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The Auditor disallowed the claim for the reason that
"The evidence does not conclusively or even approximately fix the commencement of the decedent's last sickness, and the claim is of doubtful character generally."
The facts appear to be as follows:
Nancy Leatherman, the deceased pensioner, was afflicted with cancer of the nose and face in varying degrees of severity, from sometime in 1884 until the time of her death resulting therefrom December 1, 1902, at the age of 72.
She was not confined to her bed constantly for any consid erable time before her death, but did require constant care and nursing for the last four years of her life. Her nose was entirely eaten away by the cancer probably for a year or more before her death. Dr. M. F. Sherrill saw her last in the fall of 1901. She was not able to sit up then, but got so she could go about afterwards.
Doctor Sherrill says in his affidavit that—
"the disease of the pensioner, which no doubt finally resulted in her death, was cancer of the face, her nose being entirely eaten off. The exact commencement of pensioner's last sickness I am unable to state, but I do consider that she required constant nursing and attention (though she did not always receive it) from about 1897 until her death. Mrs. Mary B. Blackburn was one of her nurses, and Mrs. Jennie Blackburn and her family, the other. She made her home most of the time with Mrs. Mary B. Blackburn."
Jennie Blackburn says in her affidavit: "She was up and down all the time, sometimes better, sometimes worse."
I am of the opinion that the evidence shows that Nancy Leatherman was practically helpless from the effects of said disease for at least four years before her death, and entirely dependent on the care and attention of her two daughters, Mary B. Blackburn and Jennie Blackburn, for nursing and medical attention.
I am of the opinion that this period of the last four years of her life was her last sickness within the meaning of the act of March 2, 1895 (28 Stat., 964) (MS. Dec. 2d Comp., vol. 52, p. 403; id. 53, p. 84; id., p. 290; 8 Comp. Dec., 33).
The cases cited all recognize the distinction between a chronic sickness which results in death and an acute attack. They all recognize the fact that when a chronic disease reaches
that stage in its progress where its victim requires the constant care and attention of another person, from such time on should be considered the last sickness within the meaning of the act of March 2, 1895.
Applying this rule, the last sickness of Nancy Leatherman began at least four years before her death, and this claim will be settled on that basis.
During the greater portion of this period Mary B. Blackburn nursed and cared for her mother and furnished the most of whatever medicine she received, and, while not so stated, must also have boarded and lodged her.
From all the evidence I am of the opinion that Mary B. Blackburn cared for and nursed her mother for three-fourths of the time during the last four years of her life; that she furnished very little medicine during this period; that she paid Doctor Sherrill, by note, for medical attention and medicine in 1898 and 1899, $60.
The claimant swears that her services in caring for and nursing her mother were worth $1 per day. Doctor Sherrill says that $12.50 per month would be a reasonable charge for such care and nursing.
I am of the opinion, from the evidence of the character of the care and attention given, which was not the best, taken in connection with the character of the sickness, which was loathsome and disagreeable, that $15 per month would be a reasonable sum for such care and nursing and medicine furnished during the time that she was at claimant's house and nursed by her in the last four years of her life.
No specific sum is allowed for medicine furnished, but as claimant must have made some expenditures therefor, this fact is taken into consideration in determining the value of her services for care and nursing.
No part of the payment to Doctor Sherrill for services prior to the last four years, which appears from his bill to be $140, is allowed.
The claimant has furnished a receipted bill for $10 for the coffin and one for $5.75 for goods furnished for the burial of the decedent, which is allowed herein, less $3 which appears to have been paid by Sam Blackburn.
In accordance with this decision the following items disallowed by the Auditor are now allowed:
For medical attendance during the last 4 years of the life of the pensioner, paid to Doctor Sherrill....
For care and nursing during 36 months of the said last 4 years, at $15 per month..
Goods for burial.
Less amount admitted to have been paid by Sam Blackburn
Whatever claim Jennie Blackburn may have, if any, for care, nursing, and medicine for her mother during the said last four years has not been considered herein further than as it affects the allowance to Mrs. Mary B. Blackburn. I would suggest, however, that before a final statement is made the total of such claims, if any, should be ascertained by the Auditor and settled in connection with the claim of Mary B. Blackburn, so that no amount in excess of the right proportion of the pension money shall be paid to Mary B. Blackburn.
VERIFICATION OF VOUCHERS BY AFFIDAVIT.
As there is no provision of law requiring vouchers for traveling expenses to be verified by affidavit, the Isthmian Canal Commission is authorized to determine for itself what evidence it will require as to the correctness of such vouchers presented by its employees.
(Comptroller Tracewell to the chairman of the Isthmian Canal Commission, June 30, 1905.)
By your direction, I am in receipt of letter from Col. C. R. Edwards, chief of office, dated June 24, 1905, asking—
"Whether there is any requirement of law that vouchers covering traveling expenses incurred by members and employees of this Commission be verified by affidavit. The Commission has not heretofore required an affidavit, but has required a certificate that the account is correct.”
There is no requirement of law that such vouchers shall be verified by affidavit, each Department determining for itself what evidence it will require as to the correctness of such accounts rendered by its officers and employees.
By his order of April 1, 1905, the President, acting under the powers given him by the act of June 28, 1902 (32 Stat., 483), charged the present Isthmian Canal Commission, under the supervision and direction of the Secretary of War and subject to the approval of the President, with the construction and maintenance of a waterway across the Isthmus of Panama and with all matters incident and necessary thereto. If, therefore, that Commission, acting in pursuance of the powers thus delegated, does not require affidavits to vouchers for traveling expenses, such affidavits will not be required by the accounting officers of the Treasury.