B-241443, Mar 14, 1991

B-241443: Mar 14, 1991

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The vehicle was parked in a lot provided by the government for federal employees and was broken into prior to construction of a secured parking area. The employee's duties require her to use her personal vehicle for official business if a government vehicle is not available and therefore the parking of her vehicle was incident to service and not solely incident to commuting to and from work. Saeger: The issue here is whether a federal employee may be reimbursed for loss or damage to personal property pursuant to the provisions of the Military Personnel and Civilian Employees' Claims Act of 1964. Was leaving the Customhouse in Tampa. Florida to go to lunch when she discovered that her privately owned vehicle had been broken into and tools and clothing were missing.

B-241443, Mar 14, 1991

CIVILIAN PERSONNEL - Travel - Privately-owned vehicles - Property damages - Claims - Payments CIVILIAN PERSONNEL - Compensation - Claim settlement - Property damages

DIGEST

Linda M. Saeger:

The issue here is whether a federal employee may be reimbursed for loss or damage to personal property pursuant to the provisions of the Military Personnel and Civilian Employees' Claims Act of 1964, as amended, 31 U.S.C. Sec. 3721 (1988). /1/

Ms. Linda M. Saeger, a U.S. Customs Service employee, was leaving the Customhouse in Tampa, Florida to go to lunch when she discovered that her privately owned vehicle had been broken into and tools and clothing were missing. The vehicle was parked in a space provided by the government for the use of the Service personnel. The Customs Service has determined that the loss occurred incident to service, and payment of $429.75 to Ms. Saeger has been approved in full settlement of her claim. However, the Service has requested a decision as to whether payment is proper under the Act and has furnished us with the voucher for payment.

The Military Personnel and Civilian Employees' Claims Act of 1964, as amended, 31 U.S.C. Sec. 3721(b) (1988), provides that the head of an agency may settle and pay not more than $40,000 for a claim against the government made by an employee for damage to, or loss of, personal property incident to service. In New York Transit Strike, 60 Comp.Gen. 633 (1981), we held that several government employees who were involved in accidents while commuting to and from work did not damage their vehicles "incident to service" and could not be paid under the Act; however, another employee who was utilizing his vehicle for official business when it was damaged could be paid.

The governing Treasury Department regulations provide in 31 C.F.R. Sec. 4.4(g) (1990), that claims for damage to motor vehicles will not ordinarily be paid. However, meritorious claims for motor vehicles may be recommended for consideration and approval for payment in exceptional cases. The Service has determined that the exception applies in this case. The Customhouse is located in a high crime area and Ms. Saeger's vehicle was broken into prior to construction of a secured parking area. Further, her duties as an Inspectional Aide require her to use her personal vehicle for official business if a government vehicle is not available. Therefore, the Service determined that the parking of her vehicle was in fact incident to service, and not solely incident to commuting to and from work.

The voucher is returned herewith for payment. Under the circumstances of this case, we see no basis for legal objection to the Service's exercise of its discretionary authority to pay Ms. Saeger's claim under provisions of the Act.

/1/ The request was submitted by the Regional Commissioner, Department of the Treasury, U.S. Customs Service, Miami, Florida. Reference: Case No. 90-0959: CL:EAC.