0201 Overview

This chapter establishes the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) financial policies and procedures regarding the payment of per diem for official Government travel.

Key points covered in this chapter:

  • VA will follow the regulations set forth via the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR);
  • VA will authorize per diem when an employee performs official travel outside the local area of their official station and 50 miles from their residence, incurs per diem expenses, and remains in travel status for more than 12 hours;
  • VA travelers must stay in weekly or monthly rentals during long-term temporary duty (TDY) whenever possible;
  • VA may, on a case-by-case basis, authorize a reduced per diem rate lower than the prescribed maximum when the cost of lodging and/or meals can be obtained at the TDY site at a lower cost than the prescribed General Services Administration (GSA) maximum per diem rate;
  • VA employees traveling on official business have a responsibility to exercise the same care in incurring expenses that a prudent person would exercise when traveling on personal business;
  • VA may authorize the actual expense method as an alternative per diem method, reimbursing actual subsistence costs for the same type of expenses permitted under the Lodgings-Plus per diem allowance; and
  • VA will withhold taxes and initiate the Extended TDY Tax Reimbursement Allowance (ETTRA) when an employee is deemed to no longer be temporarily away from home.

Under 5 U.S.C. Appendix, as amended (Inspector General Act of 1978 – Public Law 95-452), VA Office of Inspector General (VA OIG) employees are required to adhere to travel directives, policies, procedures, and guidance provided by VA OIG.

Union rights and privileges related to travel expenses, as defined in Union agreements, do not supersede the regulations contained in FTR Chapters 300 – 304.

0202 Revisions

SectionRevisionOfficeReason for ChangeEffective Date
020507Added clarifying language regarding personal travel.OFPField office driven.December 2023
020508Added clarifying language to TDY lodging maintained.OFPField office driven.December 2023

For a complete listing of previous policy revisions, see Appendix A.

0203 Definitions

Actual Expense – A per diem payment method authorizing reimbursement for actual lodging or meal subsistence expenses incurred, up to the limit prescribed by the Administrator of the GSA or limited by the agency as appropriate. Entitlement to reimbursement is contingent upon entitlement to per diem and is subject to the same definitions and rules governing per diem.

Alternate Location – A location other than the traveler’s official or temporary duty station.

Approving Official (AO) – A VA travel system role with the authority to approve travel documents.

Conventional Lodging Facilities – Includes hotel, motel, boarding house, or any lodging facility where lodging is normally obtained based on a daily rate. An apartment or house, rented for example through Airbnb (online private rental) for a week or month, would not be considered a conventional lodging facility.

Federal Travel Regulation (FTR) – GSA implements statutory requirements contained in U.S.C Title 41, Subtitle F, Chapters 300 through 304, and Executive Branch policy for travel by Federal civilian employees and others authorized to travel at Government expense.

Extended TDY – Occurs when travel is expected to last for more than 12 months at the same location or when a series of assignments to the same location, all for short periods, can be combined to equate at least 12 months. For tax purposes, this travel may be considered indefinite.

Extended TDY Tax Reimbursement Allowance (ETTRA) – An allowance designed to reimburse Federal, State, and local income taxes incurred incident to an indefinite/extended long-term travel at one location. ETTRA was previously referred to as Income Tax Reimbursement Allowance (ITRA) in the FTR.

Local Travel – Travel performed either within an established local radius of the official station, or 50 miles of the employee’s residence. The standard local radius will be 50 miles from the official station. A VA station may establish a local radius different from the standard radius based on counties, geographical boundaries, or nearby cities. This local radius cannot exceed 50 miles and must be established in writing and approved by the Facility Director. For remote workers, the local radius will be 50 miles from the remote worksite.

Locality Rate – Maximum per diem rate prescribed for specific localities. (See References list for FTR § 301-11.6, Maximum Per Diem Rates, and GSA Per Diem Rates.)

Lodgings-Plus Per Diem Method – The standard method VA uses to reimburse the actual cost of lodging plus an allowance for meals and incidental (M&IE) expenses based on the locality rate, unless a determination is made to authorize a reduced rate or actual expense per diem method.

Long-Term – Refers to official travel lasting 30 or more continuous calendar days, not exceeding one year.

Meals and Incidental Expense (M&IE) Allowance – Daily allowance under the Lodgings-Plus and Reduced Per Diem methods provided to travelers during TDY travel to cover the cost associated with reasonable meals and travel-related incidental expenses (e.g., tips). Travelers are required to exclude any meal provided by the Government.

Mixed Travel – Occurs when official travel within a single trip is subject to payment of the daily subsistence expenses using more than one per diem method (i.e., Lodgings-Plus, Actual Expense, Reduced).

Non-Workdays – Legal Federal Government holidays and weekends or other scheduled non-workdays.

Official Business – Travel performed by an employee (a non-invitational traveler) is considered to be official business, which their organization may authorize when it is:

  • Directly related to duties contained in the employee’s Position Description;
  • Directly beneficial to the employing office;
  • Required to meet a performance/job requirement to remain in the position; and/or
  • Related to a training requirement that is needed to continue employment.

Official Station – An area defined by the agency that includes the location where the employee regularly performs his or her duties or an invitational traveler’s home or regular place of business (FTR § 300-3, and Volume XIV Ch. 7, Local Travel).

Official Travel – Travel under an official travel authorization from an employee’s official station or other authorized point of departure to a temporary duty location and return from a temporary duty location, between two temporary duty locations to perform official business, or relocation at the direction of a Federal agency.

Per Diem Allowance – A subsistence allowance for lodging, meals, and related incidental expenses incurred while on authorized TDY. Maximum per diem rates for TDY locations are established by GSA, and available at GSA Per Diem Rates.

Emergency Travel – Travel resulting from illness, incapacitation, or injury of the traveler not due to misconduct, the death or serious illness of a member of the traveler’s family, or a catastrophic occurrence or impending disaster such as fire, flood, or act of God which directly affects the traveler’s home.

Reduced Per Diem – A per diem method limiting the rate to less than the maximum allowable rate when there are known reductions in lodging and meal costs.

Rest Period – An allowable period of rest at a point enroute to or at the destination.

Standard Continental United States (CONUS) Rate – The per diem rate allowed for any location in the CONUS that does not have a specific locality rate approved (GSA Standard Per Diem Rate).

Temporary Duty (TDY) Travel – Travel by an employee on official business to a designated location(s), as authorized by an employee’s AO through a travel authorization.

Travel Authorization (TA) – Written or electronic authorization to incur expenses while on authorized official business for the Government, which must include specific purpose, itinerary, and estimated costs (FTR § 301-71.103, FTR § 301-11.200).

Travel Claim – A certified document requesting approval for reimbursement of authorized travel expenses incurred, submitted by the traveler in VA’s travel system.

Traveler – An individual, as defined by FTR § 301-1.2, who is authorized to perform official Government travel.

0204 Roles and Responsibilities

Deputy Secretary (DEPSEC), Under Secretaries, Assistant Secretaries, and Other Key Officials (OKOs) are responsible for ensuring compliance with the policies set forth in this chapter. They also have been delegated the authority to approve actual expense per diem requests in excess of 150 percent up to 300 percent.

Executive Director, Financial Services Center has been delegated by the ASM/CFO to approve actual expense per diem in excess of 150 percent up to 300 percent for SECVA, and Office of Management employees, with no further re-delegation authorized.

Approving Officials (AOs) are responsible for authorizing the travel plans of employees within their jurisdiction and for ensuring that:

  • Travel is performed economically and prudently;
  • Travel activities are consistent with FTR Chapters 300-304, VA travel policy, and any other Department-specific guidance (e.g., travel notices);
  • Required documentation and receipts are in the travel documents in VA’s travel system;
  • Approving actual expense per diem requests up to 150 percent (designated by the ASM/CFO);
  • Travel claims are approved or returned for correction within 3 business days of the date the travel claim was routed for approval review; and
  • Travel for which reimbursement is claimed was performed as authorized.

Travelers will be knowledgeable of and comply with the FTR (specifically Chapters 301-304), VA travel policy, and any other agency-specific guidance (e.g., travel notices). Travelers will minimize costs, ensure travel is approved in advance, arrange travel using VA’s travel system, submit travel claims promptly (within 5 business days of completion of travel or at least once per month when travel period exceeds 30 days), and comply with VA’s travel charge card program guidance in Volume XVI Chapter 2, Government Travel Charge Card Program.

0205 Policies

020501 General Policies

  1. To qualify for per diem, the traveler must perform official travel outside of the local travel area of their official station, be 50 miles from their residence, and, per FTR § 301-11.1, remain in travel status more than 12 hours. In accordance with FTR § 301-11.9, entitlement to per diem begins when the traveler departs their home, office or other authorized point and ends upon return to their home, office, or other authorized point..
  2. VA may authorize both actual expense and per diem on the same trip when travel exceeds one day. When more than one reimbursement method is involved and authorized, VA must use the most advantageous method as determined by the traveler’s location at midnight of the calendar day in question. Only one method can be authorized for any given calendar day (FTR § 301-11.4).
  3. When a traveler is offered and accepts a new position at the TDY site and begins performing the new position’s duties while still on TDY, the hiring official and employee should consult the local travel office for guidance on per diem entitlement.
  4. When a traveler’s TDY location becomes their permanent duty location, the traveler will be reimbursed at the per diem rate while returning to the previous official duty station for administrative out-processing, prior to officially transferring to the new permanent duty station. The traveler will be reimbursed at the relocation rate (Permanent Change of Station (PCS)) while enroute to the new official station.
  5. In accordance with FTR §301-11.12(3), the per diem rate maynotbe established to provide:
    • Lodging allowance for staying at the traveler’s home;
    • A full M&IE allowance when lodging is obtained with friends or relatives (a reduction should be made to the locality M&IE allowance);
    • A payment that will, based on the data available, knowingly allow the traveler to receive more than the full M&IE allowance (FTR §301-11.200);
    • The full locality per diem rate when a determination has been made in advance that lodging and/or meal costs will be lower than the existing per diem rate (FTR §301-11.200); or
    • A payment sufficient to cover periods where per diem is lost due to annual leave or expenses of family members (FTR §301-11.1, and §301-11.21).

020502 Lodgings Plus Per Diem Rates – Maximum Per Diem Rates

  1. In most cases, VA will use the Lodgings-Plus per diem method in accordance with FTR § 301-11.6 to reimburse travelers for the per diem cost of travel without itemization of expenses or receipts for meals. Other per diem methods of reimbursement VA may authorize are:
    • Reduced Per Diem Method (FTR § 301-11 Subpart C); and
    • Actual Expense Method (FTR § 301-11 Subpart D).
  2. Under the Lodgings-Plus per diem method, the maximum reimbursable lodging rate and fixed allowance for M&IE are based on the TDY location.
  3. CONUS per diem rates are set by fiscal year, effective October 1, and are developed based upon GSA’s reasonable cost for M&IE for each locality.
  4. Outside of Continental United States (OCONUS) non-foreign area (i.e., Alaska and Hawaii, Commonwealths of Puerto Rico and Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands, and territories and possessions of the United States (excludes the former Trust Territories of the Pacific Islands, which are considered foreign areas for the purposes of the FTR)) per diem rates are established by the Defense Travel Management Office (DTMO) at least once a year.
  5. OCONUS Foreign Area per diem rates are established by the Department of State (DOS).
  6. CONUS per diem does not include reimbursement for laundry, dry cleaning, or pressing of clothing expenses. These expenses may be authorized or approved as a separate expense item when the conditions in FTR § 301-11.31 are met. Outside the Continental United States (OCONUS), both Non-foreign area and Foreign area travel, M&IE includes the reimbursement for these expenses. No additional reimbursement will be authorized.
  7. VA must use the per diem rate that applies to the TDY location per FTR § 301-11.7 and GSA Per Diem Rates. When lodging is not available at the TDY location, VA may authorize the maximum per diem rate for an alternate location where lodging is obtained in accordance with FTR § 301-11.8.
  8. When a maximum per diem rate for a location is thought to be inadequate, ASM/CFO may request a review, as applicable, by GSA, DoS, or DTMO (FTR § 301-11.26). When initiating a request for a per diem rate review, the following information must be provided:
    • The geographical areas for study, including ZIP codes;
    • The property names (including addresses, ZIP codes and rates) where the travelers will stay while on temporary duty, and those properties (including addresses, ZIP codes and rates) that will not honor the applicable lodging per diem rate; and
    • Pertinent lodging and meal cost data. The data would include the number of times actual expenses were incurred, or when travelers used another lodging facility to stay within the maximum allowable lodging per diem rate resulting in additional transportation expenses (rental car, taxi, etc.).

020503 Per Diem Based on Duration of Travel

  1. The traveler must record the date of departure from, and arrival at, the official station or any other place travel begins or ends (FTR § 301-11.10).
  2. Travelers must annotate on their travel claim when travel exceeds 12 hours but is less than 24 hours. For further guidance reference Appendix A, Examples of Per Diem for Travel More Than 12 Hours But Less Than 24 Hours.
  3. VA must reimburse per diem for travel more than 12 hours, but less than 24 hours as follows:
    • When lodging is authorized, VA must reimburse the expense incurred not to exceed the maximum GSA lodging rate based on the traveler’s TDY location at 12 midnight, and 75 percent of the applicable daily M&IE rate for each calendar day in a travel status (FTR § 301-11.100 and 101); and
    • When travel involves multiple locations in one day and no lodging is required, VA will authorize the highest M&IE allowance of the official locations listed on the TA (FTR § 301-11.102).
    • Official time should be calculated in accordance with the requirements of VA Handbook 5007, Part VIII, Chapter 15.
  4. For travel lasting 24 hours or more, VA will authorize per diem from the time the traveler leaves their office, residence, or other authorized point of departure until they return to their authorized point of return, excluding any personal travel days (FTR § 301-11.9 and Subpart B – Lodgings-Plus Per Diem).
    1. On the day of departure for travel 24 hours or more, VA will authorize 75 percent of the M&IE allowance for the TDY location (regardless of the departure time) and up to the maximum lodging allowance (FTR § 301-11.101(a)).
    2. For each whole day between the departure and return days, VA will authorize 100 percent of the M&IE allowance and reimburse up to the maximum lodging allowance (FTR § 301-11.101(a)), unless a reduction or actual expense has been approved.
    3. On the day of return, VA will authorize 75 percent of the M&IE allowance based on the traveler’s TDY location during the previous official calendar day. A lodging allowance is not authorized (FTR § 301-11.101(a)).
    4. Although per diem is generally based on the traveler’s location at 12:00 midnight, instances may occur where the traveler is enroute and does not arrive at the lodging location until after midnight. In such cases, the traveler may claim lodging cost for the preceding calendar day. If no lodging is required, the applicable M&IE reimbursement rate is the rate for the TDY location (FTR § 301-11.7).
  5. Per diem or actual expense may be authorized when a traveler departs the TDY location on a non-workday(s) if the traveler maintains their travel status on either the day immediately before or after the non-workday(s) (FTR § 301-11.21).

020504 Per Diem for Weekly or Monthly Rentals

  1. To achieve cost savings, VA requires travelers to stay in weekly or monthly rentals (e.g., apartments, extended stay hotels) during long-term TDY whenever possible.
  2. AOs must consider if a traveler on extended TDY is expected to return home periodically prior to entering into a long-term rental agreement as the frequency of a traveler’s interruption of per diem entitlement can have an adverse effect on intended cost savings when compared to conventional lodging.
  3. TDY expected to last a year or more has tax consequences; therefore, the correct Purpose Code “Detail May Need SF52” must be selected on the TA. Reference FTR § 301-11.600, Subpart F Taxes on Extended TDY Benefits.
  4. When lodging is rented on a long-term basis, FTR § 301-11.15 identifies the types of expenses (including internet access) that may be considered part of the lodging cost. Use of the Government Travel Charge Card is authorized for rental furniture and utilities occurring as long-term TDY expenses.
  5. When travelers secure lodging on a weekly or monthly basis, daily rate lodging costs should be computed according to FTR § 301-11.14. Daily lodging cost of a rental period is computed by dividing the total lodging cost by the number of days in the rental period. Reimbursement, including an appropriate amount for M&IE, may not exceed the maximum daily per diem rate for the TDY location unless the actual expense method was justified and approved in advance of the travel episode.
  6. VA must not reimburse the traveler for any deposits forfeited related to damages to lodging accommodations (FTR § 301-2.4).

020505 Allowable Lodging Expenses

  1. VA must reimburse travelers costs incurred for authorized lodging, up to the maximum per diem allowance for the TDY location (FTR § 301-11.7 and § 301-11.8) at the single occupancy rate.
  2. In accordance with FTR § 301-11.13, a lodging receipt showing ‘double occupancy rate’ is treated as follows:
    • If the additional occupant was another Government employee, the travel claim must show the name and Government agency or office of that person, and reimbursement is limited to one-half of the double-occupancy rate.
    • If the additional occupant is a non-Government employee, the employee need not provide identifying information, and reimbursement is limited to the single-occupancy rate.
  3. Lodging taxes for CONUS are not part of per diem allowance and will be itemized separately as a miscellaneous expense. Lodging taxes for OCONUS Foreign area are included in the traveler’s per diem (FTR § 301-11.27). Reference Volume XIV Ch. 4 Miscellaneous Travel Expenses for traveler’s responsibilities to obtain hotel tax exemptions.
  4. VA will reimburse various lodging types in accordance with FTR § 301-11.12, including but not limited to:
    • Conventional Lodgings (hotel/motel, boarding house, etc.);
    • Government quarters;
    • Lodging with friends or relatives (including members of the immediate family as defined in FTR § 300-3.1) if the host incurs identifiable additional costs to accommodate the traveler;
    • Nonconventional lodging;
    • Recreational vehicle (trailer/camper);
    • Dual lodging on the same day. When lodging must be obtained at more than one location in a calendar day, the allowable per diem is that of the lodging occupied at the end of the calendar day (FTR §301-11.1 and GSBCA – 15482). If the other lodging expense incurred in that day is deemed reasonable by the AO, then it is reimbursable as a miscellaneous travel expense. This separate miscellaneous reimbursement may not exceed the maximum lodging rate for the applicable lodging location (GSA Per Diem Rates).

020506 Reductions in Per Diem

  1. In accordance with FTR § 301-11.200, per diem may be decreased in advance of travel. The decreased per diem rate must be stated in the TA.
  2. Per diem cannot be reduced retroactively.
  3. Determinations to reduce per diem will be applied based on factors including but not limited to:
    1. The cost of lodging and/or meals is anticipated to be lower than the prescribed M&IE rate;
    2. The amenities of the extended stay lodging allow for meal preparation, such as a range, refrigerator with freezer, and cooking utensils; or
    3. Work demands of the TDY assignment are outside of normal duties and therefore, could impact the ability to cook meals (e.g., overtime, alternative tours of duty, on-call status (in accordance with Civilian Board of Contract Appeals, case number 2594-TRAV)).
  4. VA will reduce per diem to 55% when the traveler is able to obtain a kitchenette while on long-term TDY (CBCA No. 2551-TRAV).
  5. The reduced per diem rate is applicable from the first day at the assignment through the last day at the assignment. The reduced per diem rate does not apply to travel days, which must be reimbursed at 75 percent of the applicable full M&IE rate (FTR § 301-11.101(a)).
  6. If during a travel assignment a determination is made that a reduced per diem is warranted, the traveler must be notified of the reduced per diem prior to the effective date, and the TA must be amended and approved by the effective date.
  7. A reduced rate may also be established if a TDY assignment originally expected to be short-term changes to long-term. The new reduced rate will be applicable to the remaining days of the assignment.
  8. When VA has authorized acceptance of non-Federal Source Funding, and a non-Federal Source covers some but not all of the traveler’s allowable per diem expenses, VA will reimburse the traveler the difference to ensure the traveler receives the full GSA per diem entitlement for the TDY location. Per diem will not be reduced when an approved contribution or award to a traveler covers a type of expense that VA is not authorized to pay (e.g., payment for an accompanying spouse). Reference FTR § 304-3.14 and Volume VIX, Chapter 9, Non-Federal Source Funding – Donated Travel.

020507 Impact of Personal Preferences on Per Diem

  1. Travelers are responsible for excess costs and additional expenses incurred for personal preference, convenience, deviation from the direct route, or taking leave in conjunction with official travel. Luxury accommodations and services unnecessary or unjustified in the performance of official business will not be reimbursed. The reimbursement must not exceed the allowable amount based on the direct travel route, except for certain emergency travel situations as stipulated in FTR § 301-10.8.
  2. Per diem may not be reimbursed on personal travel days when an employee takes personal travel in conjunction with TDY. Personal travel days in conjunction with TDY is not the same as departing a long-term TDY site on authorized non-workdays which does not affect long-term TDY status.
  3. In accordance with FTR § 301-70.1, VA will not reimburse per diem expenses when the traveler departs from the official station or TDY location by two or more non-workdays for the sole purpose of performing travel during regularly scheduled working hours. For example, a traveler who is administratively scheduled to perform TDY on Monday but departs on the previous Friday in order to avoid traveling on the weekend must not be paid per diem for the two consecutive non-workdays.
  4. VA will not reimburse the traveler for expenses incurred due to failure to cancel a reservation in a timely manner or check out of lodging by the posted checkout time for reasons within their control.

020508 Interruptions of Per Diem Entitlements

  1. Travel status is interrupted when a traveler departs the TDY location for 12 hours or more. When an interruption of travel status occurs, per diem or actual expense may not be authorized.
  2. If VA cancels the travel or requests that the traveler return to the official station, and the traveler incurs lodging expenses related to that action (e.g., cancellation period has lapsed, late checkout fees, lost rental deposit, payments for terms of lease), the expense may be claimed as a lodging retained expense (FTR § 301-11.16). If cancellation is for personal reasons outside of the traveler’s control, the AO must determine if the expense may be authorized. In either situation justification for the expense must be provided and attached to the travel claim.
  3. When lodging is obtained under a weekly or monthly rental agreement/contract and an interruption of per diem occurs:
    1. Nonrefundable expenses, cancellation fees, forfeited prepaid rental deposit, expenses incurred for unused lodging, and unused prepaid lodging may be reimbursed by VA if the TDY assignment is curtailed, cancelled, or interrupted for official purposes, for the benefit of the Government, or other reasons beyond the traveler’s control, when the traveler’s advanced lodging arrangements had been made under the full expectation of completing the assignment (FTR § 301-11.16).
    2. The traveler must provide a copy of the lodging establishment’s cancellation policy with the fee structure when claiming reimbursement (FTR § 301-11.16).
    3. The AO must determine whether the traveler acted reasonably and prudently in incurring allowable lodging expenses pursuant to TDY travel orders, including consideration of the traveler’s attempt to obtain a refund for prepaid lodging costs or other steps to minimize the costs once the TDY was officially curtailed or interrupted.
    4. VA must compute the daily lodging costs for the period covered by the travel claim by dividing the total lodging cost by the number of days of occupancy for which the traveler is entitled to per diem. This calculation will reimburse the traveler for the whole rental period by spreading the cost over the days the rented unit is occupied while on official travel. If the application of this calculation results in average daily lodging cost that exceeds the TDY maximum daily lodging rate, actual expense approval may be requested with adequate justification provided.
    5. The total of the lodging costs calculated plus the appropriate daily amount authorized for M&IE may be reimbursed for the days that the lodging was occupied. If the authorized per diem rate is insufficient for the days of occupancy, the reimbursement equals the daily lodging costs (as calculated above) plus the amount authorized for M&IE on an actual expense basis (FTR Subpart D Actual Expense).
  4. AOs must determine the most cost-effective situation when leave, other leave of absence, or administrative absence is authorized. Resolutions may include authorizing the traveler to remain in a travel status at the TDY location and paying per diem or actual expense or authorizing the traveler to return to their official station or residence (FTR § 301-11.21). The Approver must attach documentation of the cost comparison used in making this determination to the travel claim.
  5. Travelers are required to exclude per diem or actual expense on their travel claim in VA’s travel system each day an interruption of per diem occurs.
  6. To be reimbursed per diem when leave, other absence, or administrative leave is taken and the travel status is not interrupted, the travel claim must include applicable dates and a statement that the traveler’s presence was maintained at the TDY location. The AO must have this documentation to approve the per diem or actual expense.
  7. Provisions governing per diem allowable for emergency travel performed due to a traveler’s incapacitating illness, injury or personal emergency, and the continuation of per diem due to an incapacitating illness or injury of the traveler, are contained in FTR § 301-30 and Volume XIV Ch. 5, Travel Under Special Circumstances.
  8. Travelers on extended TDY who periodically return home may be authorized either 1) actual expense and round-trip transportation, or 2) per diem at the long term TDY location, whichever is most cost advantageous to the government (FTR § 301-11.23).
  9. VA may authorize round trip transportation expenses and per diem for a traveler who periodically returns to their official station or residence on non-workdays while on extended TDY (FTR § 301-11.23) under the following conditions:
    1. The traveler has been on TDY at least two weeks prior to being authorized return travel; and
    2. The return travel on non-workdays authorized under these provisions constitutes an exception to the directive on scheduling of travel contained in 5 U.S.C. § 6101(b) (2), and should be performed outside the traveler’s regularly scheduled duty hours or during periods of authorized leave. However, in the case of travelers who are not exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime provisions, consideration should be given to scheduling the authorized travel to minimize payment of overtime, including scheduling of travel during regularly scheduled duty hours, when feasible. Refer to VA Handbook 5011 – Hours of Duty and Leave. Contact the local Human Resource representative for guidelines covering overtime and compensatory time applicable to your travel circumstance.
  10. VA must determine whether the requirement to return on a non-workday is to allow the traveler to perform official business, to achieve cost savings to VA, or is voluntary and justified incident to an extended TDY assignment. Justification and cost analysis must be attached to the TA.
  11. When travel to the personal residence on non-workdays is due to cost savings, the cost savings documentation must include a calculation of lost productivity attributable to the duty hours utilized for travel to and from the traveler’s residence. Travel time must be scheduled within a traveler’s duty hours to the extent practical.
  12. When a traveler voluntarily returns to the official station or personal residence on non-workdays, the maximum reimbursement for roundtrip transportation and per diem must be limited to what would have been allowed had they remained at their TDY location. Travelers must perform any such voluntary return travel during non-duty hours or periods of authorized leave (FTR §301-11.24).
  13. When travel status is not maintained related to lodging obtained at a daily rate with no cost savings based on weekly or monthly rental, the traveler must check out of the lodging establishment, store personal items at the traveler’s expense (if needed) or assume the cost of the lodging when per diem is not authorized. The following three exceptions exist allowing lodging to be reimbursed:
    1. Conventional lodging daily rates may be reimbursed when checking out of a lodging facility would result in failure to obtain lodging in the current TDY area, resulting in an interruption of the mission (B-196851, August 6, 1981, 60 Comp. Gen. 630). Supporting documents must be provided to substantiate this claim.
    2. Travelers may be authorized dual lodging (lodging at two TDY sites) or may retain lodging at a TDY site when leadership directs the traveler to report to an additional TDY location or to return to their official station to perform duties and the traveler would be unable to obtain lodging, upon return, to the current TDY area (FTR § 301-11.21). Supporting documents must be provided to substantiate this claim.
    3. When an individual is in travel status and must travel to another TDY location on a non-workday they may receive per diem reimbursement for non-workday(s) (FTR § 301-11.23).

020509 Meal Deductions and Exceptions

  1. In accordance with FTR § 301-74.21, when meals are provided by the Government either directly or indirectly (e.g., included in a registration fee) the provided meal(s) must be deducted from the M&IE in the travel authorization/claim.
  2. In accordance with FTR § 301-11.18, VA must reduce the traveler’s M&IE rate for furnished meals when on CONUS travel by deducting the appropriate amount found via the GSA: Per Diem Rates: M&IE Breakdown tool.
  3. For OCONUS travel, reference FTR § 301, Appendix B to § 301 – Allocation of M&IE Rates to Be Used in Making Deductions from the M&IE Allowance, to determine appropriate meal deductions.
  4. If a furnished meal is not already deducted from the M&IE rate, then the traveler must deduct the meal allowance amount when filing the travel claim. Per FTR § 301-11.17, a meal provided by a common carrier or a complimentary meal provided by a hotel/motel does not affect per diem.
  5. Any meal provided on travel days from/to the official station, require the allocated meal cost to be deducted after the M&IE rate has been reduced to 75 percent (FTR § 301-11.18(a), and FTR § 301-11.101).
  6. In accordance with FTR § 301-11.18, VA may authorize exceptions to reductions of the full M&IE allowance when:
    • The traveler is unable to consume furnished meals because of medical requirements or religious beliefs;
    • The traveler requests approval to claim the full M&IE allowance before travel with adequate justification;
    • In accordance with administrative procedures, the traveler made a reasonable effort to obtain alternative meal arrangements, but was unable to do so; or
    • The traveler purchased substitute meals in order to satisfy medical requirements or religious beliefs.

020510 Rest Periods – Travel Outside the Continental United States

  1. The rest period begins upon arrival at the lodging accommodation and ends at departure from the accommodation. FTR § 301-11.20 provides further guidance on rest periods and the effect on per diem calculation.
  2. A rest period must not be authorized when a traveler, for personal convenience, elects to travel by an indirect route resulting in excess travel time (FTR § 301-11.20(a)(3), § 301-2.4, and § 301-10.8).
  3. If a rest period is authorized, it must be clearly indicated and detailed on the TA. If the carrier schedule or the requirement to use U.S. flag carriers precludes an intermediate rest period, or a rest period is not authorized, the traveler should schedule coach-class accommodations to ensure arrival at the TDY site with sufficient time to permit a reasonable rest period before reporting for duty.
  4. VA may authorize other than coach-class accommodations in lieu of a rest period based on the 14-hour rule via FTR § 301-10.103(b)(2) or under the guidelines outlined in FTR § 301-10.103. If authorized, justification must be included on the TA. The duration of a flight (14 or more hours) does not independently justify authorizing other than coach-class. When considering other than coach-class accommodations for trips 14 or more hours, AOs should consider:
    • The constructive cost, e.g., the cost of business-class accommodations versus the cost of coach-class accommodations plus the cost of reimbursements in conjunction with a rest period; or
    • The purpose and urgency of the trip, e.g., whether the trip is so urgent or unexpected that it cannot be delayed or postponed, and the traveler is unable to schedule either a rest period in route or an earlier flight that would allow for a rest period before having to report for duty.
  5. When annual leave is approved at the TDY location before the start of official business, neither a rest period nor premium-class accommodations are authorized unless there are medical needs that have been certified by a competent medical authority.
  6. In accordance with FTR § 301-11.19, if the traveler crosses the international date line (180th meridian), the actual elapsed travel time must be used to compute the per diem rather than calendar days.

020511 Actual Expense Authorization

  1. Actual expense requests up to 150 percent, or up to 300 percent, are calculated based on the applicable maximum GSA Per Diem Rates for the official travel location. When actual expense is approved for use, VA must ensure the daily maximum actual expense rate authorized is stated in the TA.
  2. All actual expense requests must include the following information for the respective delegated official to determine authorization is warranted (Reference the sample memorandum in Appendix C for additional guidance on the information to be included):
    • Traveler name, TDY location, date(s), purpose of travel;
    • The travel specific information correlating to one of the conditions referenced in this section (do not simply repeat a condition listed); and
    • Comparative lodging costs, whether less expensive lodging was available and, if it was available, the reason(s) why the accommodations were not acceptable to the traveler.
  3. Actual expense requests up to 300 percent of the applicable costs should be submitted for approval by the travel AO to their respective delegated official.
  4. VA must authorize the use of actual expense in advance, unless it was impractical to do so (FTR § 301-11.302), and only when conditions warrant (FTR §301-11.300). The designated official must review the circumstances of each request and consider the facts existing at the time the travel is directed and scheduled to be performed.
  5. Authorization of actual expenses is contingent on the entitlement of per diem (FTR § 301-11.2). For guidance on conditions when the cost (not per diem) for lodging and/or meals in the local area can be reimbursed, reference Volume XIV Ch. 7, Local Travel.
  6. Only designated VA positions may authorize actual expense per diem for official travel (FTR § 301-11.301). In accordance with the “Delegation of Authority for Travel and Conferences”, in Volume XIV Chapter 1, Travel Administration, the SECVA has delegated the authority to approve actual expense per diem.
    1. ASM/CFO may approve up to 150 percent actual expense. ASM/CFO re-delegates AOs with this authority, with no further re-delegation authorized.
    2. DEPSEC, Under Secretaries, Assistant Secretaries, and OKOs may approve actual expense per diem in excess of 150 percent up to 300 percent. Volume I, Chapter 1, VA Financial Policy and Accounting Overview, contains a list of OKO positions. This authority may be re-delegated to no lower than a Senior Executive Service (SES) or SES equivalent position, with no further re-delegation authorized. ASM/CFO has re-delegated this authority to the Executive Director, Financial Services Center, with no further re-delegation authorized.
  7. Actual expense may be authorized for either a specific trip or for all official travel to a specific area when warranted.
  8. VA may authorize actual expense for both lodging and M&IE, or either lodging or M&IE only (reference Appendix B, Calculating Actual Expenses). When authorizing actual expense for M&IE, receipts are required for an itemized meal when the total cost, including tax and tip, is greater than $75. The traveler must be informed of the receipt requirements before travel begins (FTR § 301-11.306).
  9. Documentation of the conditions warranting approval of actual expense up to 150 percent, or an approved memorandum for up to 300 percent, must be attached to the TA.

020512 Actual Expense Reimbursement

  1. When actual expense is authorized for lodging only, the benefit is given to the lodging portion of per diem while the M&IE portion must be reimbursed at the prescribed GSA rate for the travel location.
  2. When actual expense is authorized for M&IE only, the traveler is required to itemize the cost daily for all expenses incurred (e.g., lodging, breakfast, lunch, dinner).
  3. Meal reimbursement is prohibited for alcoholic beverages, refreshments purchased in-between meals [snacks, coffee, beverages, etc.], entertainment expenses, and any expenses incurred for other persons (FTR § 300-3.1, per diem allowance, (b) Meals).
  4. When actual expense reimbursement is authorized and lodging is furnished at no cost through use of an agency purchase order (FTR § 301-11.18), VA must not approve reimbursement for other subsistence expenses that, when combined with the cost of lodging furnished, exceed the maximum daily rate authorized (FTR § 301-11.303, and § 301-11.305).
  5. VA must apply the same per diem rules to travel authorized with actual subsistence expense that apply to interruptions of per diem entitlements (leave and non-workdays, return to official station for non-workdays, indirect route or interrupted travel, and emergency travel).
  6. VA will perform an appropriate post travel review of actual expense travel claims to determine claimed expenses were necessary and reasonable.

020513 Extended Temporary Duty Travel Tax Reimbursement Allowance

  1. In accordance with FTR 301-11.601 and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Publication 463, an employee is no longer considered temporarily away from home during any period of employment if such period is considered indefinite or exceeds one year.
  2. Factors to consider when deeming travel to be indefinite and taxable include:
    1. Any travel expected to last a year, even if it does not last a year, is considered indefinite and taxable.
    2. A series of assignments to the same location, all for short periods but when combined may equate to a year, may be considered an indefinite assignment and taxable.
  3. The effective date of the change in status from TDY to a taxable extended TDY is the date on which VA or the employee recognizes the employee is no longer temporarily away from home as defined by the IRS (FTR § 301-11.601). The FTR holds VA and the employee mutually responsible for recognizing when the employee’s travel status changes from TDY to taxable extended TDY. Recognizing the change in status triggers the requirement for VA to withhold taxes and initiate the Extended TDY Tax Reimbursement Allowance (ETTRA).
  4. When an employee is considered indefinitely away from home, the employee should provide requested data to the FSC Travel Division Long Term Taxable Travel section.
  5. FTR § 301-11.603 and § 301-11.604 provide guidance on the tax consequences of extended TDY as well as procedures for calculation and reimbursement of Withholding Tax Allowance (WTA) and ETTRA.
  6. VA must reimburse the employee for substantially all income taxes they incur as a result of a taxable extended TDY assignment. Reimbursement consists of the Withholding Tax Allowance (WTA) and the ETTRA. VA must issue Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, at the end of the calendar year reflecting the amount of subsistence paid to employees whose TDY travel exceeded one year or was recognized would exceed one year.
  7. Employees subject to tax withholding in connection with taxable extended TDY must submit their travel claim in VA’s travel system for reimbursement of their expenses and tax withheld. When claiming payment for ETTRA, the employee must furnish and certify certain tax information that has been or will be shown on their prepared tax return(s). If the traveler has a spouse, the spouse must also sign a statement if filing a joint return and the spouse’s income is included.
  8. AOs must consider a temporary change of station (TCS) in lieu of extended TDY travel whenever it is determined an employee will be at a TDY location for more than 6 months but less than 30 months. A cost comparison must be attached to the TDY or TCS TA to document the approved travel is in the best interest of the government (FTR § 302-3.404, and § 302-3.406 – § 302-3.408).

0206  Authorities and References

0207 Rescissions

Volume XIV, Chapter 2 – Travel Per Diem, June 2023

0208 Policy Approval

This policy was approved by the VA Chief Financial Officers’ Council on December 13, 2023.

Appendix A:  Revision History

SectionRevisionOfficeReason for ChangeEffective Date
VariousCompleted a five-year review.OFP (047G)Full review. Updated and reorganized.June 2023
VariousUpdated FTR reference links.OFP (047G)GSA change in FTR linking to eCFR.June 2023
020506Clarified application of 55 percent for reduced M&IE.OFP (047G)OGC Guidance.June 2023
020506Removed obsolete language.OFP (047G)To provide clarity.June 2023
020507New section.OFP (047G)To provide clarity.June 2023
VariousChanged VA CFO to ASM/CFO throughout chapter.OFP (047G)Leadership Directed.October 2021
0204Updated position roles and responsibilities in accordance with the SECVA delegation. Changed VA Secretary to Secretary of Veterans Affairs.OFP (047G)Secretary of VA (SECVA) Memorandum, “Delegation of Authority for Travel and Conferences”. Leadership Directed.October 2021
020510Updated this section to reflect the positions designated with authority to approve actual expense per diem.OFP (047G)SECVA Memorandum, “Delegation of Authority for Travel and Conferences”. Leadership Directed.October 2021
0207 Rescinded August 2017 published chapter.OFP (047G)General Update.October 2021
0208Updated email to VAFSCtravelpolicy@va.gov for All OthersOFP (047G)General UpdateOctober 2021
Appendix GRemoved rescinded “Delegation of Authority to Approve Actual Expense for Temporary Duty Travel”. Refer to Section 020510 Actual Expense Authorization.OFP (047G)SECVA Memorandum, “Delegation of Authority for Travel and Conferences”.October 2021
VariousReformatted to new policy format and completed 5 year review.OFP (047G)Reorganized chapter layoutAugust 2017
0201Added authority for OIG employees to follow OIG directives, policy, guidance; FTR supersedes Union agreement statement.OFP (047G)General Policy UpdateAugust 2017
0203Added: Local Travel. Updated: Approving Official, Actual Expense, FTR, Local Travel, Official Station, Meals, and Incidental Expenses, Per Diem, Reduced Per Diem, TDY, and Travel Claim. Removed:  Blanket travel reference under Travel Authorization; TDY Location, and definitions not referenced in this chapter.OFP (047G)Improve ReadabilityAugust 2017
0204Added:  VA Chief of Staff delegation of 300 percent actual expense. Updated:  300 percent actual expense delegations; Financial Services Center; Approving Officials; and Traveler. Removed Office of Financial Policy.OFP (047G)General Policy UpdateAugust 2017
020501Moved local travel per diem exception guidance to Vol XIV Ch. 7, Local Travel, providing a link. Added VA will perform quarterly consolidated post TDY audits. Updated guidance on per diem entitlement while on TDY at new position official station.OFP (047G)General Policy UpdateAugust 2017
020505Updated computation of daily lodging costs.OFP (047G)General Policy UpdateAugust 2017
020506Updated reduction in per diem allowances for TDY 1 – 29 days and extended stays 30 days or more.OFP (047G)General Policy UpdateAugust 2017
020513Updated guidance on extended TDY tax reimbursement allowance and income tax relocation allowance. Added link to FSC procedures.  OFP (047G)General Policy Update, FTR Amendment 2014-01August 2017
  0206  Updated references.    OFP (047G)  General Policy Update  August 2017
0207Rescinded April 2011 chapter.OFP (047G)General Policy UpdateAugust 2017
0208Updated contact emails.OFP (047G)General Policy UpdateAugust 2017
AppendicesReorganized appendices.OFP (047G)General Policy UpdateAugust 2017
Appendix BAdded links to GSA Per Diem Rates; and a note table rates are examples.OFP (047G)Improve ReadabilityAugust 2017
Appendix CChanged title, corrected the third example, added a note rates used are sample rates.OFP (047G)General Policy UpdateAugust 2017
Appendix EAdded procedures on calculating actual expense and updated VA Form 0902.OFP (047G)General Policy UpdateAugust 2017
Appendix FUpdated guidance.OFP (047G)General Policy UpdateAugust 2017
Appendix GRemoved previous Federal Travel Regulation references adding FTR links throughout chapter. Added new appendix with current delegations of authority to approve actual expense for temporary duty travel.OFP (047G)General Policy UpdateAugust 2017

Appendix B: Examples of Per Diem for Travel More Than 12 Hours But Less Than 24 Hours

Example 1:

Traveler departs his residence at 6 a.m. for temporary duty in a standard CONUS rate area and returns home at 8 p.m.

Total elapsed time:  14 hours.

Maximum Reimbursement:  Standard CONUS M&IE rate is $49. Traveler is reimbursed 75 percent of $49 M&IE = $36.75. Traveler may also be reimbursed for official reimbursable expenses incurred, such as mileage, tolls, etc.

Example 2:

Traveler departs her residence at 6:30 a.m. and travels 65 miles (one-way) for temporary duty to Portland, OR. Traveler arrives back at the office at 4:30 p.m.

Total elapsed time:  10 hours

Maximum Reimbursement:  No per diem allowed – travel is less than 12 hours. Traveler may be reimbursed for other official reimbursable expenses incurred, such as mileage, tolls, etc.

Example 3:

Traveler departs from White River Junction, VT for TDY to Bedford, MA at 6:00 AM. On the same day at 12:00 PM the traveler departs Bedford, MA for TDY to Manchester, NH. Upon completion of TDY traveler departs Manchester, NH at 5:00 PM returning home (authorized point of return) by direct route at 6:30PM.

Total elapsed time:  12.5 hours.

Maximum Reimbursement:  Locality rate for Bedford, MA is $162 ($103 max lodging, plus $59 M&IE). Locality rate for Manchester, NH is $159 ($95 max lodging, plus $64 M&IE). Traveler is reimbursed 75 percent M&IE of the Manchester, NH $64 rate (highest rate applicable between the two locations). Traveler may be reimbursed for official reimbursable expenses incurred for transportation, such as mileage, tolls, etc.

Note:  All per diem rates used in the examples above may not reflect current GSA per diem rates for the locality and represent sample rates only.

Appendix C: Calculating Actual Expenses

To compute actual expense allowance, the traveler would multiply the maximum per diem rate (lodging and M&IE) of the TDY location by 1.5 (150 percent) or 3 (300 percent). The “product” of this calculation can be distributed between lodging and M&IE as needed, but the aggregate distribution between lodging and M&IE may not exceed the “product” of either the 150 percent or 300 percent actual expense calculation, respectively.

To apply the actual expense increase to only the lodging portion of per diem, the maximum M&IE amount for the TDY location is subtracted from the actual expense calculation “product” and the remainder can be applied to the lodging allowance.

To apply the actual expense increase to only the M&IE portion of per diem, the maximum lodging amount for the TDY location is subtracted from the actual expense calculation “product” and the remainder can be applied to the M&IE allowance. Actual expense for M&IE only is unusual but would be calculated in this manner.

All reimbursement is based on the actual expense incurred. The traveler must attach a completed VA Form 0902, Actual Expense Per Diem Calculator, and documentation of the 150 percent actual expense justification or the approved memorandum for 300 percent to the TA.

Example 150 Percent Actual Expense for Lodging

Maximum TDY location per diem allowance under the Lodgings-Plus per diem method is $150 ($100 for lodging, $50 for M&IE) and the traveler is requesting 150 percent actual expenses.

Step 1:

$150 (Total maximum TDY location per diem allowance for lodging and M&IE) x 1.5 (150 percent) = $225 (total 150 percent actual expense calculation “product”).

Step 2:

$225 (total 150 percent actual expense calculation “product”) – 50 (maximum TDY location M&IE allowance) = $175 (total actual expense allowance for lodging).

Reimbursement:  The traveler may be reimbursed the actual expense incurred for lodging, not to exceed $175, with lodging receipt required in lieu of itemization. M&IE may be authorized at the maximum TDY location allowance of $50, with no itemization or receipt requirement.

Example of 300 Percent Actual Expense for Lodging:  Maximum TDY location per diem allowance under the Lodgings-Plus per diem method is $150 ($100 for lodging, $50 for M&IE) and the traveler is requesting 300 percent actual expenses.

Step 1:

$150 (Total maximum TDY location per diem allowance for lodging and M&IE) x 3.0 (300 percent) = $450 (total actual expense calculation “product”).

Step 2:

$450 (total 300 percent actual expense calculation “product”) – 50 (maximum TDY location M&IE allowance) = $400 (total actual expense allowance for lodging).

Reimbursement:  The traveler may be reimbursed the actual expense incurred for lodging, not to exceed $400, with lodging receipt required in lieu of itemization. M&IE may be authorized at the maximum TDY location M&IE allowance of $50, with no itemization or receipt requirement.

NOTE:  The maximum TDY location per diem rate used above is for illustration only and does not represent current per diem rates.

Appendix D: Requesting 300 Percent Actual Expense

Sample Memorandum

Department of                                                                                                                             MEMORANDUM
Veterans Affairs


From:  {Insert travel Approving Official title, station number or mail symbol }

Subject:  Request for Approval of Actual Expenses up to 300 Percent

To: {Insert position title delegated the authority to approve 300 percent actual expense, and mail symbol}

1. This is a request to approve actual expenses up to 300 percent of the maximum per diem allowance for {Insert Employee’s Position, First Name and Last Name}.

2. {Insert specific justification surrounding employee’s travel and need to authorize per diem in excess of 150 percent}.

3. Actual expense reimbursement may be authorized in accordance with Federal Travel Regulations (FTR §301-11.300 and §301-11.301).

4. If you have additional questions, please contact {insert name of contact and phone number}.


{Name of travel Approving Official}


___________________________                                   Date:  ___________________     

{Name of Approver }