B-242308, May 21, 1991

B-242308: May 21, 1991

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Payment may not be made to either guardian until the legal dispute between them is finally settled. Claim for 6-months' Death Gratuity: This is in response to an appeal by Mrs. Airman Apprentice Vancil died on active duty in December 1986 and is survived by 2 children. Belmes have returned to court and have obtained recent court orders from different Philippine courts naming each the guardian of Valerie and Vincent. A death gratuity is payable under 10 U.S.C. Section 1477 lists in order of precedence the relatives to whom the death gratuity is payable. Since Airman Apprentice Vancil was not married. Since the children are minors. Payment to their legal guardian is proper. We said that payment would not be made until the legal conflict between the guardians was settled.

B-242308, May 21, 1991

MILITARY PERSONNEL - Pay - Death gratuities - Eligibility - Guardians DIGEST: When two guardians appointed by different courts present conflicting claims for a death gratuity on behalf of the children of a deceased service member, payment may not be made to either guardian until the legal dispute between them is finally settled.

Claim for 6-months' Death Gratuity:

This is in response to an appeal by Mrs. Bonifacia Vancil of a Claims Group determination which authorized payment of a 6-months' death gratuity to Ms. Helen Belmes on behalf of Valerie and Vincent Vancil, children of Airman Apprentice Reeder C. Vancil, USN (Deceased). For the reasons presented below, payment may not be made to either claimant until they settle their legal dispute regarding guardianship of the children.

Airman Apprentice Vancil died on active duty in December 1986 and is survived by 2 children, Valerie and Vincent Vancil, who live with their mother, Ms. Belmes, in the Philippines. After his death his mother, Mrs. Vancil, went to the Philippines and obtained a court order naming her the children's guardian. Subsequently, Ms. Belmes obtained a court order from another Philippine court naming her guardian by operation of Philippine law. It appears that bothMrs. Vancil and Ms. Belmes have returned to court and have obtained recent court orders from different Philippine courts naming each the guardian of Valerie and Vincent.

A death gratuity is payable under 10 U.S.C. Sec. 1475 in certain cases when a service member dies while on active duty. Section 1477 lists in order of precedence the relatives to whom the death gratuity is payable. Since Airman Apprentice Vancil was not married, his children qualify as beneficiaries under the statute. Since the children are minors, payment to their legal guardian is proper.

In 11 Comp.Gen. 418 (l932), we dealt with the claims of conflicting guardians for retainer pay due an incompetent retired service member. The guardians had been appointed by courts in different states. We said that payment would not be made until the legal conflict between the guardians was settled.

The situation presented to us is similar to 11 Comp.Gen. 418, supra. Since Mrs. Vancil and Ms. Belmes have been appointed guardians by different Philippine courts, we must reach a similar decision. Payment of Airman Apprentice Vancil's death gratuity may not be paid to either claimant until the legal dispute between them reaches a final judicial settlement.

Claims for the death gratuity should be handled accordingly.