NAO 203-17: Personal Property Claims

Issued 10/15/91; Effective 10/02/91; as Amended 12/13/91;
Current: 08/04/11, per OCFO;
Reviewed Last: 12/5/13

SECTION 1. PURPOSE.

This Order defines the policy and procedures to be followed for the settlement and payment of claims for damage to, or loss of, personal property incident to service.

This order was amended to update the Office of Primary Interest. As there are no longer ASCs in NOAA, references to ASC Transportation Officer were changed to servicing Relocation Specialist. In Section 3.10, NOAA Office of Finance was changed to Accounting Operations Division in the NOAA Finance Office.

SECTION 2. SCOPE.

The provisions of this Order apply to claims made by a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) employee or an officer ofthe NOAA Commissioned Corps against the United States Government.

SECTION 3. POLICY.

.01 General. The general purpose of the authority provided by the statute is to make it possible to reimburse employees, not for any and all damage to, or loss of, personal property which they may experience, but only for unusual and unforeseen loss of, or damage to, personal property which is not covered by insurance, indemnity, or other contracts and which is sustained by employees, through no fault of their own, as incident to their employment.

.02 Claims for Damage to Privately-Owned Motor Vehicles. Claims for damage to or loss of privately-operated employee vehicles except under most unusual circumstances will not be paid by the Government. Specific provision is made only for the movement or shipment of private motor vehicles as part of personal and household goods. The mileage charge authorized for the use of private motor vehicles is intended as a commutation of the expense of operating a vehicle. Because of these limitations, employees should decide the need to purchase private insurance to cover possible damage to their vehicles while being used for official business.

.03 Prejudging Claims. Before final disposition of a claim, an opinion concerning the approval or disapproval of a claim must not be given to a claimant.

.04 Statutory Provisions.

a. Personal property claims must meet all the conditions listed below. They must:

1. have been made after August 31, 1964;

2. concern damage or loss of personal property used by an employee for official business;

3. be presented in writing within two (2) years after the damage or loss occurred unless it occurred in times of war or armed conflict in which the United States was a participant; (If such a war or conflict intervenes within two (2) years after the loss or damage and if good cause is shown, the claim may be presented no later than two (2) years after the cause ceases to exist or two (2) years after the war or armed conflict is terminated, whichever occurs first.)

4. concern quarters assigned to the claimant within the fifty (50) states or the District of Columbia or provided in kind by the Government, if the damage or loss occurred in quarters occupied by the claimant;

5. concern a loss or damage not caused by the negligent or wrongful act of the employee or other claimant, or the agent or employee of either of them; (The claimant must demonstrate to the satisfaction of NOAA that this requirement is fulfilled.)

6. be accompanied by statements of witnesses and relevant documentary material, including pictures if available, or other evidence including the value of property lost or damaged; and

7. concern employee-owned property determined to have been useful or proper under the circumstances at the time of the loss or damage.

b. The maximum allowance on any claims is $40,000. Property shall be replaced in kind at the option of the Government. The claimant must provide satisfactory proof of the value of the property.

c. The settlement of a claim by the DOC under the provisions of 31 U.S.C. 241, as amended, shall be final and conclusive.

d. Not more than ten (10) percent of the amount paid in settlement of each claim submitted and settled under the authority of 31 U.S.C. 243 shall be paid to or received by an agent or attorney for services rendered in connection with that claim.

.05 Claimants.

a. A claim may be filed by an employee or the employee's duly authorized representative. A claim for a deceased employee may be filed by the employee's:

1. spouse;

2. children;

3. father or mother or both; and

4. brothers or sisters or both.

b. Settlement and payment of personal property claims will be made to survivors in the order named above, provided that payment is not made to a survivor who has submitted a claim when a survivor with higher precedence does not waive the right to submit a claim. In no event will any survivor be paid more than the proportionate share of the total amount payable in the settlement of the claim.

c. NOAA employees covered by the terms of a participating agency agreement with another agency (e.g., AID) shall submit their claims to such agency.

.06 Allowable Claims. Claims may be filed for the following types of losses and/or damages to personal property:

a. Personal belongings, incident to the employee's service, lost or damaged when employees were forced to evacuate from the motor vehicle in which they were traveling in the course of duty.

b. Personally-owned hand tools, incident to the employee's service, stolen from storage spaces provided by the Government.

c. Belongings, incident to the employee's service, stored in Government buildings which are consumed by fire.

d. Losses to an employee stationed at a remote location due to damage caused by a natural disaster.

e. Losses or damages resulting from extraordinary risks to which the employee or property are necessarily subject in the performance of official duties as a result of civil disturbance, public disaster, efforts to save Government property or human life, etc.

f. Personal property, incident to the employee's service, abandoned or destroyed during a military emergency or by order of an authorized official.

g. Losses or damages due to the unpredictable behavior of animals.

h. Employee's property lost in shipments provided by the Government (e.g., via Government vessels, Government charter or commercial vessels, or by Government bills of lading on commercial vessels), including related storage, onloading, and offloading.

i. Personal or household goods including motor vehicles and trailers lost or damaged when moved or shipped by employees in connection with the employee's Government service.

j. Personal property lost when used for the benefit of the Government at the direction or with the approval of an authorized official.

k. Personal property losses/damages incident to an employee's service caused by a negligent act or omission of Government agents or employees acting within the scope of their employment.

.07 Disallowed Claims.

a. Claims that do not meet the conditions defined in Section 3.06 of this Order are not payable nor are claims for:

1. loss or damage to motor vehicles or trailers except as indicated in Section 4.06 of this Order;

2. worn-out or unserviceable property;

3. loss or damage recovered through insurance, indemnity, subrogation, assignment, other contracts, or torts of third parties;

4. losses of insurers or other subrogees;

5. theft from the possessions of the employee unless positive evidence clearly establishes the existence of a theft or burglary when the employee or dependents and agents took reasonable and practicable protection and security measures;

6. articles of extraordinary value or those which are easily pilferable (e.g., jewelry, cameras and accessories, binoculars, watches, furs, weapons, valuable articles of gold, silver, or other precious materials, paintings, antiques other than bulky furnishings, relics) when shipped with household goods or as unaccompanied baggage (shipment includes storage); (Claims for loss or damage to such articles when properly checked or in the personal custody of the employee may be allowed if adequate protection and security measures have been taken. The employee must provide NOAA Claims Officer with proof that such measures were taken.)

7. loss of money, currency, or intangible property (bank books, checks, bank notes, stock certificates, bonds, money orders, traveler's checks) except when deposited for safekeeping with an authorized Government agent or when lost to a marine, rail, or natural disaster (fire, flood, hurricane, etc.), or when lost under other circumstances clearly indicating that the employee had taken all reasonable and practicable protection and security measures and that a theft or burglary had occurred; (If the theft occurred from the employee's quarters and such loss is not excluded in Section 3.04a. and Section 3.06a. of this Order, the employee must prove among other things that the property was in a locked container and that the quarters were securely locked.)

8. property owned by the Government unless the employee is financially responsible for it;

9. property not incident to the employee's service;

10. fees for obtaining estimates for the cost of repairing damaged property unless approved by the NOAA Claims Officer as:

(a) necessary and unavoidable expenses for submitting a claim;

(b) reasonable in relation to the value of the property and cost of repairs;

(c) not deductible from the cost of repairs if the work is to be accomplished by the estimator;

11. property acquired, possessed, or transported in violation of law, regulations, or orders of competent authority;

12. property located in the employee's quarters outside the United States when the employee is a local inhabitant;

13. items which were intentionally misrepresented by a claimant, agent, or employee as to cost, condition, cost of repairs, etc. as revealed by an investigation; (These items will be disallowed in their entirety even though some actual damage was sustained [18 U.S.C. 287, 1001]. A mistake as to the amount of damage or loss will not be considered an intentional misrepresentation for claim purposes.) and

14. personal articles (eyeglasses, watches, clothing) damaged in the performance of duty will be considered only if the employee demonstrates that all practicable measures to protect the articles were taken, and that employee negligence was not a cause of loss or damage.

b. The NOAA Claims Officer may consider a claim for loss of or damage to personal property in unusual circumstances in which failure of the Government as employer to make up the loss would result in serious inequity to the employee.

c. Employees are encouraged to purchase private insurance to cover personal property losses and damages specifically excluded or limited by this Order.

.08 Recovery From Third Parties and Assignment of Claims.

a. When it appears that personal property has been damaged or lost under circumstances in which the insurer, carrier, contractor, or other party may be responsible, the claimant shall make a written and timely demand or claim on such part, prior to submitting a formal claim to the Government. Such demand need not be made if:

1. the Claims Officer, or in the case of a household goods (HHG) claim, the ASC Transportation Officer thinks that this action is impractical or the recovery insignificant;

2. circumstances preclude making a timely demand; and

3. the claim appears to be allowable. (See Section 3.07 of this Order.)

b. If an employee submits a claim to a third party, a copy of the demand and any related correspondence should be sent to the NOAA Claims Officer. Also, the claimant should notify the Claims Officer or Transportation Officer promptly of any action or proposed action by the third party, including offers of settlement, partial settlement, or denial of liability.

1. Failure to make a demand on a carrier or insurer or to make reasonable efforts to collect the amount recoverable from the carrier or insurer may reduce the amount recoverable from the Government by the maximum amount which would have been recoverable from the carrier or insurer, had the claim been timely or diligently prosecuted.

2. Assistance in the recovery of a claim against a carrier of household goods may be obtained by contacting the ASC Transportation Officer.

c. If the amount recovered by a claimant from a third party is greater than or equal to the claimant's total loss, no compensation is allowable to the claimant. When the amount recovered is less than such total loss, the allowable amount is determined by deducting the recovered amount from such total loss. The claimant's total loss shall be determined without regard to the $40,000 maximum. However, if the amount after deducting the recovered amount exceeds $40,000, the claimant will be allowed $40,000.

d. The claimant shall assign to the Government, to the extent of any payment accepted, the right, title, and interest in any claim against any third person arising out of the incident on which the claim against the United States is based. Upon request, the claimant shall provide related evidence and cooperation to enable the Government to enforce the claim. After payment of the claim by the United States, the claimant shall, upon receipt of any payment by a third party, notify the Claims Officer, or ASC Transportation Officer for HHG claims, promptly and repay the Government the amount of payments received from all sources in excess of the amount paid.

09 Computation of Awards.

a. Claims will be payable only for types and quantities of personal property items determined to have been reasonable, useful, or proper at the time of loss or damage.

b. The amount awarded on any item of personal property will be based upon its estimated fair market value at the time and place of the loss or damage.

1. The amount normally payable for property lost or damaged beyond economical repair is determined by subtracting the salvage costs from its depreciated value immediately before loss or damage.

2. Depreciation in the value of an item is determined by considering, among other things, the type of article involved, its costs, condition when lost or damaged beyond economical repair, and the time elapsing between the dates of its acquisition and accrual of claim.

c. When NOAA opts to settle a claim by replacing the property in kind, such replacement shall be made with property of equivalent value, quality, and quantity, as determined by NOAA.

d. Claims for antiques, relics, heirlooms, and items purchased at unreasonably high prices shall be made, if allowable, only for the reasonable purchase of substitute articles of a similar functional nature, quality, and quantity, disregarding the nonintrinsic value of the articles.

.10 Method of Payment.

After settlement, approved claims shall be forwarded to the Accounting Operations Division in the NOAA Finance Office for payment. The employing organization will be charged for awards to its employees.

.12 Requests for Reconsideration of Claims.

The settlement of a claim by an approving authority via a full or partial allowance or disallowance shall be final and conclusive. However, a claimant may request reconsideration of a claim upon establishing an error in the settlement or by presenting new evidence not available at the time of settlement.

1. a corroborating statement from a person who has a knowledge of the facts concerning the claim;

2. a statement of property recovered or replaced in kind;

3. an itemized bill of repair for damaged property;

4. at least one written estimate of the cost of repairs from an individual who is competent, experienced or knowledgeable in the cost of needed repairs in the current market;

5. proof of value or costs; (A purchase receipt or similar document must be furnished.)

6. a supporting statement by a power of attorney or other satisfactory evidence of authority or standing if claim is filed by an agent or survivor as explained in Section 4.05 of this Order;

7. a statement concerning any insurance coverage or warehouse employee, carrier or other third party responsibility, and any reimbursement or recovery obtained from such insurer or third party; (The identity of the insurer or other third party, type of insurance or other coverage, and any claim or demand by the claimant upon such party should be described, and copies of correspondence attached. If the claimant has insurance or basis for a claim or demand upon such third party and has not submitted a claim or demand, the failure to do so should be explained.) and

8. a copy of orders or other evidence establishing claimant's right to be or to have personal property located at place of loss or damage.

c. Thefts or Losses in Allowable Quarters or at Other Authorized Places. In addition to the items listed in Section 4.10b. of this Order, the claimant must provide the NOAA Claims Officer:

1. the geographical location of the loss;

2. the authority who assigned or provided the quarters (Government, etc.) if the loss occurred in allowable quarters, and whether they were occupied by the claimant regularly;

3. the name of the authority, if any, who designated the storage site if the loss occurred at a storage site;

4. the security measures taken to protect the property involved;

5. the degree of care exercised in the locale of the loss because of any unusual risks; and

6. all facts and circumstances surrounding the loss or theft (e.g., how they occurred, capture of the thief or thieves, recovery of the property, and reports made to the police or other authorities).

d. Losses in Connection with Household Goods Shipments. All HHG personal property claims must be filed with and processed by the ASC Transportation Officer, who has the authority to settle these claims up to twenty-five hundred dollars ($2,500). HHG claims in excess of twenty-five hundred dollars ($2,500), but below five thousand dollars ($5,000), must be reviewed by the NOAA Claims Officer before payment is made. Claims in excess of five thousand dollars ($5,000) must also be reviewed by the DOC Assistant General Counsel for Finance and Litigation before payment can be made. In addition to the items listed in Section 4.10b. of this Order, the claimant should provide the ASC Transportation Officer with:

1. a copy of orders authorizing the travel, transportation or shipment, or explaining the absence of specific items;

2. all property inventories and bills of lading;

3. action(s) taken to locate missing property; and

4. the names of transportation or supply officer, contract packer, or shipper to whom property was given, including the date and place of turnover, its condition, date of shipment or reshipment, and copies of all manifests, bills of lading, and contracts, the date and place of delivery and unpacking of property, statements of disinterested witnesses as to property's condition when received, whether damage was due to the negligence of a Government employee acting within the scope of employment, and whether the last delivering carrier's bill of lading was signed by the employee with or without exceptions.

e. Money, Intangibles, or Other Property Deposited for Safekeeping, Transmittal, or Other Authorized Disposition. In addition to the items listed in Section 4.10b of this Order, the claimant must provide the NOAA Claims Officer with:

1. the identity of the person(s) who received the property and any other individuals involved, and the disposition requested;

2. the identity of the person who authorized such person(s) to accept the property; and

3. receipts and written statements explaining the failure to account for the property.

f. Property Used for the Benefit of the Government. In addition to the items listed in Section 4.10b of this Order, a statement from the proper authority indicating that the property was supplied by the claimant for performance of official duties at the request or with the approval of an authorized official.

g. Waiver of Required Evidence. Required evidence may be waived if the claim appears to be reasonable and proper, and when its procurement and submission is not costly or time-consuming in relation to the amount of the claim.

1. When the employee's supervisor has knowledge of the incident upon which the claim is based, the employee should submit the claim form and supporting evidence to the supervisor for verification purposes.

2. Before the claim is forwarded to the Claims Officer for consideration, the properly identified supervisor shall attach to the claim a brief statement indicating a knowledge of the incident and the claim.

.11 Method of Payment. After settlement, approved claims shall be forwarded to the NOAA Office of Finance for payment. The employing organization will be charged for awards to its employees.

.12 Notice of Disapproved Claims. If a claim is not approved for payment or is approved only for partial payment, the Claims Officer shall inform the claimant in writing of the action taken and the reason for the action.

.13 Requests for Reconsideration of Claims.

a. Requests for reconsideration must be submitted in writing to the NOAA Claims Officer ·within six (6) months from the date the claimant received notice ofthe adjudication ofthe claim. The NOAA Claims Officer shall review the request and forward it to the DOC Assistant General Counsel for Finance and Litigation, who shall then review the request for legal sufficiency and return it to the NOAA Claims Officer for determination.

b. Requests shall be processed in accordance with the procedures defined in this Order.

SECTION 4. AUTHORITIES.

.01 The Act ofAugust 31,1964, Public Law 88-558, 78 Stat. 767, as amended, (31 U.S.C. 240 et seq.) (the Military Personnel and Civilian Employees' Claims Act of 1964, hereinafter, the "Act"), provides that subject to any policies the President may prescribe, and under such regulations as the Secretary may prescribe, the Secretary or a designee may settle and pay an allowable claim against the United States for not more than $40,000 made by an employee ofthe Department ofCommerce (DOC) or a survivor for damage to, or loss of, personal property incident to the employee's service .

.02 Department Administrative Order (DAO) 203-17 delegates to the Under Secretary and Administrator the authority to payor settle such claims within NOAA. This authority has been redelegated to the NOAA Claims Officer, who has the authority to settle all personal property claims. Claims in excess offive-thousand dollars ($5,000) must be reviewed by the DOC Assistant General Counsel for Finance and Litigation before payment is made to the claimant.

SECTION 5. EFFECT ON OTHER ISSUANCES.

This Order amends NOAA Administrative Order (NAO) 203-17, Personal Property Claims dated December 13, 1991.

Additional information on Personal Property Claims can be found at: http://www.corporateservices.noaa.gov/finance/Personnalpropertyclaims.pdf.

An electronic copy ofthis Order will be posted in place of the superseded Order on the NOAA Office of the Chief Administrative Office's website under the NOAA Administrative Issuances Section.

SIGNED,

Director, Office of Administration

Office of Primary Interest:
Office of Administration
Information Services and Finance Office
Finance Services Division (OA11)