King v. Office of Pers. Mgmt., No. 12-3061 (Fed. Cir. 2013)Annotate this Case
Former U.S. Forest Service employee King had long-term relationships with two women, both of whom claimed federal survivor benefits upon his death. Kathryn believed she had married King in a civil ceremony in 2002. Diana, who had been legally married to and divorced from King twice, but had continued to live with him until 2002, maintained that she was the common law wife of King at the time he married Kathryn. Before his death, Diana had initiated proceedings in Montana to dissolve their common law marriage. The women subsequently entered settlement agreements and engaged in state court litigation. Kathryn received benefits from May 27, 2004 until February 2007. Diana subsequently received the survivor benefits. Kathryn transferred to Diana the funds that she received ($41,939.13), as she believed was required by a Montana court decree. Kathryn challenged the OPM’s effort to recover the improper payments, having transferred the money to Diana, but the government affirmed its decision and determined that collection of the $41,939.13 would not cause Kathryn financial hardship. The Merit Systems Protection Board affirmed, holding that Kathryn did not meet the definition of “widow” under the Civil Service Retirement Act, 5 U.S.C. 8341(A)(1), and had not proved that she was entitled to waiver for the overpayment. The Federal Circuit reversed. The Board failed to credit substantial evidence demonstrating that Kathryn detrimentally relied on the overpayment of survivor annuity funds.