B-176759, JUN 12, 1974, 53 COMP GEN 960

B-176759: Jun 12, 1974

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Shirley Jones
(202) 512-8156
jonessa@gao.gov

 

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

PRIOR TO EMPLOYEE'S ELIGIBILITY NO OBJECTION IS RAISED TO A PROPOSED AMENDMENT TO VOLUME 1 OF JOINT TRAVEL REGULATIONS WHICH WOULD PERMIT RETURN TRAVEL TO THE UNITED STATES OF DEPENDENTS OF MEMBERS OF THE UNIFORMED SERVICES STATIONED OVERSEAS WHO TRAVELED OVERSEAS AS DEPENDENTS BUT CEASED TO BE DEPENDENTS BECAUSE OF DIVORCE OR ANNULMENT OF THE MARRIAGE PRIOR TO THE DATE THE MEMBER BECAME ELIGIBLE FOR THEIR RETURN TRAVEL. SUCH AMENDMENT IS SIMILAR TO THAT CONCURRED IN FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS MANUAL IN 52 COMP. TO PERMIT THE RETURN TRAVEL AT GOVERNMENT EXPENSE OF A SPOUSE AND CHILDREN TRANSPORTED OVERSEAS AT GOVERNMENT EXPENSE ALTHOUGH THE MARRIAGE MAY HAVE BEEN TERMINATED BY DIVORCE PRIOR TO THE TIME THE MEMBER BECOMES ELIGIBLE FOR THEIR RETURN TRAVEL.

B-176759, JUN 12, 1974, 53 COMP GEN 960

TRANSPORTATION - DEPENDENTS - MILITARY PERSONNEL - ADVANCE TRAVEL OF DEPENDENTS - DIVORCE, ETC., PRIOR TO EMPLOYEE'S ELIGIBILITY NO OBJECTION IS RAISED TO A PROPOSED AMENDMENT TO VOLUME 1 OF JOINT TRAVEL REGULATIONS WHICH WOULD PERMIT RETURN TRAVEL TO THE UNITED STATES OF DEPENDENTS OF MEMBERS OF THE UNIFORMED SERVICES STATIONED OVERSEAS WHO TRAVELED OVERSEAS AS DEPENDENTS BUT CEASED TO BE DEPENDENTS BECAUSE OF DIVORCE OR ANNULMENT OF THE MARRIAGE PRIOR TO THE DATE THE MEMBER BECAME ELIGIBLE FOR THEIR RETURN TRAVEL. SUCH AMENDMENT IS SIMILAR TO THAT CONCURRED IN FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS MANUAL IN 52 COMP. GEN. 246.

IN THE MATTER OF RETURN TRAVEL TO UNITED STATES FOR CERTAIN DEPENDENTS OF UNIFORMED SERVICES MEMBERS, JUNE 12, 1974:

THE DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY HAS REQUESTED A DECISION AS TO WHETHER THIS OFFICE WOULD BE REQUIRED TO OBJECT TO AN AMENDMENT TO VOLUME 1 OF THE JOINT TRAVEL REGULATIONS (JTR), TO PERMIT THE RETURN TRAVEL AT GOVERNMENT EXPENSE OF A SPOUSE AND CHILDREN TRANSPORTED OVERSEAS AT GOVERNMENT EXPENSE ALTHOUGH THE MARRIAGE MAY HAVE BEEN TERMINATED BY DIVORCE PRIOR TO THE TIME THE MEMBER BECOMES ELIGIBLE FOR THEIR RETURN TRAVEL. THE REQUEST HAS BEEN ASSIGNED CONTROL NO. 73-42 BY THE PER DIEM, TRAVEL AND TRANSPORTATION ALLOWANCE COMMITTEE.

THE QUESTION IS SUBMITTED FOLLOWING OUR DECISION OF OCTOBER 30, 1972, 52 COMP. GEN. 246, WHEREIN WE STATED THAT WE WOULD HAVE NO OBJECTION TO A SIMILAR PROPOSED AMENDMENT TO THE UNIFORM STATE/AID/USIA FOREIGN SERVICE TRAVEL REGULATIONS. THAT AMENDMENT, NOW CONTAINED IN SECTION 126.2, VOLUME 6, FOREIGN AFFAIRS MANUAL, READS AS FOLLOWS:

REIMBURSEMENT MAY BE MADE FOR ADVANCE TRAVEL OR RETURN TRAVEL TO THE UNITED STATES FOR A SPOUSE AND/OR MINOR CHILDREN OF AN EMPLOYEE WHO HAVE TRAVELED TO THE POST AS DEPENDENTS EVEN IF, BECAUSE OF DIVORCE OR ANNULMENT, SUCH SPOUSE AND/OR MINOR CHILDREN HAVE CEASED TO BE DEPENDENTS AS OF THE DATE THE EMPLOYEE BECOMES ELIGIBLE FOR TRAVEL (PROVIDED THAT SUCH ELIGIBILITY DATE OCCURS ON OR AFTER JANUARY 10, 1973). REIMBURSABLE TRAVEL MAY NOT BE DEFERRED MORE THAN 6 MONTHS AFTER THE EMPLOYEE COMPLETES PERSONAL TRAVEL PURSUANT TO THE AUTHORIZATION.

IN CONCURRING IN THE ABOVE-CITED AMENDMENT WE POINTED OUT THAT CURRENT REGULATIONS IN THE FOREIGN AFFAIRS MANUAL AND IN OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET CIRCULAR NO. A-56 (NOW THE FEDERAL TRAVEL REGULATIONS) PROVIDE FOR THE RETURN TRANSPORTATION OF AN EMPLOYEE'S CHILDREN OVER THE AGE OF 21 IF SUCH CHILDREN WERE TRANSPORTED OVERSEAS AT GOVERNMENT EXPENSE WHEN THEY WERE UNDER 21. IT WAS NOTED, THEREFORE, THAT THOSE REGULATIONS RECOGNIZE TO A PARTIAL DEGREE AN OBLIGATION ON THE PART OF THE GOVERNMENT TO RETURN MEMBERS OF AN EMPLOYEE'S FAMILY WHO WERE TRANSPORTED OVERSEAS FOR THE CONVENIENCE OF THE GOVERNMENT ALTHOUGH SUCH MEMBERS HAD CEASED TO BE DEPENDENTS OF THE EMPLOYEE WHEN HE BECAME ELIGIBLE FOR RETURN TRAVEL. THEREFORE, WE FOUND THAT THE PROPOSED REGULATION WOULD EXTEND THAT PRINCIPLE TO OTHER MEMBERS OF AN EMPLOYEE'S FAMILY WHOSE TRANSPORTATION TO THE OVERSEAS POST WAS AT GOVERNMENT EXPENSE. AND ALTHOUGH THE WIFE WOULD NOT BE A MEMBER OF THE EMPLOYEE'S FAMILY AFTER A DIVORCE, WE NOTED THAT IN MANY CASES THE EMPLOYEE WOULD BE RESPONSIBLE FOR HER SUPPORT AND IT WOULD IMPOSE A FINANCIAL HARDSHIP UPON HIM TO PROVIDE FOR HER RETURN TRAVEL. THUS, THE PROVIDING OF RETURN TRAVEL WOULD AVOID A POTENTIAL EMBARRASSMENT TO THE UNITED STATES CAUSED BY THE PRESENCE OVERSEAS OF EX-FAMILY MEMBERS WHO ARE UNABLE TO RETURN HOME DUE TO LACK OF FUNDS.

IN THE REQUEST FOR AN ADVANCE DECISION REGARDING A SIMILAR PROVISION IN VOLUME 1 OF THE JOINT TRAVEL REGULATIONS, IT IS STATED THAT THE PRINCIPLES ENUNCIATED IN 52 COMP. GEN. 246 WOULD APPEAR TO BE EQUALLY APPLICABLE TO DEPENDENTS OF MEMBERS OF THE UNIFORMED SERVICES AND THAT PARAGRAPH M7012 OF VOLUME 1, JTR, PROVIDES FOR TRANSPORTATION OF A DEPENDENT CHILD ATTAINING AGE 21 WHILE A MEMBER OF THE UNIFORMED SERVICES IS ASSIGNED TO DUTY OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES. ACCORDINGLY, IT IS ASKED IF WE WOULD BE REQUIRED TO OBJECT TO THE PROPOSED ENTITLEMENT.

SECTION 406(H) OF TITLE 37, U.S. CODE, PROVIDES IN PERTINENT PART AS FOLLOWS:

IN THE CASE OF A MEMBER WHO IS SERVING AT A STATION OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES OR IN HAWAII OR ALASKA, IF THE SECRETARY CONCERNED DETERMINES IT TO BE IN THE BEST INTEREST OF THE MEMBER OR HIS DEPENDENTS AND THE UNITED STATES, HE MAY, WHEN ORDERS DIRECTING A CHANGE OF PERMANENT STATION FOR THE MEMBER CONCERNED HAVE NOT BEEN ISSUED, OR WHEN THEY HAVE BEEN ISSUED BUT CANNOT BE USED AS AUTHORITY FOR THE TRANSPORTATION OF HIS DEPENDENTS, BAGGAGE, AND HOUSEHOLD EFFECTS -

(1) AUTHORIZE THE MOVEMENT OF THE MEMBER'S DEPENDENTS, BAGGAGE, AND HOUSEHOLD EFFECTS AT THAT STATION TO AN APPROPRIATE LOCATION IN THE UNITED STATES OR ITS POSSESSIONS AND PRESCRIBE TRANSPORTATION IN KIND, REIMBURSEMENT THEREFOR, OR A MONETARY ALLOWANCE IN PLACE THEREOF, AS THE CASE MAY BE, AS AUTHORIZED UNDER SUBSECTION (A) OR (B) OF THIS SECTION; AND

*** FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS SECTION, A MEMBER'S UNMARRIED CHILD FOR WHOM THE MEMBER RECEIVED TRANSPORTATION IN KIND TO HIS STATION OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES OR IN HAWAII OR ALASKA, REIMBURSEMENT THEREFOR, OR A MONETARY ALLOWANCE IN PLACE THEREOF, AND WHO BECAME 21 YEARS OF AGE WHILE THE MEMBER WAS SERVING AT THAT STATION, SHALL BE CONSIDERED AS A DEPENDENT OF THE MEMBER.

THAT SUBSECTION, WHICH WAS ADDED TO TITLE 37 BY THE ACT OF AUGUST 14, 1964, PUBLIC LAW 88-431, 78 STAT. 439, CONSIDERABLY BROADENED THE AUTHORITY OF THE SECRETARIES OF THE UNIFORMED SERVICES TO AUTHORIZE THE ADVANCE RETURN OF DEPENDENTS FROM OVERSEAS STATIONS. SOME OF THE SITUATIONS CONTEMPLATED UNDER WHICH ADVANCE RETURN WOULD BE AUTHORIZED ARE INDICATED IN S. REPORT NO. 1284, 88TH CONG., 2D SESS. 1, 2 AS FOLLOWS:

FOR A MEMBER OF THE UNIFORMED SERVICES WHO IS SERVING AT A STATION OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES OR IN ALASKA OR HAWAII, EXISTING LAW PROVIDES AUTHORITY FOR THE ADVANCE RETURN OF DEPENDENTS, BAGGAGE, HOUSEHOLD EFFECTS, AND PRIVATELY OWNED AUTOMOBILES OF MEMBERS OF THE UNIFORMED SERVICES IN "UNUSUAL OR EMERGENCY CIRCUMSTANCES."

THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE CONSIDERS THAT ADVANCE MOVEMENT IS DESIRABLE UNDER SOME CONDITIONS THAT DO NOT QUALIFY AS UNUSUAL OR EMERGENCY CIRCUMSTANCES. UNFORESEEN FAMILY PROBLEMS, CHANGES IN A MEMBER'S STATUS, AND CHANGED ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS IN OVERSEAS AREAS AT TIMES MAKE THE ADVANCE RETURN OF DEPENDENTS IN THE BEST INTEREST OF THE MEMBER AND THE UNITED STATES. SPECIFIC EXAMPLES OF SITUATIONS JUSTIFYING ADVANCE RETURN OF DEPENDENTS INCLUDE MARITAL DIFFICULTIES, FINANCIAL PROBLEMS BROUGHT ABOUT BY CONFINEMENT OR REDUCTION IN GRADE OF THE MEMBER, AND THE DEATH OR SERIOUS ILLNESS OF CLOSE RELATIVES.

IT IS CLEAR THAT CONGRESS WAS AWARE OF THE POTENTIAL PROBLEMS THAT COULD RESULT FOR BOTH A MEMBER AND THE UNITED STATES IF DEPENDENTS WERE TO REMAIN OVERSEAS BECAUSE THE MEMBER COULD NOT AFFORD TO PROVIDE FOR THEIR RETURN TRAVEL TO THE UNITED STATES AFTER MARITAL DIFFICULTIES HAD ARISEN. AS POINTED OUT IN 52 COMP. GEN. 246, WHILE AN EX-WIFE WOULD NOT TECHNICALLY BE A DEPENDENT OF THE MEMBER FOLLOWING A FINAL DIVORCE, OFTEN THE MEMBER WOULD BE RESPONSIBLE FOR HER SUPPORT AND THE PROVIDING OF RETURN TRAVEL WOULD AVOID A POTENTIAL EMBARRASSMENT TO THE UNITED STATES CAUSED BY THE PRESENCE OVERSEAS OF EX-FAMILY MEMBERS WHO ARE UNABLE TO RETURN HOME DUE TO LACK OF FUNDS.

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING WE DO NOT OBJECT TO THE PROPOSED AMENDMENT TO THE REGULATIONS.