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Nellie R. Leopold, his wife, for supplying him with quarters, heat, and light for the month of August, 1922, at 5708 Reber Place, St. Louis, Mo., with request for decision whether you are authorized to make payment thereon.
United States Veterans' hospitals are being operated under regulations of the United States Public Health Service.
Paragraph 124 of said regulations, as amended under date of January 12, 1922, approved March 31, 1922, provides for the furnishing to administrative assistants of quarters, heat, and light in kind only.
The payment is proposed under subparagraph 2 of paragraph 124, as amended, which reads:
Whenever possible administrative assistants shall be furnished quarters, heat, and light at the hospital or field station. In case quarters, heat, and light are not available at the hospital or field station, the medical officer in charge may so notify the administrative assistant and direct him to procure quarters outside the hospital or field station, and at the end of each month to submit to the Surgeon General a public voucher, on proper form, supported by receipts, for reimbursement in a sum not to exceed $15 per month per room for quarters, heat, and light: Provided, That reimbursement under this paragraph shall not be made for more than four rooms. With the voucher must be a certificate from the medical officer in charge certifying that the quarters have been allowed by him and have not been given in kind at the hospital or field station during the period covered by the voucher. The number of the rooms shall. in any case, be determined by the Surgeon General on the basis of the family needs of the employees involved.
The voucher is stated as payable under the appropriation “Medical and Hospital Service, Veterans' Bureau, 1923," act of June 12, 1922, 42 Stat., 649, which provides, in part:
That no part of the money hereby appropriated shall be used for the payment of commutation of quarters, subsistence, and laundry or quarters, heat and light, and longevity to any employees other than the commissioned medical officers provided for by statute.
There being no quarters available at the hospital the employee was authorized by the surgeon in charge to procure quarters outside of the hospital. He purchased a property for a home with the view of utilizing it for quarters for himself and charging the Government there for in the amount that could have been expended for quarters in kind for him elsewhere, and the proposed payment of $60 is to reimburse him for that amount as if paid to his wife for the month of August, 1922, for rooms with heat and light in said home thus purchased and maintained by him as a householder.
The appropriation for the fiscal year 1923 is by its express terms not available for the payment of commutation of quarters, etc., except to commissioned medical officers provided for by statute, and an administrative assistant does not fall within the excepted class.
The home is the home of the employee. It is considered as being supported and maintained by his funds, and payment to the wife for quarters therein is virtually payment to the employee. It appears proper under the regulations heretofore referred to for an employee
to procure quarters outside of the hospital when properly directed and be reimbursed the cost of same, but payment for quarters which he has furnished himself in his own home would be in effect the payment of money in lieu of quarters in kind and a commutation thereof, whether so-called or not, and as such is not authorized. See decision Comptroller General to Secretary of the Interior, December 18, 1922.
Substantially the same principle applies that the expense of a man living with his family in his own home as a householder being intermingled with those of his family renders it impossible for accounting purposes to correctly show any portion of the expenses as his individually from those of his family. See 18 Comp. Dec., 454; 8 id., 118; 6 id., 779; 51 MS. Comp. Dec., 1, October 1, 1909; 59 id., 1182, December 20, 1911.
To permit such a payment, under the circumstances here appearing, would be to permit personal expenses uncertain in amount to be substituted for official expenses, and Government money intended to cover actual and necessary cost of providing quarters in kind for the official use of the employee to be applied toward the expense of a home for the employee, which obviously might result in an unauthorized increase in his pay. 1 Comp. Gen., 575; 27 Comp. Dec., 340.
Payment on the voucher submitted is not authorized.
Section 6 of the act of June 10, 1922, 42 Stat., 628, takes cognizance of six Comptroller General McCarl to the Secretary of the Navy, December 26, 1922:
special conditions under which the rental allowance may be payable, viz, field duty, sea duty, temporary duty away from permanent station, in
hospital, on leave of absence, and on sick leave. Officers of the Navy, with or without dependents, on permanent duty at a post,
yard, or station, where public quarters are not available, are entitled to a
rental allowance. Officers of the Navy, with dependents, on field or sea duty are entitled to a
rental allowance if their dependent or dependents be not in the occupancy
of public quarters. Officers of the Navy, with or without dependents, attached to a post, yard,
or station, on temporary duty away from their permanent stations, temporarily in hospital, on leave of absence not in excess of statutory period, or on sick leave, are entitled to a rental allowance if public quarters be
not available at their permanent stations. Officers of the Navy, with or without dependents, are entitled to a rental
allowance during leave not in excess of statutory period after detachment from stations and prior to assignment to new stations, if required by the detachment to vacate quarters and none are available by reason
of the stations to which later assigned not having been determined. The term "shelter" is used in connection with a rental allowance in section 6
of the act of June 10, 1922, 42 Stat., 628, as distinguished from “quarters' and not as classing quarters as shelter, and relates to the two conditions of temporary duty away from permanent station and temporarily in hospital, and if permanent as distinguished from temporary shelter be thus furnished the rental allowance is not payable.
There was received September 26, 1922, your letter of September 19, asking that there be considered, and decision be rendered, on the entire subject of rental allowance for officers provided by the act of June 10, 1922, 42 Stat., 628, particularly because of what was understood by the Navy Department as the attitude of this office in connection with certain instructions issued by the Navy Department after submission to this office; and decision of August 30, 1922, 2 Comp. Gen., 160, that Lieutenant Crosby. United States Coast Guard, was not entitled to the rental allowance while on leave of absence, unassigned.
Following the passage of the act of June 10, 1922, the Navy Department submitted to this office from time to time instructions to paymasters, etc., as to the various provisions of the enactment, including those relating to rental allowance. The purpose was to cbtain tentative interpretations so as to minimize as much as possible erroneous payments, with resulting disallowances, as would follow and past experience had shown were caused by matters first coming to attention through the audit of accounts rendered.
In examining the instructions submitted, the attention of the Navy Department was called-and, in view of the tenor of the present submission, its attention is now again specifically invited—to that the action upon the instructions was not a conclusive determination upon the matters therein, but their application must be for determination as particular facts arose and were submitted for decision. Such reservation did not and was understood not to negative action under the instructions, but to permit it until decisions upon facts submitted might otherwise determine, which decisions would thereafter maintain in place of the instructions. Such facts arose in the matter of rental allowance to Lieutenant Crosby, of the Coast Guard, and decision was necessarily required and rendered thereon.
The officer was stationed at the Coast Guard Academy, New Lon. don, Conn., and receiving commutation of quarters. He tendered his resignation May 1, 1922, which the commandant forwarded to the Treasury Department approved, and detached the officer May 31, 1922, from the academy and such other duties as had been assigned him, and granted him leave of absence, unassigned, for two months and eight days. The resignation was accepted by direction of the President by the Secretary of the Treasury, May 3, 1922, effective August 8, 1922. Under the Coast Guard Regulations of 1916, paragraph 527, an officer on regular leave of absence does not lose commutation of quarters, but if relieved from duty and then granted leave the commutation ceases. This regulation applied to Lieu. tenant Crosby when he was detached May 31, 1922, and unassigned
He was not on regular leave of absence and commutation of quarters ceased. His status, in fact, was that of discharged from the service, and while there was the technical condition of on leave of absence, it contemplated no return to duty and station such as follows from a regular leave of absence. The act of June 10, 1922, was passed and became effective subsequent to the officer going into this status, and the period of absence involved was then running and had passed practically one-half. There was nothing in the enactment that changed the status of the officer or placed him in a relation to quarters so as to raise any question of paying him rental allowance for the unexpired time until his pay fully ceased.
The general subject of rental allowance may only be considered subject to specific rulings upon the facts of particular cases when submitted.
Section 6 of the act of June 10, 1922, 42 Stat., 628, provides: That each commissioned officer on the active list or on active duty below the grade of brigadier general or its equivalent, in any of the services mentioned in the title of this Act, if public quarters are not available, shall be entitled at all times, in addition to his pay, to a nioney allowance for rental of quarters, * *. The rental allowance shall accrue while the officer is on field or sea duty, temporary duty away from his permanent station, in hospital, on leave of absence or on sick leave, regardless of any shelter that may be furnished him for his personal use, if his dependent or dependents are not occupying public quarters during such period.
but no rental allowance shall be made to any officer without dependents by reason of his employment on field or sea duty.
There are certain other provisions in the act of June 10, 1922, which relate to quarters and must be considered in connection with section 6 providing for rental allowance.
Sec. 15. That existing laws authorizing
commutation of quarters, heat and light are hereby repealed, effective July 1, 1922.
Sec. 21. That nothing in this Act shall operate to change in any way existing laws, or regulations made in pursuance of law, governing
allowances in kind for quarters, heat and light for officers and warrant officers
The laws relative to furnishing quarters in kind thus continued in effect are as follows: Act of February 27, 1893, 27 Stat., 480:
hereafter officers temporarily absent on duty in the field shall not lose their right to quarters
at their permanent station while so tem. porarily absent.
The act of March 2, 1907, 34 Stat., 1168, amending the act of June 18, 1878, 20 Stat., 151:
That at all posts and stations where there are public quarters belonging to the United States officers may be furnished with quarters in kind in such public quarters, and not elsewhere, by the Quartermaster's Department, assigning to the officers of each grade, respectively, such number of rooms as is stated in the following table
The primary provision of section 6 of the act of June 10, 1922, is that an officer on the active list or on active duty shall be entitled to a rental allowance if public quarters are not available. This provision creates and establishes the rental allowance.
If the officer is at post, yard, or station no questions arise in general, the fact of public quarters being or not being available, determining the matter of rental allowance.
The law itself answers the question that would arise as to the rental allowance of an officer on field or sea duty. It grants rental allowance to an officer having dependents, if they are not occupying public quarters. It expressly denies rental allowance if the officer on field or sea duty has no dependents.
The law takes cognizance of four other conditions besides field or sea duty-all apparently relating to being away from station, to wit; Temporary duty away from permanent station, in hospitals, on leave of absence, or on sick leave. It is as to these four conditions that questions, if any, arise. The concluding lines of the section that rental allowance shall not be paid an officer without dependents on field or sea duty support the view that the officer without dependents is within the other four conditions as well as the officer with dependents, although the clause of the officer's dependents not occupying quarters applies to all six conditions. Under all four conditions in question the officer continues on the active list but under the last three he is only constructively on active duty and not in fact. In all, it contemplates a return to active duty at a post, yard, or station. Post or station as here used may be understood as including absence while on field or sea duty.
The law expresses no intent that an officer occupying quarters leaving a post, yard, or station to go on temporary duty away from station, to go in hospital, to go on leave of absence, or sick leave shall thereupon be given rental allowance. The law does not preclude an officer, with or without dependents, absent on temporary duty away from station, in hospital, on leave of absence, or sick leave, continuing to receive rental allowance previously in receipt of at permanent station because of nonavailability of quarters.
As to these four conditions, the law contemplates being attached to a post, yard, or station. The provision for the rental allowance accruing regardless of “ shelter” furnished for personal use can have regard only to “shelter” as distinguished from “quarters ” and not as classing quarters as shelter.
Any question with respect to shelter where on field or sea duty is eliminated by the express provision of the law with relation to dependents as heretofore commented. No question as to being fur