B-229337.3, Nov 7, 1990

B-229337.3: Nov 7, 1990

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The member must have received an erroneous travel advance that was spent in reliance on authorized. Service member's travel allowance debt may not be waived when the record provides no evidence that the member was misinformed about the period of time he was allowed for travel after separation. 2. Waiver is not appropriate in the absence of erroneous travel orders or authorization. 3. Then was unable to complete the travel due to an accident. Waiver of the balance of the advance not spent is not appropriate since there is no evidence of erroneous travel orders or authorization. Our Office is authorized to waive a government claim against a service member that arose out of an erroneous payment of pay and allowances.

B-229337.3, Nov 7, 1990

MILITARY PERSONNEL - Travel - Advances - Overpayments - Debt collection - Waiver DIGEST: 1. For waiver of a service member's travel allowance debt to be proper, the member must have received an erroneous travel advance that was spent in reliance on authorized, albeit erroneous, travel orders. Service member's travel allowance debt may not be waived when the record provides no evidence that the member was misinformed about the period of time he was allowed for travel after separation. 2. When a service member receives travel advances in excess of her actual entitlement, waiver is not appropriate in the absence of erroneous travel orders or authorization. 3. Service member received a travel advance pursuant to a permanent change of station, and then was unable to complete the travel due to an accident. Waiver of the balance of the advance not spent is not appropriate since there is no evidence of erroneous travel orders or authorization.

Waiver of Travel Advances:

The Air Force Accounting and Finance Center asks that we reconsider our Claims Group's denial of waiver requests by three service members whose debts arose out of travel advances. For the reasons presented below, we agree with the Claims Group's determinations.

Under 10 U.S.C. Sec. 2774, our Office is authorized to waive a government claim against a service member that arose out of an erroneous payment of pay and allowances, including travel and transportation allowances, if collection would be against equity and good conscience and not in the best interest of the United States. The statute gives the Secretary of the agency concerned authority to waive claims of not more than $500, under the same conditions.

The first situation involves Kurt L. Schaefer, who alleges that he was told he had 1 year after separation from the Air Force to complete his travel home. The travel regulations in effect at that time required that such travel be completed before the 181st day after separation. Mr. Schaefer's debt of $313.05, the amount of his travel advance, arose because he failed to complete his travel within 180 days.

Also under consideration is the situation of Lieutenant Inge Gedo, who received travel advances for temporary duty which later were determined to exceed her actual entitlement by $761.23. The third individual is Staff Sergeant Karen McQueen, who received a travel advance in order to drive cross-country due to a permanent change of station. After she was injured in an auto accident, the member returned to her prior duty station for guidance rather than completing her automobile trip. Because Staff Sergeant McQueen did not complete her travel, she was indebted to the Air Force for $913.05, the unused portion of her travel advance.

In our decision in 67 Comp.Gen. 484 (1988), we discussed in general terms the application of the waiver statute to transportation allowances. Major Kenneth M. Dieter, 67 Comp.Gen. 496 (1988), and Rajinder N. Khanna, 67 Comp.Gen. 493 (1988), we applied the waiver principles to specific transportation waiver requests. We emphasized the rule that in order for waiver to be appropriate under 10 U.S.C. Sec. 2774 there must have been an erroneous travel advance that the member spent in reliance on authorized, albeit erroneous, travel orders.

Our Claims Group reached determinations on the three requests on the basis of the cited decisions. In Kurt Schaefer's situation, the Claims Group noted that we did not have sufficient evidence to grant a waiver, but also stated that the Air Force could waive the debt itself, since it was less than $500, if the agency could substantiate the member's statement that he was given erroneous authorization to travel beyond the 181-day limit. The Claims Group concluded that Lieutenant Inge Gedo's debt could not be waived because there was no indication of erroneous travel orders or authorization. In Sergeant Karen McQueen's case, the Claims Group denied waiver for the same reason, but suggested another avenue of relief through the Air Force Board for Correction of Military Records.

The Claims Group's determinations correctly apply the principles of the above-cited decisions to the records submitted. In requesting reconsideration, the Air Force presents no evidence that would cause us to reach different conclusions-- in all of the cases, there either is no erroneous travel order or authorization involved, or no evidence to establish detrimental reliance by the member in incurring the debt.

Accordingly, we affirm the Claims Group's findings.