B-234751, Dec 19, 1989

B-234751: Dec 19, 1989

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MILITARY PERSONNEL - Travel - Advances - Overpayments - Debt collection - Waiver DIGEST: A service member was ordered to contact the billeting office while he was on temporary duty (TDY) to determine the availability of housing. The member was paid per diem at $50. The rate appropriate when government housing is not available. never furnished a certificate of non availability. When he completed his TDY his per diem allowance was recomputed at $25. Waiver of the resulting overpayment is not appropriate. Waiver is denied. Captain Parker was ordered to perform TDY at Hurlburt Field. His orders stated that "since your per diem is based on the availability of government quarters and mess. Contact the base billeting office to see if they are available.".

B-234751, Dec 19, 1989

MILITARY PERSONNEL - Travel - Advances - Overpayments - Debt collection - Waiver DIGEST: A service member was ordered to contact the billeting office while he was on temporary duty (TDY) to determine the availability of housing. Upon assuring the Accounting and Finance Office at the TDY station that he would obtain a non-availability statement, the member was paid per diem at $50, the rate appropriate when government housing is not available. never furnished a certificate of non availability, however, and when he completed his TDY his per diem allowance was recomputed at $25. Waiver of the resulting overpayment is not appropriate, since the overpayment did not result from erroneously authorized allowances in his travel orders.

Captain Jeffrey L. Parker, USAF - Waiver Request - Erroneous Per Diem Allowance:

Captain Jeffrey L. Parker has requested waiver of his debt to the United States in the amount of $4,541.80. The debt arose because of overpayment of per diem allowances for temporary duty (TDY). For the reasons presented below, waiver is denied.

Captain Parker was ordered to perform TDY at Hurlburt Field, Florida, from September 5, 1986, to March 3, 1987. His orders stated that "since your per diem is based on the availability of government quarters and mess, contact the base billeting office to see if they are available." Because Captain Parker assured the Hurlburt Accounting and Finance Office that he would obtain a non-availability statement from the housing office, he was paid $50 per diem for 181 days, for a total of $9,050. He never furnished a non-availability statement and therefore was only entitled to $25 per diem for 180 days, or $4,500, plus $8.20 of reimbursable expenses, for a total of $4,508.20. This resulted in an overpayment of $4,541.80. Captain Parker has requested that repayment be waived.

The Comptroller General is authorized under 10 U.S.C. Sec. 2774 (Supp. IV 1986) to waive liability for overpayments of pay and allowances to a service member if collection would be against equity and good conscience and not in the best interests of the United States and there is no indication of fraud, misrepresentation, fault or bad faith on the member's part.

In order for waiver of a travel advance /1/ to be appropriate, the service member must meet a two-part test. He must have received a travel advance to cover erroneously authorized allowances, and he must have spent the advance in detrimental reliance on the erroneous authorization. Major Kenneth M. Dieter, 67 Comp.Gen. 496 (1988).

Captain Parker's travel orders contained no erroneous authorizations. Rather, he expressly was directed in his travel orders to contact the billeting office at Hurlburt Field to determine the availability of government quarters. The Accounting and Finance Office, at Captain Parker's request, made payment at the higher per diem rate appropriate when government quarters are not available, yet Captain Parker never provided the necessary and promised non availability statement. Accordingly, and absent any evidence in the record to establish that government quarters in fact were not available, we cannot conclude that there was any erroneous authorization of allowances. Captain Parker's situation therefore does not meet the two-part test outlined above, and waiver of the overpayment is not appropriate.

Captain Parker maintains that he was not paid for his travel from Hurlburt Field to Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, when his TDY was completed, and for other travel expenses. While we do not have adequate information to verify his assertion, the Air Force should investigate Captain Parker's claim for reimbursement of those expenses. If he is correct, the amount owed to him should be deducted from the amount of his indebtedness.

/1/ Per diem is paid to a service member as a travel advance because a member on TDY is in travel status. (Joint Federal Travel Regulations, para. U2200.)