B-234696, Nov 3, 1989

B-234696: Nov 3, 1989

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The VA found that had a cost comparison been made it would have shown that the Government Bill of Lading method would have been more cost effective. Since there was a proper basis under the regulations for authorization of the commuted rate method. The original travel order was not in error and the employee may be reimbursed under that method. Hammers: The issue in this case is whether Mr. The agency concluded that the commuted rate was the preferred method of shipment. Particularly since it was necessary for Mr. Which was $1. On the basis that a cost comparison would have shown that the GBL method would have been more effective. Legal rights and liabilities with regard to travel expenses vest under the statute and regulations when the travel is performed.

B-234696, Nov 3, 1989

CIVILIAN PERSONNEL - Relocation - Household goods - Commuted rates - Reimbursement - Amount determination DIGEST: The Veteran's Administration (VA) authorized reimbursement under the commuted rate method for an employee's shipment of household goods. Subsequent to the employee's completion of the shipment of his household goods, the VA found that had a cost comparison been made it would have shown that the Government Bill of Lading method would have been more cost effective. Since there was a proper basis under the regulations for authorization of the commuted rate method, the original travel order was not in error and the employee may be reimbursed under that method.

Wilbert D. Hammers:

The issue in this case is whether Mr. Hammers may be reimbursed an additional $1,367.96 for transporting his household goods by private conveyance in connection with a permanent change-of-station move. The Veterans Administration (VA) Medical Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas, issued a travel order authorizing the commuted rate method for transporting Mr. Hammers's household goods intrastate without benefit of a cost comparison between the commuted rate and Government Bill of Lading (GBL) methods. Based on provisions in the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR), para. 2-8.3c (Supp. 1, Sept. 28, 1981), incorp. by ref., 41 C.F.R. Sec. 101-7.003 (1988), the agency concluded that the commuted rate was the preferred method of shipment, particularly since it was necessary for Mr. Hammers to report for duty as soon as possible.

Mr. Hammers moved his household goods and submitted a voucher claiming an amount based on the commuted rate. However, the VA Audit Section reimbursed him an amount equal to an estimate provided by a contractor listed by the General Services Administration (GSA), which was $1,367.96 less than the commuted rate amount, on the basis that a cost comparison would have shown that the GBL method would have been more effective.

As a general rule, legal rights and liabilities with regard to travel expenses vest under the statute and regulations when the travel is performed. As a result, travel orders may not be revoked or modified retroactively so as to increase or decrease the rights which have become fixed after the travel has been performed, except where there are errors apparent on the face of the original orders or where all the facts and circumstances surrounding the issuance of the original orders clearly demonstrate that some provision which was previously determined and definitely intended had been inadvertently omitted in their preparation. See e.g. Jerrold Schroeder, B-226868, Nov. 4, 1988, and cases cited.

There do not appear to be any such errors in connection with Mr. Hammers's original travel orders. Under 41 C.F.R. Sec. 101-40.203-4 (1988), it is the responsibility of the appropriate official in the employee's agency to request a cost comparison from GSA in a timely manner and to take that into consideration when making a final decision as to whether to authorize the GBL method or the commuted rate method. However, based on its past experience indicating that the commuted rate method was beneficial to the government for short, intrastate moves, and given the short timeframe to accomplish Mr. Hammers's expedited transfer, the authorizing department in VA decided to forego the GSA estimates and authorized the commuted rate method. This action was consistent with FTR para. 2-8.3c(4)(d). Moreover, GSA has advised that the regulations do not contemplate that an agency should obtain a cost comparison after a household goods shipment has been completed merely for the purpose of limiting reimbursement to the employee. See John S. Phillips, 62 Comp.Gen. 375, 377-378 (1983).

Accordingly, Mr. Hammers's voucher for additional reimbursement in the amount of $1,367.96 may be certified for payment if otherwise proper.