Get the right directions for federal travel!
Don't get lost in the tangled web of rules and regulations governing federal travel. Make sure you have the one guide that will put you on the road to being a knowledgeable and compliant government traveler— Navigating Federal Travel: A Q & A Roadmap. This essential reference is geared not only to government travelers and those authorizing and approving travel, but also to those who provide travel management services to government agencies. The guide is organized in question-and-answer format, similar to the Federal Travel Regulation (FTR), and is presented to be readily accessible and informative. The information is based on the author's years of experience as a federal travel manager as well as the FTR, Government Accountability Office and Civilian Board of Contract Appeals decisions, and pertinent legislation and mandates. As a supplement to the FTR, the guide includes examples of actual and potential situations the traveler may encounter before, during, and after approval of authorized travel. The book offers clear and concise information on: • How to determine the need for travel • How travel is authorized and by whom • How the employee pays for expenses incurred in performing official travel • How the employee is reimbursed for authorized travel and travel-related expenses. Navigating Federal Travel also includes coverage of best practices for the Agency/Organization Program Coordinator (A/OPC), who is responsible for managing the government travel charge card program. Appendices offer helpful websites and resources as well as special information for relocation. Get the right directions and follow the rules with Navigating Federal Travel: A Q & A Roadmap.
Table of Contents
About the Author
PART I: TERMS AND DEFINITIONS FOR PURPOSES OF TRAVEL
PART II: LAWS, REGULATIONS, AND MANDATES
Travel and Transportation Reform Act (TTRA) of 1998
Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2006
OMB Circular A-123, Appendix B
Federal Travel Regulation
Fly America Act
Joint Travel Regulations (JTR)
Department of State Standardized Regulations for Government Civilians in Foreign Areas
5 U.S.C. Chapter 57
City Pair Program (CPP)
Contract Fares - see City Pair Program
E-Gov Travel Service (ETS)
PART III: THE CIVILIAN BOARD OF CONTRACT APPEALS
1. Why was the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals established?
2. What happened to the General Services Board of Contract Appeals?
3. What types of cases are heard by the CBCA?
4. Can the CBCA review travel reimbursement disputes regarding travel within an official duty station?
5. Who, and what authority, allow an advance decision from the CBCA?
6. What is the Comptroller General’s authority compared to the CBCA?
PART IV: BEFORE YOU TRAVEL
7. What is the role of the Administrator of the General Services Administration?
8. What is the FTR?
9. What is the purpose of the FTR?
10. Why is it important for agencies to have written travel policies?
11. What specific policies are agencies required to establish for travel?
12. May agency policy provide an allowance or entitlement more favorable to the traveler that is less stringent than the FTR?
13. What are the traveler’s responsibilities?
Approving Official Responsibilities
14. When authorizing travel, what factors must the authorizing official consider?
15. What key questions should an approving official consider when authorizing travel?
16. What is the purpose of the travel authorization process?
17. What are the basic types of travel authorizations allowable for travel?
18. What information is required on a travel authorization?
19. What types of conditions or limitations may be stated on a travel authorization?
20. Why does a traveler need written authorization to travel? Isn’t the word of a supervisor good enough?
21. Who and what determine a traveler’s mode of transportation for travel?
22. What travel arrangements require specific authorization or prior approval?
23. If a traveler returns from a trip a day early, does he/she need to amend the authorization to reflect the date change? Conversely, if the trip is extended for official business, does the authorization have to be amended to reflect the changed dates before approving the voucher?
24. Can a traveler use a personal passport for official government travel?
25. Can a traveler be reimbursed for passport and visa fees?
26. Who determines whether or not a traveler is exempt from the fee for an official passport?
27. What other passport and visa fees are reimbursable?
28. How can a traveler obtain health information for the country he/she will be traveling to?
29. Can a traveler be reimbursed for transportation costs incurred while obtaining an official passport or visa?
30. Can an official passport be used for personal travel?
31. Can a traveler pick up an official passport from the passport facility?
32. For how long must a passport for official travel be valid?
33. When is host country clearance required?
34. What is host country clearance?
35. What will happen if a traveler does not get host country clearance?
36. Is U.S. embassy clearance also required?
37. Can U.S. embassy clearance for travel be denied?
38. Can the embassy or consulate provide interpreters, stenographers, video equipment, etc.?
39. How do I report a lost or stolen passport?
40. What should a traveler do in the event of unanticipated civil disturbance or unrest while on official travel?
41. Can an agency pay the transportation expenses of an employee’s dependents during an evacuation?
42. How can an agency track its overseas travelers in the event of civil unrest?
43. How can an agency integrate travel risk management with ETS to mitigate certain travel risks an international traveler may encounter?
44. For what expenses may a traveler receive a travel advance?
45. What is the maximum amount that an agency may advance?
46. When must a traveler account for an advance?
47. What is general agency policy governing the use of travel advances?
48. In situations where a lodging facility requires the payment of a deposit, may an agency reimburse an employee for an advance room deposit prior to the beginning of scheduled official travel?
49. For how long may an agency issue a travel advance?
50. What data must an agency capture in its travel advance accounting system?
51. When must an employee account for a travel advance?
52. May travelers be reimbursed for stolen travel advances?
53. Are there exceptions to the agency’s collecting an advance at the time the employee files a travel claim?
54. Is the agency responsible for collecting outstanding travel advances? How does the agency collect the amount of a travel advance that exceeds the amount of the travel expenses substantiated by the employee?
55. What should an agency do if the employee does not pay back a travel advance when the travel claim is filed?
56. What internal policies and procedures must an agency establish governing travel advances?
57. Why are government travelers required to use contract fares when cheaper fares may be available on the internet?
58. What does last seat availability mean?
59. What is a capacity control fare and how does it differ from a YCA fare?
60. Under what circumstances can non-contract fares be used?
61. Can a contract fare be used for personal travel?
62. Can personal travel be combined with official travel?
63. Does GSA establish all per diem rates?
64. What policies is an agency required to establish for authorization and payment of per diem expenses?
65. What does the per diem allowance cover?
66. What is a standard CONUS location?
67. When is a traveler eligible for per diem or travel allowances?
68. For purposes of per diem, when does TDY travel begin and end?
69. When is travel time considered hours of work?
70. Is per diem based on a traveler’s PDS or official residence?
71. Is a traveler required to record departure and arrival dates and times on a travel claim?
72. If an agency authorizes travelers to depart one day before or after a conference, can it deny reimbursement for expenses incurred for the extra travel day?
73. What are the per diem entitlements for travel less than 12 hours?
74. What if the travel is more than 12 hours but less than 24 hours?
75. What if the travel is 24 hours or more?
76. What are the types of reimbursable per diem expense methods?
77. When can a traveler claim actual expense reimbursement instead of the standard per diem rate?
78. Is per diem based on the TDY or lodging location?
79. How is per diem calculated if travel is interrupted because of illness, incapacitation, or hospitalization?
80. Under what conditions will an agency pay additional travel expenses to accommodate a special need?
81. What additional travel expenses may an agency pay to accommodate a special need?
82. May employees be reimbursed for traveling to interview with another agency if they are seeking a new position as a result of a reduction in force?
83. What are the rules for invitational travel reimbursement?
84. Can an employee accept monies from a non-federal source for invitational travel?
PART V: WHILE ON TRAVEL
PAYING FOR TRAVEL EXPENSES WITH A CONTRACTOR-ISSUED GOVERNMENT TRAVEL CHARGE CARD
85. What are some best practices for managing cardholders?
86. What are some best practices for A/OPC program management?
87. What actions can an A/OPC take to help manage the agency’s travel card program in a way that prevents abuse, minimizes risk, and eliminates or reduces delinquencies?
88. Can a contract fare be used for personal travel and the ticket paid using a personal credit card, or can a government travel charge card be used to pay for the entire trip and the personal portion not be vouchered?
89. Who and what expenses may be exempted from mandatory use of the government travel charge card and who is authorized to provide the exemption?
90. What expenses are exempt from mandatory use of the government travel charge card?
91. Can a traveler be reimbursed for fees while authorized to use the travel charge card for an advance?
92. Can a traveler submit a voucher in advance of travel to pay a credit card charge for a room deposit?
93. Can the government travel charge card be used in the vicinity of a traveler’s permanent duty station?
94. If a traveler is not authorized to receive a government travel charge card but is required to travel, how can the traveler pay for travel expenses?
95. Can a traveler use his/her government travel charge card to pay for a co-worker’s lodging and dining expenses?
96. What is considered misuse/abuse and fraudulent use of a government travel charge card?
97. What actions by the cardholder could be considered misuse or abuse?
98. What are the consequences for misuse of a government travel charge card?
99. What are some helpful hints for cardholders regarding travel card use?
100. If a supervisor directs a traveler to purchase an item unrelated to the traveler’s purpose of travel on the traveler’s government travel charge card, what action can the traveler take without fear of being insubordinate?
101. If on official travel and there is a government-wide shutdown, can a traveler continue to use the government travel charge card?
INCURRING TRAVEL EXPENSES
102. If a supervisor authorizes the employee to make a purchase verbally, can the agency later deny the claim?
103. Is an employee allowed to have family or other dependents travel with him/her on official TDY travel?
104. Since government travelers are allowed to mix personal and official travel, can a traveler schedule return travel on the next business day if the official travel ends on a weekend?
105. What is the maximum amount a traveler can be reimbursed for parking a car at the airport?
106. Can a traveler be reimbursed for unconverted foreign currency that could not be converted back to U.S. dollars?
107. What is FedRooms?
108. Are travelers required to stay in lodging facilities that are part of an agency’s lodging programs in addition to the GSA-sponsored FedRooms lodging program?
109. If a traveler shares a room with a co-worker, how is the lodging reimbursement calculated?
110. Can a traveler separate lodging taxes for foreign travel?
111. If a traveler stays with family or friends, can he/she be reimbursed the per diem rate for lodging?
112. Are there any situations when a traveler can be reimbursed for lodging expenses when staying with a relative or friend?
113. If an agency has a remote location for employees performing TDY and there is no hotel within a reasonable driving distance, can employees use their own RV and be reimbursed a daily amount?
114. Can an agency reimburse a traveler for purchasing an airline ticket from an unauthorized source?
115. Are there any circumstances under which a traveler can be reimbursed for the total cost of an airline ticket purchased from an unauthorized source?
116. Can a traveler be reimbursed for flight insurance?
117. Are contractors allowed to use contract city pair fares to perform travel under their contracts?
118. If a traveler’s city has more than one airport, can the traveler’s supervisor require that he/she use a specific airport for TDY travel?
119. When can an agency authorize a rest period?
120. For flight time over 14 hours, can a traveler request premium class accommodations instead of a rest period?
121. When can a traveler upgrade an airline ticket above coach-class accommodations?
122. What are the classes of accommodations for air travel?
123. When may a traveler fly first class?
124. When may an agency authorize/approve business-class accommodations?
125. What documentation is required to travel first class or business class if a traveler has a medical disability?
126. What documentation is required to travel first class or business class if a traveler has a special need?
127. What other exceptions are acceptable to travel in first-class or business-class accommodations?
128. Can other-than-coach-class accommodations be authorized for travel on a foreign carrier?
129. Can blanket authorization be used for other-than-coach class accommodations?
Fly America Act
130. What does “U.S. flag air carrier” mean?
131. What is a code-share agreement?
132. What information is required from a traveler when a foreign carrier is used?
133. What exceptions to the Fly America Act requirements apply when travel is between the United States and another country?
134. What exceptions to the Fly America Act requirements apply when travel is solely outside the United States and a U.S. flag air carrier provides service between the traveler’s origin and destination?
135. May a traveler use a foreign air carrier if the service is preferred by or more convenient for the traveler or his/her agency?
136. Is reliance on the judgment of an official travel agent a defense to violating the Fly America Act?
137. May an employee travel by a foreign air carrier if the cost of the ticket is less than traveling by a U.S. flag air carrier?
138. Is a traveler required to provide any special certification or documents if he/she uses a foreign air carrier?
139. What must the certification for using a foreign air carrier include?
140. If a traveler does not meet the exceptions for using a foreign carrier but learns that the foreign carrier is also a code-share partner with a U.S. flag carrier, can the traveler be reimbursed for the airline ticket?
141. When can a traveler use Open Skies?
142. What are the exceptions for Open Skies?
143. What’s an extra-fare train?
144. When can a traveler use an extra-fare train?
145. When can a traveler use train accommodations above coach class?
146. If the approving official authorizes train transportation for an employee’s TDY, can the employee choose to drive a POV instead?
147. If co-workers travel together in a POV and share the driving expenses, can they both claim per diem expenses?
148. If use of a POV results in additional travel time, can the traveler be reimbursed per diem for the extra days?
149. If an employee’s driver’s license is suspended but will be reinstated prior to an upcoming TDY assignment, can the traveler still be authorized to drive a government vehicle?
150. If a traveler is authorized to use a government-owned automobile but uses a POV instead, how is reimbursement calculated?
151. What does the mileage rate cover?
152. Can a traveler be denied use of a POV if required to travel by air or if doing so is not advantageous to the government?
Rental Car Expenses
153. Can a traveler be reimbursed for insurance while renting a car for official travel?
154. Can a traveler be denied reimbursement for a rental car even though the expense was approved and authorized on the travel authorization?
155. Can a traveler be reimbursed for including a global positioning system (GPS) in the cost of the car rental?
156. Can a traveler be reimbursed car rental damage fees if the car was not rented through the government?
157. What is the government administrative rate supplement?
158. Is a traveler required to rent a vehicle through the DTMO rental program?
159. If a traveler is involved in a car accident before or after work hours with an authorized rental car and did not take out collision insurance (in accordance with agency policy), who is liable for the cost of the repairs?
160. If a traveler is authorized to extend TDY for personal reasons and retains the rental car, is the government or the traveler liable for damages to the car in the case of an accident?
161. Does the government have a policy on texting while operating an authorized vehicle while on official travel?
162. Can a traveler be reimbursed the fee to unlock an authorized rental car while on official travel?
163. When should per diem be adjusted for meals?
164. What are the exceptions for not deducting a furnished meal?
165. Can an agency pay the costs of meals and light refreshments during training or a meeting at the permanent duty station?
MISCELLANEOUS & INCIDENTAL EXPENSES
166. What baggage fees are reimbursable?
167. Is curbside baggage check-in a reimbursable expense?
168. If a traveler’s luggage does not arrive at the TDY destination, can the traveler be authorized to purchase toiletries and necessary clothing in order to attend a meeting representing his/her agency?
169. Is there a minimum or maximum for reimbursement of tips? Can an agency reimburse less than what the traveler actually spent on tips?
170. When can an agency disallow payment of a claimed item?
171. What will the agency do when it disallows an expense?
172. What must a traveler do to challenge a disallowed expense?
WHEN TRAVEL IS INTERRUPTED
173. Who is considered to be “family” with respect to emergency travel?
174. When an illness or injury occurs on TDY, what expenses Are allowed?
PART VI: WHEN YOU RETURN FROM TRAVEL
175. When is a traveler required to submit a travel claim?
176. What must a traveler provide with a travel claim?
177. What can a traveler do if a receipt is lost or misplaced?
178. When are receipts required?
179. How long should receipts be retained?
180. If a traveler does not submit a receipt for an expense or lists an unauthorized expense on the voucher, can the agency disallow the expense? Can a traveler appeal the disallowance?
181. A traveler’s travel voucher is often submitted by an agency-authorized alternate preparer. Is it legal for this individual to sign a traveler’s voucher?
182. How are “constructive costs” calculated?
183. If a traveler has a contractor-issued government travel charge card, what is the required method for reimbursement?
184. What is “split pay” or “split disbursement” and how can an exemption be obtained?
185. What authority requires the use of split disbursement, which is not required by the FTR?
186. What happens if a traveler is late paying the charges on his/her IBA?
187. What is disposable pay?
188. What is the maximum amount an agency may collect from an employee’s disposable pay?
189. What can an IBA cardholder do if he/she notices an erroneous charge?
190. Is an agency required to reimburse a traveler who refuses reimbursement?
PART VII: CONFERENCES
191. What are the definitions of a conference, meeting, and training?
192. What cost-saving tools are available to government conference planners?
193. Can an agency provide a conference “memory” book to conference attendees?
194. Can an agency hosting a conference provide meals to non-federal employees?
195. Can an employee be reimbursed the cost of renting or purchasing formal attire that will be worn as a part of the employee’s performance of official duties?
196. What is the definition of light refreshments?
197. May a federal conference planner keep for personal use any promotional benefits or materials he/she receives from a travel service provider?
198. Why is budgeting important to conference planning?
199. How can an agency mitigate the risk of inappropriate spending practices for conferences?
PART VIII: MEMBERSHIPS IN TRAVEL REWARDS PROGRAMS
200. Who owns the compensation provided by an airline if a traveler either voluntarily gives up his/her seat or is involuntarily prevented from boarding the aircraft (“bumped”)?
201. Can an agency take any administrative action against a government traveler for voluntarily giving up an airline seat to obtain personal compensation from the airline?
202. The FTR states that travelers are required to use a government contractor–issued travel charge card for transportation but not specifically for lodging. Can a traveler use a personal credit card to earn lodging benefits since government travelers are allowed to retain promotional benefits?
203. Can a traveler be reimbursed for an airline ticket obtained using frequent-flyer miles?
204. Can a traveler be reimbursed for the administrative fee that a car rental agency assesses as a part of the traveler’s participation in its travel incentive rewards program?
205. Can a traveler be reimbursed for the cost of purchasing an official airline ticket using flight coupons received for personal use from an airline?
PART IX: RELOCATION
206. Should a relocating employee follow the FTR, GSA guidance, or agency policy?
207. Has GSA issued a policy guide for relocation?
208. Can those documents be considered regulatory or mandatory for managing an agency’s relocation program?
209. Why would GSA develop relocation guides instead of just referring agencies to Part 302 of the FTR?
210. What other resources does GSA provide to assist employees with relocations?
211. Are the relocation resource centers endorsed by GSA?
212. What are the guiding principles for federal relocation managers?
213. Who is eligible for relocation allowances?
214. Are any individuals not eligible for relocation allowances?
215. What are the types of relocations?
216. What types of employees can be relocated?
217. Are all types of relocation expenses reimbursable?
218. What is a new appointee?
219. What is a transferee or transferred employee?
220. What are the types of transfers?
221. What are the types of separation relocations?
222. What determines an employee’s entitlements and allowances for relocation?
223. What are the mandatory and discretionary benefits?
224. What are the mandatory elements under the FTR for most relocations?
225. What is a service agreement?
226. What is a duplicate reimbursement disclosure statement?
227. When is a service agreement required?
228. When is a service agreement not needed or required?
229. How long is a service agreement?
230. Is an employee required to sign a service agreement when transferring within or outside the continental United States or performing renewal agreement travel? What is the minimum period of service?
231. Can an employee be penalized for violating a service agreement?
232. When is a decision beyond the employee’s control for an employee to break a service agreement?
233. What happens if an employee fails to sign a service agreement?
234. Can a service agreement be voided by a subsequent service agreement?
235. If an employee has more than one service agreement, is the employee required to adhere to each agreement separately?
236. Can relocation expenses be paid if allowed in the agency’s policy but not in the vacancy announcement?
237. May an employee be reimbursed for relocation expenses if relocation to a new official station does not meet the 50-mile distance test?
238. Can an employee rely on the shipper’s estimate?
239. Can an agency encourage an employee to relocate in order to fulfill an agency-specific mission and later reimburse the employee for relocation expenses?
240. Can an agency revoke relocation allowances verbally?
APPENDIX A: References and Websites
APPENDIX B: Relocation Tables