B-4515, JULY 15, 1939, 19 COMP. GEN. 64

B-4515: Jul 15, 1939

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EMPLOYEES' COMPENSATION COMMISSION - MEDICAL TREATMENT AS "COMPENSATION" FOR GOVERNMENT REIMBURSEMENT PURPOSES - EMPLOYEE'S CURRENT SALARY RATE DEDUCTION AUTHORITY THE COST OF MEDICAL TREATMENT FURNISHED BY THE EMPLOYEES' COMPENSATION COMMISSION TO AN INJURED EMPLOYEE IS "COMPENSATION" WITHIN THE MEANING OF SECTION 27 OF THE EMPLOYEES' COMPENSATION ACT OF SEPTEMBER 7. WHICH IS REQUIRED TO BE REIMBURSED THE COMMISSION OUT OF AMOUNTS RECOVERED BY HIM FROM PRIVATE SOURCES FOR THE SAME INJURY. 1939: I HAVE YOUR LETTER OF JUNE 21. WAS INJURED ON MAY 20. FARR'S INJURIES WERE SUSTAINED UNDER CIRCUMSTANCES CREATING A LEGAL LIABILITY UPON A PERSON OTHER THAN THE UNITED STATES AND. TITLE 5) PROVIDES AS FOLLOWS: "THAT IF AN INJURY OR DEATH FOR WHICH COMPENSATION IS PAYABLE UNDER THIS ACT IS CAUSED UNDER CIRCUMSTANCES CREATING A LEGAL LIABILITY IN SOME PERSON OTHER THAN THE UNITED STATES TO PAY DAMAGES THEREFOR.

B-4515, JULY 15, 1939, 19 COMP. GEN. 64

EMPLOYEES' COMPENSATION COMMISSION - MEDICAL TREATMENT AS "COMPENSATION" FOR GOVERNMENT REIMBURSEMENT PURPOSES - EMPLOYEE'S CURRENT SALARY RATE DEDUCTION AUTHORITY THE COST OF MEDICAL TREATMENT FURNISHED BY THE EMPLOYEES' COMPENSATION COMMISSION TO AN INJURED EMPLOYEE IS "COMPENSATION" WITHIN THE MEANING OF SECTION 27 OF THE EMPLOYEES' COMPENSATION ACT OF SEPTEMBER 7, 1916, 39 STAT. 747, WHICH IS REQUIRED TO BE REIMBURSED THE COMMISSION OUT OF AMOUNTS RECOVERED BY HIM FROM PRIVATE SOURCES FOR THE SAME INJURY, BUT AN EMPLOYEE'S CURRENT SALARY PAYMENTS CANNOT BE REQUIRED TO BE WITHHELD TO SATISFY SUCH AN INDEBTEDNESS, THE EARLIER DECISIONS AUTHORIZING SUCH WITHHOLDING HAVING BEEN MODIFIED BECAUSE OF SUBSEQUENT COURT DECISIONS AND ACTS OF CONGRESS.

COMPTROLLER GENERAL BROWN TO THE CHAIRMAN, UNITED STATES EMPLOYEES' COMPENSATION COMMISSION, JULY 15, 1939:

I HAVE YOUR LETTER OF JUNE 21, 1939, AS FOLLOWS:

ARCHIBALD FARR, AN EMPLOYEE OF THE BUREAU OF HOME ECONOMICS, DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, WAS INJURED ON MAY 20, 1937, AND ON ACCOUNT OF THIS INJURY THIS COMMISSION MADE THE FOLLOWING PAYMENTS OF COMPENSATION:

* * * * (CHART OMITTED) * * * *

MR. FARR'S INJURIES WERE SUSTAINED UNDER CIRCUMSTANCES CREATING A LEGAL LIABILITY UPON A PERSON OTHER THAN THE UNITED STATES AND, AS A RESULT OF A SETTLEMENT WITH THE THIRD PARTY, RECOVERED $1,400 DAMAGES.

SECTION 27 OF THE COMPENSATION ACT (SECTION 777 OF THE UNITED STATES CODE, TITLE 5) PROVIDES AS FOLLOWS:

"THAT IF AN INJURY OR DEATH FOR WHICH COMPENSATION IS PAYABLE UNDER THIS ACT IS CAUSED UNDER CIRCUMSTANCES CREATING A LEGAL LIABILITY IN SOME PERSON OTHER THAN THE UNITED STATES TO PAY DAMAGES THEREFOR, AND A BENEFICIARY ENTITLED TO COMPENSATION FROM THE UNITED STATES FOR SUCH INJURY OR DEATH RECEIVES, AS A RESULT OF A SUIT BROUGHT BY HIM OR ON HIS BEHALF, OR AS A RESULT OF A SETTLEMENT MADE BY HIM OR ON HIS BEHALF, ANY MONEY OR OTHER PROPERTY IN SATISFACTION OF THE LIABILITY OF SUCH OTHER PERSON, SUCH BENEFICIARY SHALL, AFTER DEDUCTING THE COSTS OF SUIT AND A REASONABLE ATTORNEY'S FEE, APPLY THE MONEY OR OTHER PROPERTY IN SATISFACTION OF THE LIABILITY OF SUCH OTHER PERSON, SUCH BENEFICIARY SHALL, AFTER DEDUCTING THE COSTS OF SUIT AND A REASONABLE ATTORNEY'S FEE, APPLY THE MONEY OR OTHER PROPERTY SO RECEIVED IN THE FOLLOWING MANNER:

"IF HIS COMPENSATION HAS BEEN PAID IN WHOLE OR IN PART, HE SHALL REFUND TO THE UNITED STATES THE AMOUNT OF COMPENSATION WHICH HAS BEEN PAID BY THE UNITED STATES AND CREDIT ANY SURPLUS UPON FUTURE PAYMENTS OF COMPENSATION PAYABLE TO HIM ON ACCOUNT OF THE SAME INJURY. ANY AMOUNT SO REFUNDED TO THE UNITED STATES SHALL BE PLACED TO THE CREDIT OF THE EMPLOYEES' COMPENSATION FUND.'

MR. FARR, THROUGH HIS ATTORNEY, HAS REMITTED $10.00 TO THE COMMISSION TO COVER REFUND OF THE PAYMENT MADE ON SEPTEMBER 18, 1937, WHICH WAS FOR COMPENSATION AWARDED FOR HIS DISABILITY. HE TAKES THE POSITION THAT HE IS NOT REQUIRED TO REFUND THE BALANCE OF $113.00 AS HE CLAIMS PAYMENTS MADE BY THIS COMMISSION FOR MEDICAL AND HOSPITAL TREATMENT ARE NOT COMPENSATION. I AM ENCLOSING COPIES OF LETTERS FROM, MR. JAMES J. HAYDEN, WHO IS MR. FARR'S ATTORNEY, DATED MAY 15, 1939, AND MAY 23, 1939, WHICH SET FORTH THE ATTITUDE OF THE EMPLOYEE WITH RESPECT TO THIS REFUND.

SECTION 40 OF THE COMPENSATION ACT (SECTION 789 OF THE UNITED STATES CODE, TITLE 5) DEFINES COMPENSATION TO INCLUDE BENEFITS PAID OUT OF THE COMPENSATION FUND. PAYMENTS MADE BY THE COMMISSION FOR MEDICAL AND HOSPITAL TREATMENT ARE, THEREFORE COMPENSATION WITHIN THE MEANING OF THE ACT AND REFUND SHOULD BE MADE FOR SUCH EXPENSES IN ACCORDANCE WITH SECTION 27. IN THIS CONNECTION, YOUR OFFICE HAS DECIDED THAT PAYMENTS MADE BY THE COMMISSION FOR MEDICAL AND HOSPITAL TREATMENT ARE COMPENSATION WITHIN THE MEANING OF THE ACT. (9 COMP. GEN. 465; 11 COMP. GEN. 363.)

A DECISION OF YOUR OFFICE (5 COMP. GEN. 669) HELD THAT DEDUCTIONS FROM A CLAIMANT'S PAY FOR REFUND OF COMPENSATION PAYMENTS MADE BY THIS COMMISSION TO AN EMPLOYEE OF THE GOVERNMENT IS PROPER.

IN VIEW OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES, MR. FARR IS INDEBTED TO THE UNITED STATES IN THE SUM OF $113.00. HE IS STILL EMPLOYED BY THE BUREAU OF HOME ECONOMICS, DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE. WE ARE CALLING THIS MATTER TO YOUR ATTENTION IN ORDER THAT YOU MAY CAUSE SUSPENSION TO BE MADE OF SALARY PAYMENTS TO THIS EMPLOYEE UNTIL SUCH TIME AS REIMBURSEMENT TO THE GOVERNMENT HAS BEEN MADE, IF YOU DEEM SUCH ACTION PROPER.

WE CALLED THIS MATTER TO THE ATTENTION OF THE CHIEF OF THE BUREAU OF HOME ECONOMICS, REQUESTING THAT THAT BUREAU WITHHOLD SALARY PAYMENTS TO MR. FARR UNTIL THIS MATTER WAS TAKEN CARE OF. THE CHIEF OF THAT BUREAU, HOWEVER, ACTING UPON THE OPINION OF THE SOLICITOR OF THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, INFORMS THIS COMMISSION THAT HE HAS NO AUTHORITY TO WITHHOLD SALARY CHECKS TO MR. FARR. I AM ENCLOSING A COPY OF LETTER TO THE CHIEF OF THE BUREAU OF HOME ECONOMICS, DATED MAY 20, 1939, IN WHICH SAID BUREAU WAS REQUESTED TO WITHHOLD MR. FARR'S PAY AND COPY OF THE LETTER WHICH WE HAVE RECEIVED FROM THE CHIEF OF THE BUREAU AS WELL AS AN OPINION OF MR. MASTIN G. WHITE, THE SOLICITOR OF THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE.

IN 11 COMP. GEN. 363, IT WAS HELD:

THE COST OF MEDICAL TREATMENT FURNISHED BY THE EMPLOYEES' COMPENSATION COMMISSION TO AN INJURED EMPLOYEE IS "COMPENSATION" WITHIN THE MEANING OF SECTION 27 OF THE EMPLOYEES' COMPENSATION ACT OF SEPTEMBER 7, 1916, 39 STAT. 747, WHICH IS REQUIRED TO BE REIMBURSED THE COMMISSION OUT OF AMOUNTS RECOVERED FROM PRIVATE SOURCES FOR THE SAME INJURY, WHETHER THE RECOVERY BE THE RESULT OF A SUIT BROUGHT BY THE COMMISSION OR OF A SETTLEMENT MADE DIRECTLY BY THE BENEFICIARY, AND IF THE BENEFICIARY FAILS OR REFUSES TO REIMBURSE THE COMMISSION, THE AMOUNT INVOLVED CONSTITUTES AN INDEBTEDNESS TO THE UNITED STATES WHICH MAY BE OFFSET AGAINST THE ANNUITY PAYMENT TO THE BENEFICIARY MADE UNDER THE CIVIL RETIREMENT ACT.

YOUR ACTION IN REQUESTING REFUND OF THE COST OF MEDICAL AND HOSPITAL TREATMENT WAS CORRECT UNDER THE HOLDING IN THE DECISION, SUPRA.

WHILE SOME OF THE EARLIER DECISIONS OF THIS OFFICE AUTHORIZED THE WITHHOLDING OF CURRENT SALARY PAYMENTS TO SATISFY INDEBTEDNESS OF THE EMPLOYEES TO THE UNITED STATES, SUCH PROCEDURE WAS REQUIRED TO BE MODIFIED BECAUSE OF SUBSEQUENT COURT DECISIONS AND ACTS OF CONGRESS. CONSEQUENTLY, SEE 16 COMP. GEN. 161; ID. 547; 17 ID. 12, AND AUTHORITIES THEREIN CITED.

THE REFUSAL OF THE BUREAU OF HOME ECONOMICS, DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, TO WITHHOLD THE CURRENT SALARY OF THE INVOLVED EMPLOYEE TO SATISFY HIS INDEBTEDNESS TO THE UNITED STATES WAS PROPER. HOWEVER, A CHARGE WILL BE RAISED AGAINST THE EMPLOYEE ON THE RECORDS OF THIS OFFICE AND COLLECTION PROCEEDINGS INSTITUTED, AS IN OTHER SIMILAR CASES OF INDEBTEDNESS TO THE UNITED STATES. IF IN THE MEANTIME ARRANGEMENTS ARE MADE FOR THE LIQUIDATION OF THE INDEBTEDNESS, THIS OFFICE SHOULD BE NOTIFIED THEREOF IN ORDER THAT THE MATTER MAY BE CLOSED.