The opinion of the court was delivered by: LETTS
The plaintiff Jacqueline J. Droney brings this suit as the designated beneficiary of a contract of National Service Life Insurance, issued to Robert F. Droney on August 1, 1942, while in the military service of the United States.
It appears without dispute that the insured originally named his wife, the intervener, Grace P. Droney, as beneficiary of said insurance, but on August 1, 1943, attempted to change the beneficiary of said insurance, naming plaintiff whose relationship was given as that of 'sister'. The insured died on August 4, 1943. The disagreement as contemplated by section 19 World War Veterans' Act, 1924, 38 U.S.C.A. § 445, exists. It is admitted that plaintiff is an adopted sister of the insured and that no blood relationship existed between her and the insured.
The intervener, Grace P. Droney, bases her claim to insurance benefits upon the contention that the purported change of beneficiary is ineffectual since plaintiff does not come within the permitted class of designated beneficiaries as defined by the National Service Life Insurance Act.
The United States withholds payment of the insurance because of the conflict of interest between the plaintiff and the intervener and is ready to pay the insurance to the person adjudged by the court to be entitled to receive the same.
Plaintiff and intervener have filed motions for summary judgment. These motions present the sole question for decision, which is one of law: whether or not a sister by adoption comes within the permitted class of designated beneficiaries as defined by the National Service Life Insurance Act.
Section 601 of the National Service Life Insurance Act, as approved October 8, 1940, 54 Stat. 1008, 38 U.S.C.A. § 801, provides in subsection (e) that when used in part 1 of the act the term 'child' includes an adopted child.
Section 602 of said Act, Sec. 802 of the United States Code Annotated, provides, on the subject of beneficiaries:
'(g) The insurance shall be payable only to a widow, widower, child (including a stepchild or an illegitimate child if designated as beneficiary by the insured), parent (including person in loco parentis if designated as beneficiary by the insured), brother or sister of the insured. The insured shall have the right to designate the beneficiary or beneficiaries of the insurance, but only within the classes herein provided, and shall, subject to regulations, at all times have the right to change the beneficiary or beneficiaries of such insurance without the consent of such beneficiary or beneficiaries but only within the classes herein provided.
'(j) No installments of such insurance shall be paid to the heirs or legal representatives as such of the insured or of any beneficiary, and in the event that no person within the permitted class survives to receive the insurance or any part thereof no payment of the unpaid installments shall be made.'
Section 601 of the Act of October 8, 1940, was amended by an Act approved July 11, 1942, 56 Stat. 659, 38 U.S.C.A. 801, by the addition of the following subsection: '(f) The terms 'parent', 'father', and 'mother' include a father, mother, father through adoption, mother through adoption, and persons who have stood in loco parentis to a member of the military or naval forces at any time prior to entry into active service for a period of not less than one year.'
The amendatory Act of July 11, 1942, struck out of section 602(g) dealing with beneficiaries the parenthetical words, following the word 'parent,' to wit, 'including person in loco parentis if designated as beneficiary by the insured.' Section 602(g) now reads: 'The insurance shall be payable only to a widow, widower, child (including a stepchild or an illegitimate child if designated as beneficiary by the insured), parent, brother or sister of the insured. * * * '
It will be noted that in such provision only the term 'child' is enlarged beyond the natural and obvious meaning of the terms used to designate permissible beneficiaries.
It will be observed that the provisions of the War Risk Insurance and World War Veterans' Acts are much more liberal than the act ...