Veterans Administration Employees Receiving Premium Pay, B-193709

Decision Date28 November 1979
Docket NumberB-193709
PartiesVETERANS ADMINISTRATION EMPLOYEES RECEIVING PREMIUM PAY - ABSENCES ON HOLIDAYS:
CourtComptroller General of the United States

Digest 1. Veterans administration employee receiving standby preminum pay under 5 U.S.C. Sec. 5545(c)(1) was excused from performing his regular duties at the medical center on holidays within his regular tour of duty, but was required instead to remain at his residence in a standby status. Requirement that he standby at home was proper exercise of va's discretion under 56 Comp.Gen. 551 (1977) to determine extent to which employee's services are needed on holidays. However, since employee was not relieved from duty on those holidays, he should not have been charged leave while in a standby status. 2. Veterans administration employees whose leave accounts were not recredited with leave charged for absences on holidays pursuant to 54 Comp.Gen. 662 (1975) prior to the date that decision was overruled by 56 Comp.Gen. 551 (1977) are not entitled to recredit of the leave charged. The determination in 56 Comp.Gen. 551 to forego collection action for lump-sum payments made for leave recredited and not to require correction of leave records for leave recredited pursuant to 54 Comp.Gen. 662 did not validate all claims that arose or were presented for payment between the dates of the two decisions. See 58 Comp.Gen. 345 (1979).

This decision involves requests for recrediting of annual leave submitted by five employees of the veterans administration (VA) medical center, martinez, California, and a similar request received from curtis P. Curry, an employee of the VA medical center, bonham, Texas. The five martinez medical center employees are obdulio butler, olivia gill, dorothy M Hicks, dover price and linda talken. They have appealed from our claims division's settlements dated September 21 1978, denying their requests for recrediting of leave. Although Mr. Curry's request for restoration of leave has not previously been considered by this office, the VA has cited the September 1978 settlements in the other five cases as dispositive of the issue of his entitlement. While the claims division's determination with respect to the five martinez medical center employees is in accordance with our decision in 58 Comp.Gen. 345 (1979), we find that the VA has failed to properly distinguish between their situations and Mr. Curry's.

The five martinez medical center employees are individuals who regularly perform standby duty and receive standby premium pay under 5 U.S.C. Sec. 5545(c)(1). Their requests for recrediting of annual leave are predicated on the va's failure to reconstruct their leave accounts prior to April 19, 1977, the date of our decision in 56 Comp.Gen. 551 (1977). That decision overruled 54 Comp.Gen. 662 (1975) and held that an agency May excuse employees receiving standby premium pay from regular or standby duty without charge to leave when there has been an administrative determination that the employees' services are not required on a particular holiday. With respect to employees whose leave accounts had been recredited pursuant to 54 Comp.Gen. 662 the 1977 decision holds:

"*** we understand that, on the basis of 54 Comp.Gen 662, supra., some employees have had their leave accounts retroactively recredited with annual leave and have received lump-sum leave payments or have taken leave to which they would otherwise not have been entitled. Since such payments or use of leave were made pursuant to 54 Comp.Gen. 662, no action is necessary and the employees May be considered properly to have been paid or to have taken leave. Also, inasmuch as there has been considerable confusion in this area, those employees who were not charged leave for absences on holidays prior to the date of this decision May be regarded as having properly been excused from duty on such days."

In April 1975 the VA instituted a policy regarding excusals for holidays consistent with 54 Comp.Gen. 662, but deferred any action to retroactively adjust leave balances pending issuance of specific guidelines. Guidelines were never issued and in May 1977 the VA instead issued superseding instructions consistent with 56 Comp.Gen. 551. It is the employees' contention that VA improperly deferred action to recredit their leave accounts prior to April 19, 1977, with the result that 56 Comp.Gen. 551 now precludes the retroactive adjustments to which they believe they are entitled.

In 58 Comp.Gen. 345 (1979) we considered the question of whether employees whose leave accounts were not adjusted prior to April 19, 1977, in accordance with 54 Comp.Gen. 662 had any legal entitlement to be recredited with leave charged for holidays. We held that the above quoted language from 56 Comp.Gen. 551 did not validate claims that arose or were presented between the dates of the two decisions but was intended to inform agencies which had recredited leave in reliance upon the 1975 decision that recovery of money paid or correction of leave records would not be required....

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