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AGO 1950 No. 256 - April 13, 1950
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington


State mental hospital superintendent is not authorized to execute veteran's bonus application on behalf of inmate unless appointed legal guardian.

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                                                                   April 13, 1950

Honorable H. D. Van Eaton
Director of Public Institutions
Social Security Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 49-51 No. 256

Attention:  !ttMr. Van R. Hinkle, Supervisor
            Division of Public Institutions

Dear Sir:

            We acknowledge receipt of your letter wherein you have asked the following question:

            "May a mental hospital superintendent prepare and sign the application for Washington State Bonus on behalf of incompetent veterans committed to their institutions?"

            The conclusions reached may be summarized as follows:

            Superintendents of state mental hospitals are not authorized to prepare and sign Washington State Bonus Applications on behalf of the inmates of their institutions.  The proper person to prepare such application is the legally appointed guardian of the estate of said inmates.


            Section 3, chapter 180, Laws of 1949 (10747c Rem. Supp. 1949), the Veteran's Bonus Act, provides that:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "All disbursements required by this act for compensation shall be made upon the presentation of a certificate upon a form to be prescribed by the State Auditor, which form shall be duly verified, by the claimant under oath, * * *"

            The Veteran's Bonus Act makes no provision for the execution of said certificates by incompetents, nor do we find anything in our laws relating the powers of superintendents of hospitals for the insane which would expressly or impliedly authorize them to so act in the inmate's behalf.

            Generally speaking, public officers have only those powers expressly authorized by constitutional and statutory provisions.  The rule is well stated in 43 Am.Jur. 68, Public Officers, § 249:

            "In general, the powers and duties of officers are prescribed by the Constitution or by statute, or both, and they are measured by the terms and necessary implication of the grant, and must be executed in the manner directed and by the officer specified.  If broader powers are desirable, they must be conferred by the proper authority.  They cannot be merely assumed by administrative officers, nor can they be created by the courts in the proper exercise of their judicial functions.  * * *"

            Insane persons are incompetent, and are entitled to the advice and care of a guardian at all times.  Our probate code, section 206, chapter 156, Laws of 1917 (Rem. Rev. Stat. 1576), empowers guardians of insane or mentally incompetent persons or their property, to represent their wards in all matters.

            It is our conclusion that an inmate's legally appointed guardian is the proper person to execute the application required by the Veteran's Bonus Act.  We  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] see no legal reason, however, why the superintendent of a state mental hospital may not, if he so choose, upon application in his private capacity to the proper court, be appointed as legal guardian of such veteran inmates.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General

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