B-235933, Jun 15, 1990, 69 Comp.Gen. 537

B-235933: Jun 15, 1990

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Subsequently was directed to report to Seneca. The port to which he otherwise would have flown from Germany. Permanent Change of Station Travel: This action is in response to a request for an advance decision from the Army. Although Philadelphia is the port of debarkation closest to Seneca. For what the Army says were personal reasons. The Army asks whether it properly is limiting reimbursement to the cost of direct travel even though the agency had neglected to indicate on S. Louis was for the member's convenience and that he therefore would have to bear any additional expense incurred. A member who for personal convenience performs PCS travel over a circuitous route generally is entitled to be reimbursed no more than the amount to which the member would have been entitled for direct travel.

B-235933, Jun 15, 1990, 69 Comp.Gen. 537

*** basis to a unit near his family en route to a permanent change of station from Germany to Seneca, New York, and subsequently was directed to report to Seneca. Member should be reimbursed for his travel in accordance with the orders issued to him, which authorized reimbursement for travel from Germany to St. Louis, which facilitated the permissive assignment, and per diem and mileage limited to that applicable for travel to Seneca from Philadelphia, the port to which he otherwise would have flown from Germany.

S. Sgt. Jerry W. Weist-- Permanent Change of Station Travel:

This action is in response to a request for an advance decision from the Army, submitted through the Per Diem Travel and Transportation Allowance Committee (Control No. 89-11), regarding payment of transportation expenses and per diem in connection with Army S. Sgt. Jerry W. Weist's permanent change of station (PCS) from Frankfurt, Germany to Seneca, New York.

Although Philadelphia is the port of debarkation closest to Seneca, S. Sgt. Weist's orders authorized him to fly into St. Louis, for what the Army says were personal reasons. The Army reimbursed S. Sgt. Weist $411.25 for airfare from Frankfurt to Philadelphia to Syracuse, and 3/4 day per diem. S. Sgt. Weist requests reimbursement of an additional $218 based on his airfare from Frankfurt to St. Louis, the drive from St. Louis to Seneca, and per diem for 3 days en route.

The Army asks whether it properly is limiting reimbursement to the cost of direct travel even though the agency had neglected to indicate on S. Sgt. Weist's orders that the routing to Seneca through St. Louis was for the member's convenience and that he therefore would have to bear any additional expense incurred. In this respect, a member who for personal convenience performs PCS travel over a circuitous route generally is entitled to be reimbursed no more than the amount to which the member would have been entitled for direct travel. Joint Federal Travel Regulations, vol. 1, para. U5116. The indication to which the Army refers is required by the Routing Guide for International Travel, published by the Military Traffic Management Command, and a May 1982 Army message (No. 181600Z), which also provides that if no such statement is included in the member's travel orders, the travel should be considered government- directed rather than member-requested.

We find that S. Sgt. Weist is entitled to a part of the requested additional reimbursement.

We agree with the Army to the extent that the lack of a personal convenience statement on a member's travel orders is not necessarily dispositive of his entitlement. It appears that the statement basically is intended to remind the member of the limitation on the government's payment responsibility regarding the travel, and to serve as a reference for the personnel that process the member's reimbursement request. Although we think the travel personnel are entitled to rely on the presumption the inclusion or lack of the statement raises, we also do not think they are precluded from questioning and rebutting it where they have other information about the reason for and conditions of the particular travel involved.

We think the record establishes S. Sgt. Weist's entitlement to airfare to St. Louis, and constructive per diem and travel from Philadelphia to Seneca. S. Sgt. Weist's orders were issued on December 5, 1988, the day after his father died, and state that "This is an emergency PCS." Although the orders assign S. Sgt. Weist to Seneca as of February 9, 1989, they specify that the member could travel over any route he chose, and would be "entitled to reimbursement for transoceanic travel not to exceed the charge from ... Frankfurt, Germany to St. Louis, MO." They also specify, however, that reimbursement for mileage and per diem "will be from cost effective APOD approved port of debarkation to Seneca, N.Y." Philadelphia would be the cost effective APOD.

Supplemental orders issued December 22, 1988, assigned S. Sgt. Weist to the Army Recruiting Battalion in Jackson, Mississippi, effective December 9; the assignment specified duty with the Jonesboro company-- near S. Sgt. Weist's mother's residence-- for an indefinite period pending a decision on S. Sgt. Weist's latest request for assignment to Jackson instead of Seneca. (Previous requests for assignment closer to his parents had been denied, and S. Sgt. Weist was told in early January 1989 that this latest one also was denied; he left Jackson for Seneca on January 10.)

Finally, S. Sgt. Weist was released from the Jackson assignment effective January 9, 1989, by orders of January 3. The orders directed S. Sgt. Weist to report to Seneca on January 14, and advised that "All travel time from unit of attachment Jackson to parent unit Seneca will be charged as ordinary leave as attachment was permissive. Per diem and travel allowance are not authorized."

In our view, these documents set the proper reimbursement to S. Sgt. Weist, irrespective of the Routing Guide provision and the Army message. The December 5, 1988, emergency orders state that the government will pay for the member's travel to St. Louis-- the cost of the airfare was $317.00. Those same orders limited per diem entitlement and mileage to the per diem and mileage applicable to the drive from Philadelphia to Seneca, since S. Sgt. Weist was going to use his own car in conjunction with the PCS. In this respect, the record does not indicate what those costs should be, since the Army instead reimbursed S. Sgt. Weist for constructive per diem and the cost of flying from Philadelphia to Syracuse. Finally, the January 3 Jackson orders were clear that no additional per diem or mileage was authorized for the trip from Jackson to Seneca.

In sum, S. Sgt. Weist is entitled to the cost of his flight from Frankfurt to St. Louis, and per diem and mileage from Philadelphia to Seneca, the basis on which his orders were issued. (The total amount, we estimate, will be close to the amount the Army in fact reimbursed the member.)