B-243361, October 21, 1991

B-243361: Oct 21, 1991

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The remainder of he tuition was paid under a state program. The Navy may not pay the doctor's debt to the state because the obligation to the state is a personal matter resulting from her state residence and choice of a medical school. Elizabeth Ann Tonon Coffin - Claim for Capitation Fee: We have been asked by the Navy whether it may reimburse the tuition costs of $27. The students are obligated after graduating from medical school to either return to Maine to practice in an underserved area of the state or repay the tuition part of the Maine capitation fee. She is currently fulfilling her Navy obligation. Which will be completed in the summer of 1992. The student is permitted to fulfill his or her military obligation before fulfilling the obligation to Maine.

B-243361, October 21, 1991

DIGEST: A medical doctor attended medical school under the Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship program, 10 U.S.C. Sec. 2120-27, which covered part of her tuition expenses. The remainder of he tuition was paid under a state program, whereby the student promises the state to perform medical services in the state upon completion of her military obligation, or to repay the state for its tuition payments. The Navy may not pay the doctor's debt to the state because the obligation to the state is a personal matter resulting from her state residence and choice of a medical school.

Dr. Elizabeth Ann Tonon Coffin - Claim for Capitation Fee:

We have been asked by the Navy whether it may reimburse the tuition costs of $27,630, paid by the state of Maine to the University of Vermont, College of Medicine, for the education of a medical scholarship by the present record.

As background, Maine has a contract with the University of Vermont to provide medical education for 15 Maine residents each year. Maine pays the school a so-called capitation fee for each student over his or her 4- year tenure of medical training. The school only accepts Maine students who sign contracts with Maine. Under these Maine contracts, the students are obligated after graduating from medical school to either return to Maine to practice in an underserved area of the state or repay the tuition part of the Maine capitation fee.

The Maine payment to the school only covers part of the student's tuition; the remainder must be obtained by the individual Maine student from another source, such as the military contract that Dr. Coffin obtained.

Dr. Coffin signed an agreement under the Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship Program, as provided under 10 U.S.C. Sec. 2120 27. Pursuant to this agreement, the Navy undertook to pay Dr. Coffin's educational expenses for medical school in return for her promise to serve as a Navy doctor for a specified period after her graduation. She is currently fulfilling her Navy obligation, which will be completed in the summer of 1992.

In this connection, Maine states that when one of its contract students has accepted a military contract while attending the University of Vermont medical school, the military contract does not-negate the Maine contract. Instead, the student is permitted to fulfill his or her military obligation before fulfilling the obligation to Maine. However, if the Maine contract participant elects to remain in the military beyond the period of obligated service incurred as a result of his or her medical education, the participant must then commence repaying the loan.

In requesting our decision on whether it may pay Dr. Coffin's monetary obligation to Maine, the Navy reasons that if the monetary obligation claimed by Maine is an educational expense, it should be paid by Navy even if Dr. Coffin elects not to extend her service in the Navy past 1992 and refuses to perform service for Maine. Our decision as to the nature of the payments made by Maine for Dr. coffin is requested.

In our view, Dr. Coffin's monetary obligation to Maine may not be considered to be an educational expense under 10 U.S.C. Sec. 2127. Section 2127 provides for payment of all educational expenses incurred by a member of the program, limited to those educational expenses normally incurred by students at the institution.

Dr. Coffin's obligation to Maine was a personal obligation which arose because of her choice of a medical school and her state of residence. Since she chose the University of Vermont for her education and because of her residency in Maine, she was obligated to sign the Maine contract. However, this was independent of any of her requirements under the Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship Program. If she had chosen a different medical school, the obligation would not have arisen. Therefore, we do not find the capitation fee to be an educational expense.

Accordingly, the amount proposed for payment to Maine on behalf of Dr. Coffin is not authorized.