VETERAN'S BONUS ‑- CLAIM OF DIVORCED PARENTS OF DECEASED VETERAN.
Each surviving parent of a deceased veteran is eligible to apply for the Washington state bonus where the child died in the service and left no surviving wife or child, notwithstanding the fact that the parents have been divorced and one of the parents awarded the custody and control of the child.
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April 21, 1953
Honorable Cliff Yelle
Olympia, Washington Cite as: AGO 53-55 No. 11
Attention: !ttMr. H. C. Ashenfelter, Administrator,Veterans' Compensation Division
This will acknowledge receipt of your letter in which you inquire whether or not a parent awarded the custody and control of his or her minor child by a decree of divorce is the eligible person to apply for and be paid in full the Washington state bonus where both parents are surviving and the child died while in the service.
It is our conclusion that each surviving parent is entitled to apply for the bonus of the deceased veteran. Each would be entitled to one‑half of the bonus, notwithstanding the fact that they may have been divorced and one of the parents deprived of the child's custody. This rule would not apply in a situation in which the child was legally adopted subsequent to the divorce.
RCW 73.32.020 as derived from section 1, chapter 13, Laws of 1950, Ex. Sess., provides in part as follows:
"* * * In case of the death of such person while in the Orig. Op. Page 2 service an equal amount shall be paid * * * in the event he left no widow or children, then to his surviving parent or parents * * *."
It will be noted that the crux of the problem consists of defining "parent or parents" in the cited statute,supra. InHenning v. U. S., 93 Fed. Supp. 380, at 382, the district court of Massachusetts held that the natural mother of a service man was a "parent" within the meaning of the National Service Life Insurance Act though the father of the service man had secured a divorce from the natural mother and had secured the custody of the service man while a child and though the service man lived with his father and stepmother, who stood in loco parentis, until the service man reached the age of 21.
This holding conforms with the normally accepted meaning of "parent." We conclude that, in this factual situation, each parent is entitled to apply for the deceased veteran's bonus. To avoid the problem of having to recover an overpayment from one parent in order to pay a claim filed later by the other, it would appear advisable to make the bonus check payable to the order of both parents jointly in this type of claim.
Very truly yours,
tlAssistant Attorney General