B-232173, May 4, 1990

B-232173: May 4, 1990

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Husband and wife employees were separately transferred to Washington. Who was transferred first. Was authorized and received temporary quarters subsistence expenses (TQSE) for 120 days. Upon the wife's later transfer she was authorized and received 60 days TQSE for herself and a dependent child. Her claim for her husband's expenses as a family member was disallowed. Since the husband and wife employees were transferred to the same location but at different times. Each is separately entitled to relocation expenses as an employee. Were separately transferred to Washington. They are both entitled to the allowance because they were transferred at different times and each transferred with a dependent child.

B-232173, May 4, 1990

CIVILIAN PERSONNEL - Relocation - Temporary quarters - Actual subsistence expenses - Spouses - Eligibility DIGEST: 1. Husband and wife employees were separately transferred to Washington, D.C., 7 months apart. The husband, who was transferred first, was authorized and received temporary quarters subsistence expenses (TQSE) for 120 days. Upon the wife's later transfer she was authorized and received 60 days TQSE for herself and a dependent child, but her claim for her husband's expenses as a family member was disallowed. Since the husband and wife employees were transferred to the same location but at different times, each is separately entitled to relocation expenses as an employee. Although the husband received full TQSE benefits in his own right, the wife may include him as a family member under her TQSE entitlement. CIVILIAN PERSONNEL - Relocation - Temporary quarters - Actual subsistence expenses - Dependents - Eligibility 2. Husband and wife employees, who had dependent children, were separately transferred to Washington, D.C., 7 months apart. Both claimed a miscellaneous expense allowance under chapter 2, part 3, of the Federal Travel Regulations, at the $700 rate for an employee with immediate family. They are both entitled to the allowance because they were transferred at different times and each transferred with a dependent child.

Enrique A. Archibold and Elsa Q. Archibold - Separate Transfers - Temporary Quarters Subsistence Expenses -Miscellaneous Expense Allowance:

This decision is in response to a request from the Acting Chief, /1/ Appropriations Branch, U.S. Customs Service, Department of the Treasury. The question asked is whether two federal employees, married to each other and separately transferred to the same new duty station at different times, may receive separate temporary quarters subsistence expenses (TQSE) and miscellaneous expense allowances in their own right. For the reasons that follow, we hold that each is entitled to separate TQSE and miscellaneous expense allowances.

BACKGROUND

Enrique A. Archibold and Elsa Q. Archibold, married to each other with two dependent children, were both employed by the U.S. Customs Service in Puerto Rico. Mr. Archibold was transferred to Washington, D.C., effective March 30, 1986. He obtained temporary quarters and in May 1986 he was joined there by one of his dependent children. In addition to the travel cost for himself and his child, Mr. Archibold claimed and was reimbursed 120 days of TQSE, which included the period that the dependent child was residing with him. He also received a miscellaneous expense allowance of $700, the rate for an employee with immediate family.

In October 1986, Mrs. Archibold was separately transferred to Washington, D.C. She was authorized permanent change-of-station travel to be accompanied by their other dependent child and was authorized 60 days of TQSE for herself, her accompanying dependent child, and Mr. Archibold. Upon her arrival, Mr. Archibold moved from the one bedroom unit he had been occupying into temporary quarters with Mrs. Archibold. Mrs. Archibold claimed 60 days of TQSE for herself, a dependent child, and Mr. Archibold, as well as a miscellaneous expense allowance at the $700 rate for an employee with an immediate family incident to her transfer.

The Customs Service disallowed her miscellaneous expense allowance and, while her TQSE claim for herself and a dependent child was allowed, her claim for TQSE on behalf of Mr. Archibold as a member of her immediate family was disallowed, based on paragraph 2-5.2i of the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR). /2/ Mrs. Archibold has appealed the disallowances.

OPINION

Husband and Wife Entitlements Generally

Under the provisions of section 5724, title 5, United States Code (1988), and chapter 2 of the FTR, each employee transferred in the interest of the government from one permanent duty station to another is entitled to be reimbursed relocation expenses. If accompanied by an individual who qualifies as a member of the employee's immediate family, the employee is entitled to additional relocation expenses. However, FTR, para. 2-1.5c creates an exception where two or more members of an immediate family are federal employees and each is transferred in the interest of the government to the same or nearby new duty stations. While ordinarily each employee has separate entitlements to relocation expenses, FTR, para. 2- 1.5c provides, in part:

"c. Two family members employed. ... if two or more members of an immediate family are entitled to allowances under these regulations as Government employees incident to movements between official stations, their old and new stations, respectively, being located close together, the allowances authorized in the regulations will apply only to one member; the other is eligible as a family member only. ...."

This regulation does not bar Mr. and Mrs. Archibold from separate entitlements because we have interpreted it to apply only to those transfers which occur at the same time. Where transferred employees who are members of the same immediate family are transferred at distinctly different times, they are entitled to their own separate relocation expenses. Roberta J. Shoaf, 57 Comp.Gen. 389 (1978).

Temporary Quarters Subsistence Expenses

We agree with the Customs Service's allowance of TQSE to Mrs. Archibold for herself and a dependent child, but we disagree with the disallowance of her claim for expenses incurred by Mr. Archibold as a member of her family. The agency applied FTR, para. 2-5.2i, as the basis for that disallowance. Paragraph 2-5.2i prohibits payment of subsistence expenses otherwise authorized in chapter 2, part 5 of the FTR, which duplicate any payments received under other laws or regulations covering similar costs. We have held that this provision applies only to limit TQSE payments which duplicate other subsistence allowances received by the employee for the same period, location, and purpose. Jerry L. Miller, B-180286(2), July 2, 1975; Robert M. Crowl, B-193935, June 18, 1979; Nancy D. Doll, B-198357, Mar. 12, 1981; Paul G. Thibault, B-232503, Nov. 9, 1989 (69 Comp.Gen. 72). Hence, paragraph 2-5.2i is not applicable.

Since Mr. and Mrs. Archibold were transferred at different times, they are each entitled to their own temporary quarters expenses reimbursement. In addition, Mrs. Archibold is entitled to be reimbursed for the expenses incurred by Mr. Archibold as a member of her family during her authorized period of TQSE. This is not a duplication because his own temporary quarters expenses as an employee were incurred at an earlier time.

In this connection, we caution agencies to use the authority they have under FTR, para. 2-5.1 to administer the temporary quarters provisions so that the necessity for allowing subsistence expenses and the amount of time for occupancy of temporary quarters is justified in connection with the transfers. We have no basis for questioning the Customs Service allowance of the separate periods for temporary quarters in the case of the Archibold transfers.

Miscellaneous Expense Allowance

Paragraph 2-3.1 of the FTR provides for a miscellaneous expense allowance to help defray various expenses associated with discontinuing a residence at the employee's old duty station and establishing a residence at the new duty station. The allowance recognizes that expenses associated with adjustment of furnishings in living quarters, household appliances, and other general types of expenses inherent in relocation will be incurred. In cases where the transfer involves shipment of household goods or is from one state to another, we have permitted payment of the allowance without requiring documentation of expenses. B-166681, July 9, 1969; Franklin G. Goss, B-200841, Nov. 19, 1981. See also Erle B. Odekirk, B-187519, Jan. 26, 1977. Therefore, when Mr. Archibold transferred to Washington, D.C., in March 1986 and was later joined by a dependent child, he was entitled to the allowance at the $700 rate applicable to an employee with immediate family. FTR, para. 2-3.3a(2). Likewise, when Mrs. Archibold transferred in October 1986 accompanied by their other dependent child, she was entitled to the $700 rate under her travel authorization. This is not a duplication because both employees incurred expenses in their separate moves to Washington, D.C., and each was responsible for the expenses of a family member.

/1/ Charles U. Tretler, National Finance Center - Reference FIS 8:CM:F:N:A:T RD.

/2/ Incorp. by ref., 41 C.F.R. Sec. 01-7.003 (1988).