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The existing law on final pay accounts makes no provision whereby a soldier may designate a beneficiary for his final pay, such as he may do with respect to his 6 months' death gratuity and insurance. The final pay must be given to the legal representative of the estate by the General Accounting Office.
If no representative appears, the law then sets forth the priority of claimants.
The General Accounting Office has had considerable difficulty in determining, in some cases, the appropriate legal representative of the estate, especially in cases where the validity of marriages and divorces and the legitimacy of children has been concerned.
The bill before us would permit the serviceman concerned to designate the beneficiary for his final pay, thereby permitting the soldier to make a disposition of his final pay prior to death.
The bill sets forth the order of precedence, if no designation is made.
This bill is similar to current legislation in effect regarding civilian employees of the Government. This bill was recommended to the Congress by the Comptroller General. It is supported by the Department of Defense on behalf of the Army, with certain suggested amendments which are contained in the committee print. The suggested amendments are agreeable to the Comptroller General.
The witnesses on this bill are Mr. Charles E. Eckert, legislative attorney in the Office of the Assistant Comptroller General, and Lt. Col. Joseph Marshall, Office of Chief of Finance, Department of the Army. Two representatives are present from the Department of the Navy, also, prepared to answer any questions pertaining to the bill.
STATEMENT OF CHARLES E. ECKERT, LEGISLATIVE ATTORNEY, OFFICE OF THE ASSISTANT COMPTROLLER GENERAL; ACCOMPANIED BY LT. COL. JOSEPH MARSHALL, OFFICE OF CHIEF OF FINANCE, DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
Mr. ECKERT. Yes, Mr. Chairman.
I will be glad to
Senator JOHNSON. Do you have a prepared statement? Mr. ECKERT. I have no prepared statement. make a brief statement as to what this bill will do. Senator JOHNSON. This is Mr. Charles E. Eckert, legislative attorney in the Office of the Assistant Comptroller General.
Would you give us a brief statement telling us why you think the bill is necessary and how it can achieve savings as a result. I assume there is no controversy in the executive branch about it.
Mr. ECKERT. No, Mr. Chairman. The Comptroller General sent this bill through originally in July of 1953.
At the time the bill was submitted, it had been generally cleared with all the agencies who would be concerned, the Armed Services, the Coast and Geodetic Survey, the Coast Guard and Public Health Service.
This was done prior to its submission.
The bill, in effect, would facilitate the settlement of the accounts of the deceased officers by interjecting a designated beneficiary in the first line of distribution.
It is our feeling that some 90 or 95 percent of the cases, there would be a designated beneficiary, and in those cases the Department would pay them, which would result in a more prompt settlement, and also in the elimination of the various troublesome problems that we have had in the past under the present order in multiple widow cases, and illegitimacy cases, in desertion cases, where the matter becomes tied up in determining who is the proper person entitled.
It is our thought that the designated beneficiary, the man would designate the person to whom he wished this final payment to go, and thereby eliminate these many troublesome problems.
We believe, and it has been our experience under the civil bill from which this is derived, that it will facilitate the payment of these claims, and that it will also result in administrative economies in the services.
Senator JOHNSON. Are there any questions of Mr. Eckert?
Thank you, Mr. Eckert.
Lieutenant Colonel Marshall's statement will be incorporated in the record at this point.
(The prepared statement submitted by Lieutenant Colonel Marshall is as follows:)
STATEMENT BY LT. COL. JOSEPH MARSHALL, UNITED STATES ARMY, ADVISORY SERVICES DIVISION, OFFICE OF THE CHIEF OF FINANCE
The proposed legislation would generally provide uniformity of procedure between military and civilian personnel as pertains to the settlement of accounts of arrears of pay due such personnel at date of death. In this respect, the proposed bill is patterned after the act of August 3, 1950 (64 Stat. 395) which pertains to settlement of accounts of civilian officers and employees of the Federal Government.
Primarily, the proposed legislation would permit a testamentary disposition by the service member of that part of his estate representing any pay and allowances or other amounts due him from the military service concerned at date of death in favor of a designated beneficiary. The service member has a right to make testamentary disposition of his estate under the general laws of the States and no reason is perceived why arrears of pay, also a part of his estate, should not be disposed of in a similar manner. This policy would greatly simplify the disposition of such accounts since designations would be generally made by military personnel, thus obviating the necessity in many cases of determining the validity of marriages, divorces, the legitimacy of children, and the like by making payment to the designated beneficiary. Under the present law (act of June 30, 1906, 10 U.S. C. 868; 35 U. S. C. 941a), in the absence of a claim from the legal representative of the estate, the amount due goes to (1) the widow or widower, or if none; (2) to the child or children; and descendants of deceased children, etc., whereas under the provisions of the proposed pill, the amount due would be payable to (1) a previously designated beneficiary, or if none; (2) to the widow or widower; (3) or if no beneficiary or surviving spouse, to the child or children, and descendants of deceased children; (4) to the parents or surviving parent; and (5) to the duly appointed legal representative of the estate, or if there be none of the foregoing, to the person or persons determined to be entitled thereto under the laws of the domicile of the deceased member.
Under the procedure now in effect, all such accounts are submitted to the General Accounting Office for settlement. The Settlements Division, Finance Center, United States Army, submits each case to the General Accounting Office, with necessary recommendations, and that office completes final settlement action thereon, and notifies the Finance and Accounts Office, United States Army, Washington, D. C., to issue a check in payment of the claim. The Department of Defense is of the opinion that provisions should be made to grant the uniformed service concerned the authority to make payment of any pay and allowances or other amounts due a service member at date of death to a designated beneficiary. In the cases where a beneficiary has not been designated, it is believed that payment by the services should be made only after settlement by the General Ac
counting Office similar to civilian employee cases under the above cited act of August 3, 1950. One significant factor contained in this proposal is that settlement procedures by the General Accounting Office would be eliminated in most cases; this would permit more expeditious settlement of these accounts than is now possible, with no additional workload involved.
In addition, under the proposed legislation, the rights of persons designated vest as of the date of death, whereas under the present law these rights vest as of date of settlement. It is believed that the interests of both the Government and the beneficiaries of estates of deceased personnel of the uniformed services are best served when settlements are made based on the date of death, which is the case in the laws relating generally to the settlement of estates.
Senator BYRD. I move the bill be reported.
Senator JOHNSON. Senator Byrd moves the bill be reported. Is there a second?
Senator JACKSON. I second the motion.
Senator JOHNSON. It is moved and seconded.
Without objection, the bill will be reported to the calendar. (Whereupon, the committee proceeded to take up other matters.)