B-241761, Apr 15, 1991

B-241761: Apr 15, 1991

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Was denied. The claim is remanded to the agency for reconsideration in light of the employee's particular circumstances in accordance with FTR. We are remanding the claim to the Forest Service for reconsideration of all of the particular circumstances which occurred during Mr. Thompson was transferred from Washington. He was authorized 30 days of temporary quarters occupancy. He was informed. Thompson was moving from or to. He and his family were still in Michigan. The entire months of February and March were lost with respect to househunting and that since later. He and his wife were working. Was limited to weekends only. He also states that he was scheduled to perform official travel for at least one or two weeks in each of the months of February.

B-241761, Apr 15, 1991

CIVILIAN PERSONNEL - Relocation - Temporary quarters - Actual subsistence expenses - Eligibility - Extension DIGEST: Where employee's claim for an additional period of 60 days of temporary quarters, beyond the 60 days previously granted by the agency, was denied, without consideration of all of the factors affecting the employee's extension of occupancy of temporary quarters, the claim is remanded to the agency for reconsideration in light of the employee's particular circumstances in accordance with FTR, paras. 2 5.1 and 2-5.2.

Mr. Darold D. Foxworthy

Authorized Certifying Officer:

We refer to your letter of October 15, 1990, in which you ask whether a travel voucher submitted by Mr. Clyde Thompson, an employee of the Forest Service, for reimbursement of an additional 60 days of temporary quarters subsistence expenses (TQSE), from March 5 through May 3, 1989, may be certified for payment. We are remanding the claim to the Forest Service for reconsideration of all of the particular circumstances which occurred during Mr. Thompson's occupancy of temporary quarters to determine whether he should be reimbursed for TQSE incurred beyond the 60 days previously granted.

The record shows that Mr. Thompson was transferred from Washington, D.C., to San Francisco, California. He reported for duty on January 3, 1989. He was authorized 30 days of temporary quarters occupancy, a househunting trip, and the use of relocation services provided by the Forest Service in arranging for the sale or purchase of his former Maryland residence. Mr. Thompson utilized each of these benefits. He was informed, and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations state that, if he used the relocation services contractor, he would be limited to a maximum of 30 days of temporary quarters. The USDA regulations also state that any exceptions to this policy must be approved at the agency head level. /1/

Mr. Thompson requested an extension of 90 days for occupancy of temporary quarters. The Forest Service granted an extension of 30 days of the 90 days requested, but denied the remaining 60 days, based upon reasons that it considered not to be compelling under agency regulations, i.e., general economic conditions existing in the locale where Mr. Thompson was moving from or to; personal financial problems of the transferee; the fact that Mr. Thompson took a househunting trip; and that he sold his former residence to a relocation services contractor and received his equity therein prior to the expiration of his authorized temporary quarters occupancy, and therefore no longer had dual living expenses.

Mr. Thompson reports that the relocation services contractor delayed purchasing his former residence for approximately 3-1/2 months. He states that his wife gave premature birth to their child on January 20, two weeks after their arrival in San Francisco where they had no family or friends. He also states that his wife's father passed on February 19 in Flint, Michigan, that they traveled to Michigan to attend his funeral, and while there, their 4-week-old baby became ill. He says that these events consumed a considerable amount of time during February and March and that when the 30-day extension period expired on March 4, he and his family were still in Michigan. Mr. Thompson states that as a result of these events, the entire months of February and March were lost with respect to househunting and that since later, he and his wife were working, househunting, for all practical purposes, was limited to weekends only. He also states that he was scheduled to perform official travel for at least one or two weeks in each of the months of February, March, and April.

Mr. Thompson further reports that upon his return to San Francisco, he immediately began to seek a permanent residence, made an offer on a house on April 2, went to settlement, and moved into the new residence shortly thereafter. He states that these unusual circumstances prevented him from vacating the temporary quarters in a timely manner. The record does not show that the Forest Service took all of these factors into consideration in allowing an extension of TQSE for 30 days but disallowing Mr. Thompson's request for an additional 60 days of TQSE.

An agency may pay a transferred employee subsistence expenses for himself and his immediate family for an initial period of not more than 60 days while occupying temporary quarters and may grant an extension, not to exceed 60 additional days, provided the agency determines that there are compelling reasons for the continued occupancy of temporary quarters, due to circumstances which have occurred during the initial 60-day period of occupancy and which are beyond the employee's control and acceptable to the agency. /2/ Agency determinations must be made on an individual-case basis. /3/

Under paragraph 2-5.2a(2) of the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR), an agency may grant an extension of up to 60 days only where there is a demonstrated need for an extension due to circumstances beyond the employee's control occurring within the initial 60-day period of temporary quarters. Examples of compelling reasons include the sudden illness, injury, or death of the employee or an immediate family member.

We have interpreted the temporary quarters regulations in the FTR as granting an agency broad discretion to limit the period of temporary quarters, and we will not challenge an agency's determination absent evidence that it was arbitrary, capricious, or contrary to law. /4/ However, as stated earlier, the FTR provide that the procedures prescribed by agencies for administering TQSE must assure that "the administrative determination as to whether the occupancy of temporary quarters is necessary and the length of time for occupancy shall be made on an individual-case basis." /5/

In this case, it does not appear that the Forest Service took all of the factors, i.e., the delay by the relocation services contractor, the pregnancy of Mr. Thompson's wife and the premature birth of their child, the trip to Michigan, and the illness of his 4-week-old baby, into consideration in allowing an extension for 30 days of TQSE, but disallowing the remaining 60 days requested.

Accordingly, we are remanding Mr. Thompson's claim to the Forest Service for reconsideration in light of the particular circumstances involved in his occupancy of temporary quarters in accordance with FTR, paras. 2-5.1 and 2-5.2. If, after reconsideration, the claim is not satisfactorily resolved, you may resubmit it to this Office of an advance decision.

We are enclosing copies of the decisions cited in this letter for your use and information.

/1/ Para. 2-5.j, USDA Travel Regulations, Amendment 12, Oct. 9, 1987.

/2/ 5 U.S.C. Sec. 5724a(a)(3) (1988); para. 2-5.2, the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR) (Supp. 10, Mar. 13, 1984), incorp. by ref., 41 C.F.R. Sec. 101-7.003 (1988).

/3/ FTR, para. 2-5.1; Rosemary A. Smith, B-235787, Nov. 20, 1989, 69 Comp.Gen. ***.

/4/ Robert R. Hollister, B-238601, Oct. 4, 1990; William H. Beavers, B-233653, Nov. 20, 1989; Smith, supra; Alexander D. Bell, B-201382, Aug. 26, 1981.

/5/ FTR, para. 2-5.1, supra; William D. Dudley, 67 Comp.Gen. 310 (1988); Beavers, supra; Smith, supra.