Matter of: Chief Master Sergeant Gary R. Howell, USAF File: B-252347 Date: September 3, 1993

B-252347: Sep 3, 1993

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Because of closure of base and its Travel Management Office was unable to obtain a reissued ticket or revised Government Travel Request after he received amended orders for permanent change of station may be reimbursed for the added cost of the commercial ticket cost he incurred for transoceanic flight. DECISION This action is in response to a request from Chief Master Sergeant (CMSgt.). It is our view that. Howell was stationed at Clark Air Base. He was ordered to make a permanent change of station to MacDill Air Force Base. His new permanent duty station was changed to Germany. He was unable to exchange the tickets to Germany for a GTR to Japan. Since the amending order was issued 7 days before the closure of Clark Air Base at a time when the base's Travel Management Office had apparently closed.

Matter of: Chief Master Sergeant Gary R. Howell, USAF File: B-252347 Date: September 3, 1993

MILITARY PERSONNEL Travel Commercial carriers Travel expenses Reimbursement Service member who, because of closure of base and its Travel Management Office was unable to obtain a reissued ticket or revised Government Travel Request after he received amended orders for permanent change of station may be reimbursed for the added cost of the commercial ticket cost he incurred for transoceanic flight. The member acted reasonably and prudently, and upon the advice of Travel Management Office personnel, and thus should be reimbursed.

DECISION This action is in response to a request from Chief Master Sergeant (CMSgt.) Gary R. Howell USAF for reconsideration of our Claims Group's denial of his claim for transoceanic travel expenses incurred incident to a permanent change of station. It is our view that, for the reasons set forth below, the claim should be paid.

CMSgt. Howell was stationed at Clark Air Base, Philippines. He was ordered to make a permanent change of station to MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, by orders dated September 24, 1991. The orders directed use of a Government Transportation Request (GTR). By additional orders dated October 9, 1991, his new permanent duty station was changed to Germany. Accordingly, CMSgt. Howell exchanged his GTR at the Clark Air Base Scheduled Airlines Transportation Office for tickets to Germany.

Further amending orders, dated November 19, 1991, changed CMSgt. Howell's permanent duty station to Japan. In his claim, CMSgt. Howell stated that, after the further change in orders, he was unable to exchange the tickets to Germany for a GTR to Japan, since the amending order was issued 7 days before the closure of Clark Air Base at a time when the base's Travel Management Office had apparently closed. He states he was advised at the time by an individual who had formerly been employed by the Clark Air Base Travel Management Office that he could exchange his ticket for a commercial ticket at the time of his travel to Japan.

CMSgt. Howell was authorized to take leave to the United States between his consecutive overseas tours. While in the United States, CMSgt. Howell contacted the Travel Management Office office at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, and states he was again told that he could be reimbursed for the balance of the ticket cost if he exchanged the ticket to Germany for a commercial flight to Japan.

CMSgt. Howell applied the ticket he had obtained at Clark Air Base for travel to Germany towards the purchase of a United Airlines ticket from Chicago, Japan, paying the difference of $340 out of pocket. He then claimed the $340 as a reimbursable travel expense when he arrived at his duty station in Japan.

The travel expense was denied by the Air Force. The position taken by the Air Force is that CMSgt. Howell should have obtained a GTR, a statement of non-availability of government or government procured transportation, or a special authorization to personally procure commercial transportation before leaving his old duty station.

CMSgt. Howell appealed that denial and the matter was forwarded to our Claims Group. The Claims Group, by settlement dated October 31, 1992, denied the claim stating that CMSgt. Howell could have obtained the authorization and documents he needed from the Travel Management Office at Clark Air Base or, if not, that he instead could have obtained them at a Travel Management Office in Manilla 48 miles away.

CMSgt. Howell appealed that decision and the matter was forwarded to this Office. He has provided additional information to support his claim.

First, CMSgt. Howell has provided a statement from the Traffic Management Officer in Manilla which indicates that the Clark Air Base Travel Management Office passenger section ceased issuing tickets on November 5, 1991, and remained open only until November 15, 1991, to update, reschedule or cancel existing tickets and reservations.[1] Assuming the statement of the Manilla Traffic Management Officer to be correct, the services of the Clark Air Base Travel Management Office were therefore apparently unavailable to CMSgt. Howell on November 19, 1991, from the Clark Air Base Travel Management Office, when he received newly changed orders and needed a reissued GTR or re-written tickets. CMSgt. Howell acknowledges the services he needed were available in Manilla, but points out that because of extreme difficulties in traveling to Manilla at that time, with bridges out as the result of a volcanic eruption, and the lack of time in view of his assigned duties during the closing of Clark Air Base, making this trip was not a viable option. The trip to Manilla, moreover, did not seem necessary in light of advice he received from an individual formerly employed at the Clark Air Base Travel Management Office that it would be possible for him to exchange his ticket to Germany for a commercial ticket to Japan, and to be reimbursed for the difference.

We also note that the record contains a statement from the Director, Financial Services at Hickam Air Base in Hawaii that under the circumstances, CMSgt. Howell had insufficient time to obtain necessary documentation for personally procured transoceanic transportation. That office urges reimbursement of the travel expenses due to the extenuating circumstances in this case.

Applicable regulations are found in the Joint Federal Travel Regulations (JFTR). Paragraph U3115-C1, in effect at the time, provides that "when travel is directed by government transportation or government procured transportation and the member performs transoceanic travel at personal expense, no reimbursement for the cost of transoceanic travel is authorized [emphasis added]."

The Air Force and our Claims Group have cited this regulation as applicable in the case of CMSgt Howell. However, the JFTR then in effect also provides that when travel by government transportation and government procured transportation are not available and transoceanic travel is performed by common carrier at personal expense, the member is entitled to reimbursement..." See 1 JTR U3115-C and U3110-D2.

Accordingly, CMSgt. Howell's claim should be paid since government procured transportation was in fact unavailable to him under the circumstances. B-170423, Feb. 18, 1972.

1. The record contains statements that the Clark Air Base Travel Management Office did not close until November 24, 1991. These statements, however, come from officials located in Hawaii and San Francisco. The more reliable statement comes, we believe, from officials located in Manilla, who cite a November 15, 1991 closing date.