B-235262, Jun 9, 1989

B-235262: Jun 9, 1989

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Approved a request of the uniformed services to amend the Joint Federal Travel Regulations to provide an exception to the general rule where the after-acquired household goods are a replacement shipment for those goods which were lost or destroyed in transit. The basis for the exception was that there is broad statutory authority for the transportation of household goods in connection with uniformed service members' changes of duty stations. To obtain shipment of household goods at government expense to replace those that were destroyed in transit during his transfer from Athens to Crete in Greece. As your office was advised by a representative of the Per Diem. The Committee submitted a request to our office to authorize an exception to the similar rule applicable to members of the uniformed services and allow a replacement shipment at government expense for members whose household goods are lost or destroyed in transit.

B-235262, Jun 9, 1989

MILITARY PERSONNEL - Relocation - Household goods - Shipment - Travel regulations - Amendments DIGEST: The general rule that household goods acquired en route to or after arrival at a new duty station cannot be shipped at government expense has long applied to civilian employees and service members. Staff Sergeant Mitchel G. Brannon, USAF, B-229189, Dec. 9, 1988, 69 Comp.Gen. ***, approved a request of the uniformed services to amend the Joint Federal Travel Regulations to provide an exception to the general rule where the after-acquired household goods are a replacement shipment for those goods which were lost or destroyed in transit. The basis for the exception was that there is broad statutory authority for the transportation of household goods in connection with uniformed service members' changes of duty stations, and it contemplates delivery of the goods in usable condition. Since the statutory entitlement of federal civilian employees' transportation of household goods in connection with a transfer provides similar broad authorization and also contemplates delivery of household goods in usable condition, the exception also applies to civilian employees for replacement shipments for goods lost or destroyed in transit. The General Accounting Office suggests to the Acting Administrator of General Services that the Federal Travel Regulations be amended to reflect the exception.

Ms. Marilee Fitzgerald

Chief of Staffing:

We recently became aware of the efforts of one of the employees of the Office of Dependents Schools, Mr. Charles Callahan, to obtain shipment of household goods at government expense to replace those that were destroyed in transit during his transfer from Athens to Crete in Greece. Such a replacement shipment would necessarily occur after the original shipment of household goods and, therefore, would appear to be ineligible for shipment at government expense in view of paragraph 2 1.4h, Federal Travel Regulations, which generally limits house hold goods eligible for shipment to property belonging to the employee or his immediate family when shipment or storage begins. See also the similar provision in paragraph C8001-3, volume 2, Joint Travel Regulations.

As your office was advised by a representative of the Per Diem, Travel and Transportation Allowance Committee, the Committee submitted a request to our office to authorize an exception to the similar rule applicable to members of the uniformed services and allow a replacement shipment at government expense for members whose household goods are lost or destroyed in transit. In December 1988 we issued a decision authorizing the exception. Staff Sergeant Mitchel G. Brannon, B-229189, Dec. 9, 1988, 68 Comp.Gen. ***, copy enclosed. While that decision applies specifically to members of the uniformed services, the basis for the decision would apply equally to civilian employees. Therefore, we would not object if your office authorized a replacement shipment for Mr. Callahan.

By letter dated today, copy enclosed, we are advising the Acting Administrator of General Services, who promulgates the Federal Travel Regulations, of our views in this regard and suggesting that he consider amending the regulations to specifically recognize this exception. Also enclosed is a copy of our letter dated today to Congressman Gerry E. Studds, who brought this matter to our attention.

Mr. Richard G. Austin

Acting Administrator

Enclosed is a copy of our decision Staff Sergeant Mitchel G. Brannon, USAF, B-229189, Dec. 9, 1988, 68 Comp.Gen. ***, in which we approved a request of the uniformed services to amend the Joint Federal Travel Regulations to provide an additional exception to the general rule that household goods acquired en route to or after arrival at a new duty station cannot be shipped at government expense. The new exception allows a replacement shipment at government expense for members of the uniformed services whose household goods are lost or destroyed in transit.

The general rule that household goods acquired after the effective date of the transfer orders cannot be shipped at government expense has long been applied both to the uniformed services and civilian employees of the federal government. 24 Comp.Gen.69 (1944); 44 Comp.Gen. 290 (1964). See also B-133474, Sept. 3, 1957; B-156597, May 7, 1965. Although different statutory provisions apply to civilian employees and service members, the basis for the rule in regard to both is similar. 44 Comp.Gen. 290, 291, supra. orsed the request to allow an additional exception to the after- acquired property rule because 37 U.S.C. Sec. 406(b) provides broad authorization for the transportation of household goods in connection with uniformed services members changes of duty stations. In so doing we stated our view that the statutory authorization contemplates the delivery of the members' goods in usable condition. Therefore, we held that where a member's original shipment of household goods is destroyed or lost during transportation incident to a change of stations, a replacement shipment of household goods, within the member's prescribed weight allowance, may be made at government expense.

The statutory entitlement for federal civilian employees' transportation of household goods in connection with a transfer, 5 U.S.C. Sec. 5724, provides broad authorization similar to the uniformed services' statute, and we believe it also contemplates the delivery of a civilian's goods in usable condition. Therefore, it is our view that the holding in the Brannon case would apply equally to civilian employees' shipments lost or destroyed in transit.

This matter was brought to our attention as the result of an inquiry we received on behalf of Mr. Charles Callahan, a civilian employee of the Office of Dependents Schools, Department of Defense, whose goods were destroyed in transit from Athens to Crete in Greece. By letter dated today, copy enclosed, we are advising the Office of Dependents Schools that we view the exception authorized by the Brannon decision as equally applicable to civilian employees, and we are further advising them that on that basis we would not object to their authorizing a replacement shipment for Mr. Callahan.

In view of the General Services Administration responsibility for promulgating the Federal Travel Regulations, we are advising you of our views concerning the application of the Brannon decision. Accordingly, we suggest that you consider amending the Federal Travel Regulations to provide a specific exception to the after-acquired property rule where goods are lost or destroyed in transit. Also enclosed is a copy of our letter dated today to Congressman Gerry E. Studds, who inquired on behalf of Mr. Callahan.

The Honorable Gerry E. Studds

Member, United States

House of Representatives

This is in further response to your inquiry of April 14, 1989, concerning the loss of a shipment of household goods belonging to Charles Callahan, an employee of the Office of Dependents Schools, Department of Defense. Mr. Callahan's goods were lost while being shipped at government expense incident to his transfer from Athens to Crete. Mr. and Mrs. Callahan have requested that a second shipment of household goods to replace those lost be authorized at government expense.

As we advised you previously, by decision, Staff Sergeant Mitchel G. Brannon, B-229189, Dec. 9, 1988, we authorized shipment of replacement goods when the original goods are lost in transit, an exception to the general rule that only goods belonging to the transferred individual on the effective date of the transfer orders may be shipped at government expense. While that decision applied specifically to members of the uniformed services, the basis for applying the exception to civilian employees is similar to the basis for applying it to the uniformed services. It is our view that the exception authorized by the Brannon decision applies equally to civilian employees.

In view of the above we are advising the Chief of Staffing, Office of Dependents Schools, by letter dated today, copy enclosed, that we would not object if that office authorized a replacement shipment for Mr. Callahan.

We are also advising the Acting Administrator, General Services Administration, by letter dated today, copy enclosed, of our views in this regard since he is responsible for the Federal Travel Regulations applicable to civilian employees. We suggest that he consider amending the regulations to provide for this exception to the general rule.

We trust that this is responsive to your inquiry.