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AGLO 1972 No. 087 - December 08, 1972
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington
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                                                                December 8, 1972
 
 
 
Honorable Robert S. O'Brien
State Treasurer
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington 98504
                                                                                            Cite as:  AGLO 1972 No. 87 (not official)
 
 
Attention:  Mr. William Weaver
 
Dear Sir:
 
            You have asked for the advice of this office on two questions regarding payment of certain benefits under the Viet Nam veterans' bonus act (chapter 154, Laws of 1972, Ex. Sess.).  We have paraphrased your questions as follows:
 
            (1) Does § 12, chapter 154, supra, which provides for payment of the sum of $250 "to aid in defraying funeral and other burial costs" of qualified veterans who have died, contemplate the payment of a separate award in addition to the "survivorship" benefit provided for in § 2 (3) of chapter 154?
 
            (2) If question one is answered affirmatively, under what circumstances may this additional benefit be paid?
 
                                                                     ANALYSIS
 
            Chapter 154, Laws of 1972, Ex. Sess., is basically a legislative authorization to pay to each eligible veteran of the Viet Nam conflict a bonus of $250 as further "compensation" for military services rendered.  See, § 1; cf., Gruen v. State Tax Commission, 35 Wn.2d 1, 211 P.2d 651 (1949).  The right to receive this compensation and the terms of eligibility therefor are spelled out in § 2 (1) of the act as follows:
 
            "There shall be paid to each person who has been on active federal service as a member of the armed military or naval forces of the United States between a period commencing August 5, 1964, and ending on such date as shall thereafter be determined by presidential proclamation  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] or concurrent resolution of the congress terminating the conflict involving United States forces battling in South Viet Nam, or in the case of a reduction in hostilities, on a date determined by proclamation of the governor, and who for a period of one year immediately prior to the date of his entry into such service, was a bona fide citizen or resident of the state of Washington, and received the Viet Nam Service Medal, the sum of two hundred and fifty dollars for service between said dates:  . . ."
 
            Subsection (2) of this section next provides for the receipt of tuition credit at certain designated categories of institutions of higher education in lieu of this monetary bonus at the election of a qualified veteran.1/   And then, subsection (3) provides that:
 
            "In case of the death of any such person prior to said termination date as referred to in subsection (1) above, or at such time as such person would have been eligible for benefits hereunder, an equal amount shall be paid to his surviving widow if not remarried at the time compensation is requested, or in case he left no widow or in case his widow remarried and he has left children, then to his surviving children, or in the event he left no widow eligible for payment hereunder, or children surviving on such date, then to his surviving parent or parents:  PROVIDED, HOWEVER, That no such parent who has been deprived of custody of such child by a decree of a court of competent jurisdiction shall be entitled to any compensation under this 1972 amendatory act."
 
            Thereafter, in § 12, the legislature further provided that:
 
             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]
            "Upon the death of any person qualified to receive compensation pursuant to this 1972 amendatory act or who would have been qualified to receive compensation except for death occurring while serving in federal service as a member of the armed military or naval forces of the United States, there shall be paid to his widow, parent, child, next of kin or other person assuming responsibility or having the duty to provide for his burial, the sum of two hundred fifty dollars to aid in defraying funeral and other burial costs.  Payment shall be made, after application therefor, in the same manner as is provided in this 1972 amendatory act for payment of compensation.  The state treasurer shall promulgate such rules and regulations and provide such procedures as may be necessary to properly administer the provisions of this section.
 
            "Any payment under this section shall be deemed and construed to be a part of the term 'compensation' as used in this 1972 amendatory act and shall be made from the war veterans' compensation fund."
 
            Question (1):
 
            Your first question is whether the payment to be made under this last quoted section constitutes an additional benefit which is separate and apart from the "survivors" benefit already provided for in § 2 (3), supra.  We think that it is.
 
            It is first to be noted that the benefit provided for by § 12, supra, is payable for specific stated purposes ‑ i.e., ". . . to aid in defraying funeral and other burial costs . . ." of a qualified veteran who has died ‑ whereas the § 2 (3) survivors' benefit is not.  Furthermore, an internal reading of § 12 reveals a clear indication of the legislature's intent that the allowance therein provided for is to be deemed a separate award from that authorized in § 2.  Section 12 states that:
 
            ". . .  Payment [of the burial benefit] shall be made . . . in the same manner as is provided in this 1972 amendatory act for payment of compensation.  . . ."
 
             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]
            We believe this language readily shows that the legislature looked upon this benefit as being, somehow, different from the "compensation" referred to, inter alia, in § 2, supra; moreover, we think this is so even though § 12 goes on to specify that:
 
            "Any payment under this section shall be deemed and construed to be a part of the term 'compensation' as used in this 1972 amendatory act and shall be made from the war veterans' compensation fund."
 
            Although the legislature has thus defined the § 12 burial benefit as also constituting "compensation" in order, presumably, both to justify its constitutionality and to identify the appropriate fund from which this benefit is to be paid, it will be seen that its prior contradistinction in § 12 between this benefit and the "compensation" to be applied for under other provisions of the act would have been wholly unnecessary if the legislature had not viewed this award as separate.  It is, of course, fundamental that no statute is to be read in such a manner as will render any of its provisions superfluous, void, or insignificant.  Groves v. Meyers, 35 Wn.2d 403, 213 P.2d 483 (1950).
 
            Question (2):
 
            In view of our affirmative resolution of your first question, you have next asked us under what circumstances the benefit provided for in § 12 is to be paid.  The first issue to be here explained is whether this burial benefit may be paid to any person who has previously applied for and received the bonus itself as a survivor's benefit under § 2 (3).  In our opinion, this question is readily answerable in the negative by virtue of an express proviso appearing in § 2 (1), supra, which states that:
 
            ". . . no person shall be eligible to receive compensation under this 1972 amendatory act having prior thereto applied for and received compensation hereunder."  (Emphasis supplied.)
 
            Because the burial benefit is compensation, as above indicated, it follows that this proviso (which encompasses "compensation under this . . . act," and not merely that paid under the section in which it is located) is applicable so as to disqualify any person who has applied for and received a payment under § 2 (3) from also receiving payment under § 12 as well.
 
             [[Orig. Op. Page 5]]
            Secondly, we must determine whether § 12 burial benefit may be paid in any case where the veteran himself was paid the basic bonus under § 2 (1), supra, while still living.  We also answer this question in the negative.
 
            It is, of course, true that in this case the person applying for the burial benefit will not be the same person who applied for and received the § 2 bonus ‑ and thus who would be barred from obtaining a second payment of compensation under the above described proviso.  However, it is to be noted that § 12 itself commences as follows:
 
            "Upon the death of any person qualified to receive compensation pursuant to this 1972 amendatory act or who would have been qualified to receive compensation except for death occurring while serving in federal service as a member of the armed military or naval forces of the United States, there shall be paid . . ."
 
            While the foregoing couplet strikes us as somewhat confusing, we think that this phrase must be construed essentially to mean that this benefit is only to be paid in a case where, although all other qualifications for eligibility for a bonus have been met, the deceased veteran in question simply had not yet applied for, or, having applied for, had not yet received his veteran's bonus under the provisions of § 2 at the time of his death.  It would also stand to reason that a veteran who has already received a bonus under this section would not, at the time of his death, any longer be "qualified" to receive a bonus.  Accord, our prior discussion regarding the effect of the proviso contained in § 2, supra.
 
            Thirdly, we would also advise you that payment of a burial benefit should be made only when it has been shown to your satisfaction that the applicant has assumed responsibility for, or has the duty to provide for the burial of the subject veteran; however, payment in the amount of $250 should be made to the qualified applicant regardless of any demonstration of actual costs incurred.
 
            In summary, then, our advice on your second question is threefold.  The burial benefit provided for in § 12 is to be paid only in cases where (1) the person applying therefor has not previously applied for and received any other "compensation" under this 1972 veterans' bonus act; (2) a qualified veteran has died without ever  [[Orig. Op. Page 6]] actually receiving the basic Viet Nam veterans' bonus; and (3) an assumption of responsibility or a duty to provide for the veteran's burial has been demonstrated by the applicant for this benefit.  This means, in essence, that this burial benefit will be payable only in those instances where, the qualified veteran having died without receiving the basic bonus, his burial has either been undertaken by a person other than the survivor who is entitled to and has received payment under § 2 (3), supra, or it has been undertaken by that survivor ‑ following which he or she has made simultaneous application for both the $250 bonus under § 2 (3) and the burial benefit under § 12 of the act.2/
 
             This concludes our advice on the questions which you have asked.  We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.


 
Very truly yours,
 
SLADE GORTON
Attorney General
 
 
THOMAS F. CARR
Assistant Attorney General
 
 
                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***
 
1/See our prior opinion to you of March 20, 1972 [[an Informal Opinion to Robert S. O'Brien, State Treasurer]], for an explanation of this provision.
 
2/We would suggest, in view of this point, that it might be well for your office to screen all applications by survivors under § 2 (3), supra, before making payment, in order to see whether any of those individuals may also be eligible for the burial benefit under § 12.
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