Robert M. Hooks--Real Estate Expenses-- Transfer from Overseas Duty Station B-249184 March 5, 1993 72 Comp.Gen. 130

B-249184: Mar 5, 1993

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Edda Emmanuelli Perez
(202) 512-2853
EmmanuelliPerezE@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

He was transferred back to his prior position which had been relocated to Charleston. An official station other than the one from which he was transferred to the foreign post of duty. He was reimbursed for the real estate expenses incurred in these transactions. Hooks was granted return rights to Savannah. Based on the fact that there were other candidates to replace Mr. He was informed by civilian personnel office officials both in Alaska and at DLA headquarters that he was entitled to full real estate benefits. Hooks was transferred to Singapore in the interest of the government in July 1991 for a normal tour of 24 months. He was notified prior to his transfer to Singapore that he would not return to Alaska and that his return rights would be to Savannah.

Robert M. Hooks--Real Estate Expenses-- Transfer from Overseas Duty Station B-249184 March 5, 1993 72 Comp.Gen. 130

Civilian Personnel Relocation Residence transaction expenses Reimbursement Eligibility Overseas personnel Employee transferred from Alaska to a foreign post of duty, Singapore, in the interest of the government. He sold his Alaska residence after being notified by agency officials that he would not return to Alaska and that his return rights would be to his prior position in Savannah, Georgia. Upon completion of his tour of duty in Singapore, he was transferred back to his prior position which had been relocated to Charleston, South Carolina. Upon his transfer to Charleston, an official station other than the one from which he was transferred to the foreign post of duty, the employee became entitled to the allowable expenses incurred in the sale of his residence in Alaska since he sold it after he had been officially notified that he would not return to Alaska but to a different duty station in the United States. 5 U.S.C. 5724a(a)(4)(A) (1988).

DECISION The Per Diem, Travel and Transportation Allowance Committee, Department of Defense, has forwarded the claim of Mr. Robert M. Hooks, an employee of the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), for a decision whether Mr. Hooks may be reimbursed for the expenses incurred in the sale of his residence in Anchorage, Alaska. We hold that he may be reimbursed.

BACKGROUND

Mr. Hooks transferred from Savannah, Georgia, to Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, on January 30, 1990, to serve a 36-month tour of duty. He sold his residence in Georgia and purchased a residence in Alaska. In accordance with applicable regulations, he was reimbursed for the real estate expenses incurred in these transactions. In connection with his transfer to Alaska, Mr. Hooks was granted return rights to Savannah, Georgia, upon completion of his tour of duty in Alaska.

After serving 17 months of the Alaska tour of duty, Mr. Hooks applied to fill a position in Singapore. DLA management officials selected Mr. Hooks to fill the Singapore position, even though he had not completed his full tour of duty in Alaska, based on the fact that there were other candidates to replace Mr. Hooks in Alaska, but no other candidates for the Singapore position. Before accepting that overseas transfer, he inquired whether he would be entitled to full reimbursement of real estate expenses. He was informed by civilian personnel office officials both in Alaska and at DLA headquarters that he was entitled to full real estate benefits.

Mr. Hooks was transferred to Singapore in the interest of the government in July 1991 for a normal tour of 24 months. He was notified prior to his transfer to Singapore that he would not return to Alaska and that his return rights would be to Savannah, Georgia. These instructions were given by DLA officials in conformance with DLA Regulation 1404.5B, which provides that an employee serving in Alaska with return rights to a position in the continental United States (CONUS) will not be granted return rights to Alaska upon acceptance of a position in a foreign overseas area, and that the employee's original return rights to CONUS would apply. Based on the above, and after receiving official notification of his transfer to Singapore, Mr. Hooks sold his residence in Alaska.

Based upon the total period served in Alaska and Singapore, Mr. Hooks was eligible to return to Savannah in June 1992, but he remained in Singapore for several additional months at the request of DLA. By travel order dated November 16, 1992, Mr. Hooks was transferred from Singapore to Charleston, South Carolina, since his former position in Savannah had been transferred to that new location.

OPINION

Under the provisions of 5 U.S.C. Sec. 5724a(a)(4)(A) (1988) and the implementing regulations, the Federal Travel Regulation (FTR), 41 C.F.R. Sec. 302-6.1(a) (1991), and the Joint Travel Regulations, Vol. 2, para. C14000-1-1, both the old and new duty stations must be located within the United States (the 50 states) or other named locations to entitle an employee to reimbursement of the expenses of selling or purchasing a residence. However, section 5724a(a)(4) was amended in 1987 to allow reimbursement of real estate expenses to an employee transferred to a foreign duty station who is transferred back to a duty station in the United States other than the one from which he transferred overseas. Such reimbursement shall not be allowed for any real estate transaction that occurs "prior to official notification" that the employee's return to the United States would be to an official station other than the one from which he was transferred to the foreign post of duty.

We emphasize that reimbursement may not be made until the employee is transferred back to the United States (or other designated area). The statute does not permit reimbursement incident to the transfer to the foreign post of duty even if (as in this case) the employee is officially notified at that time that he or she will not be returning to the same duty station after the completion of the foreign assignment.

Further, travel orders normally are necessary to constitute official notification. As stated in the Federal Travel Regulation, at 41 C.F.R. Sec. 302-6.1(g)(4), reimbursement is prohibited for any sale or purchase transaction "that occurs prior to an employee's first being officially notified (generally in the form of a change of official station travel authorization) that . . . he/she will be reassigned or transferred to a different nonforeign area official station . . ." than the one prior to the foreign transfer. See 54 Comp.Gen. 993 (1975).

However, in past decisions involving the issue of when an employee was notified of a transfer, we have held that verbal notification of selection for a position may constitute a clear intention to transfer an employee. James K. Payne, 68 Comp.Gen. 456 (1989). Moreover, we have held that administrative intention existed when agency officials orally advised an employee that he had been selected for a position but that his transfer was contingent on the occurrence of a particular event. James H. Hogan, B-191912, Apr. 5, 1979; John J. Fischer, B-188366, Jan. 6, 1978.

Based on the circumstances of this case, since the agency has stated that Mr. Hooks was officially notified that he would not be returning to Alaska after his tour of duty in Singapore, since he sold his house in Alaska only after receiving such notification, and since he has been transferred back to a different official station in the United States, we conclude that he has complied with the provisions of the 1987 amendment to 5 U.S.C. Sec. 5724a(a)(4).

Accordingly, Mr. Hooks is entitled to reimbursement of the allowable expenses of selling his residence in Alaska.