Matter of: Technical Sergeant Frank C. Aebi, USAF (Retired) File: B-251056 Date: February 4, 1993

B-251056: Feb 4, 1993

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Retired member submitted documentation of expenses claimed to have been incurred on temporary duty travel 9 years previously. Is requesting reimbursement of monies being withheld from his retired pay for travel advances he received in connection with temporary duty (TDY) travel. Aebi performed TDY and was authorized per diem from August 24. Aebi was authorized an actual expense allowance and he had to submit an itemized daily breakdown of meals. Aebi contends that he submitted a travel voucher to Kelly Air Force Base in early 1984 but was advised several months later by Air Force officials that the voucher was lost. Aebi was released from active duty on January 31. The Air Force states that they have no record of receiving the travel voucher but that officials at both Bolling Air Force Base.

Matter of: Technical Sergeant Frank C. Aebi, USAF (Retired) File: B-251056 Date: February 4, 1993

APPROPRIATIONS/FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT Claims Against Government Travel expenses Reimbursement Statutes of limitation MILITARY PERSONNEL Travel Advances Debt collection Set-off Retirement pay To reduce his indebtedness for travel advances, retired member submitted documentation of expenses claimed to have been incurred on temporary duty travel 9 years previously. Employee's travel advance debt may be reduced by the amount of allowable expenses member can prove even though a direct claim against the government for reimbursement of allowable expenses would be barred by 31 U.S.C. Sec. 3702.

DECISION Technical Sergeant Frank C. Aebi, USAF (Retired), is requesting reimbursement of monies being withheld from his retired pay for travel advances he received in connection with temporary duty (TDY) travel. Since Sgt. Aebi failed to submit a travel voucher to settle the travel account, the advances resulted in his indebtness to the United States.

Sgt. Aebi performed TDY and was authorized per diem from August 24, 1982 through January 30, 1984, from Kelly Air Force Base, Texas to the Department of State, Washington, D.C. and return. From August 18, 1982 through December 14, 1983, Sgt. Aebi received $35,950 in travel advances. Sgt. Aebi was authorized an actual expense allowance and he had to submit an itemized daily breakdown of meals, lodging, and miscellaneous expenses and receipts on a DD Form 1351-3, Statement of Actual Expenses.

Sgt. Aebi contends that he submitted a travel voucher to Kelly Air Force Base in early 1984 but was advised several months later by Air Force officials that the voucher was lost. Sgt. Aebi was released from active duty on January 31, 1984 and retired effective February 1, 1984.

The Air Force states that they have no record of receiving the travel voucher but that officials at both Bolling Air Force Base, Washington, D.C. and the Debt Collection Branch, Directorate of Debt and Claims Management sent numerous letters to Sgt. Aebi requesting that he submit a settlement voucher.

In October 1987, when no travel voucher had been received, the Air Force began collection action against Sgt. Aebi's military retired pay with a monthly deduction of $530.16. As of September 30, 1992, the balance remaining on the debt was $4,140.40.

Sgt. Aebi filed a travel voucher against the travel advance on May 25, 1992, which contains lodging receipts, furniture rental receipts and paid telephone bills from August 1982 through February 19, 1983. No receipts were submitted for March 1983 through January 1984.

Sgt. Aebi's claim against the government for allowable travel expenses would be barred by the Barring Act, 31 U.S.C. Sec. 3702, which requires that claims be filed within 6 years of the date they accrue or be barred. Sgt. Aebi's claim accrued from 1982 to 1984 when he incurred the TDY expenses. Cullen P. Keough, 63 Comp.Gen. 462 (1984).

However, for the reasons stated below, we conclude that Sgt. Aebi may be able to use the late submitted travel documentation to offset all or a portion of the government's claim for the debt caused by his failure to file such documentation initially.

We have issued several decisions where an employee had received a travel advance and had failed to file their claim within the statutory period. 63 Comp.Gen. supra; Thomas R. Hopkins, B-195738, April 1, 1980; B-179935, Feb. 26, 1974. In each of those cases, we found that the doctrine of recoupment should apply and that the advance should not have been set off against amounts otherwise allowable since it appeared that the advance was used for authorized travel long before the expiration of the statutory period. Recoupment is available as a defense even though barred as an affirmative cause of action. Since the debts arose out of the same transaction, the defense survives as long as the cause of action on the claim exists.

Accordingly, further retired pay deductions should not be made from Sgt. Aebi at this time until the Air Force reviews the documentation submitted by Sgt. Aebi with the travel voucher filed in May 1992 to determine if any expenses were allowable. Appropriate adjustments in the amount of his indebtedness should be made.