "necessary costs" of the employee's travel and subsistence expenses, including per diem as provided under 5 U.S.C. Sec. 5702. See 5 U.S.C. Secs. 4109(a) and 4118(a)(8).

Under this authority, OPM has prescribed guidelines for payment of the subsistence expenses of "an employee" during an assignment lasting more than 30 days, such as Mr. Ralston's. 5 C.F.R. Sec. 410.603(b) and (c) (1986). Consistent with these guidelines, civilian employees of Department of Defense agencies are authorize training subsistence payments in accordance with Joint Travel Regulations (JTR), Volume 2, Para. C4552. Subparagraph C4552-2i(3)(c) provides that:

"Training subsistence payments for training programs of more than 30 calendar days located within high cost areas in the continental United States designated in Appendix E includes Norfolk will be:

"2. If Government quarters are available *** 46% of the applicable maximum amount prescribed in Appendix E for the high cost area concerned increased by the amount paid for Government quarters ***."

It is under these provisions that Mr. Ralston was advised by the finance officer prior to departure for Norfolk that his subsistence would be 46 percent of the area rate plus the cost of single-type government quarters.

The general rule, as applied in prior Comptroller General decisions regarding the payment of subsistence expenses of an employee's family when family members accompany the employee on temporary duty or training, is that the government is not obligated to pay the travel expenses of the family, only those of the individual employee. Additional expenses incurred by the employee's family are personal expenses of the employee that must be borne by him. See 59 Comp.Gen.245 (1980); B-158941, May 4, 1966. This is in accord with the provisions of the law and regulations which provide for payment of all or part for the subsistence expenses of the employee.

As noted previously, however, Mr. Ralston cites a comptroller General decision in which we held that collection of the additional amount should not be made from a civilian employee of the Defense Logistics Agency who resided in family-type government quarters at the Armed Forces Staff College and was paid at a rate that included an allowance for government family quarters. Betty D. Gardner, B-214482, September 7, 1984. In that case, however, not only did the employee discuss the matter in advance with agency representatives who advised her that she was entitled to the family quarters rate, but the agency authorized that rate in writing prior to the employee's leaving on the assignment, and she was reimbursed on that basis. It was not until after the employee completed her training assignment that the agency sought to modify her entitlement to that amount. We indicated that in order to revoke her entitlement at that point, it would have to be determined that an "apparent error" had occurred regarding her per diem authorization. We stated that the question in her case did not involve additional per diem for her dependents, but whether she was improperly reimbursed for occupying family housing. Based on the facts, we determined that no "apparent error" existed since the authorized per diem rate did not clearly conflict with any law or regulation and the agency's policy of not computing per diem based on the family housing rate was unascertainable by the employee. Thus, the decision in the Gardner case does not stand for the proposition that agencies must pay for family housing when employees attend long-term training courses or TDY.

The facts of Mr. Ralston's case are clearly distinguishable from those of the Gardner case.

Before he left his permanent duty station for the staff college, Mr. Ralston was informed that the Army would pay only a per diem rate that included single-occupancy housing in government quarters located in the vicinity of the college, he was paid on that basis, and he never was authorized per diem at a rate that included family housing. Therefore, his case does not involve a modification of his travel orders. These differences preclude us from basing a decision in this case upon the analysis set forth in the Gardner decision.

Accordingly, we affirm the agency's decision to deny Mr. Ralston's claim for additional reimbursement of subsistence expenses.

/1/ The request for decision was submitted by the Commander, Finance and Accounting Division, U.S. Army Missile Command, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.