Request for Waiver of Debt Resulting From Erroneous Payment Upon Separation From the Air Force

B-196448: Nov 28, 1979

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    Shirley Jones
    (202) 512-8156
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    When a service member was released from active duty in the Air Force, he was paid $973.25 as an end-of-month payment due to an administrative error. Since the audit of his account revealed that he was entitled to $167.13 at discharge, he was erroneously paid $806.12. The member contacted the Air Force finance office and questioned his entitlement to the check for $973.25, but did not receive a clear explanation. He waited to receive notification of an overpayment, but after a month he assumed the money was due him and withdrew the money from his savings account. His application for waiver of the debt was denied, and the denial of this waiver was sustained. It was held that the service member should have known that the payment was erroneous, and that he would be required to refund it. He was not without fault, since he should have requested a written verification of his entitlement to the payment when he contacted the finance office concerning the check. The correctness of the payment was so doubtful that he should have set aside the excessive amount until a definite determination and statement had been made to him fully explaining his entitlement. Persons receiving money erroneously paid by a Government agency or official acquire no right to the money; such persons are bound in equity and good conscience to make restitution. Even though financial hardship may result from collection, this is not a sufficient reason for a person to retain a payment that was paid to him erroneously.

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