Questions concerning this policy chapter should be directed to:

0401 Overview

This chapter establishes the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) financial policies regarding appropriate use of VA funds for awards, ceremonies and events, food or refreshments, gifts or mementos. Approval requirements remain in effect regardless of the type of funds used (e.g., general appropriations, General Post Funds (GPF), revolving, franchise, supply fund, and trust).

Key points covered in this chapter:

  • Government Accountability Office (GAO) Principles of Appropriation Law, aka the Red Book, addresses limits on authorized use of Government funds for items addressed in this chapter. GAO guidance is supported by reference to decisions of the Comptroller General that help define Federal spending limits for various circumstances.
  • VA has authority to spend funds for awards and award ceremonies for the honorary recognition of employees and certain other groups of individuals working at VA or serving Veterans.
  • Ceremony/event organizers must be fiscally responsible when planning activities.
  • Ceremony/event organizers must ensure that VA does not incur expenditures for entertainment (videos, music, etc.) or motivational speakers.
  • In general, food is considered a personal expense and cannot be paid for with appropriated funds for Government employees in their regular duty station or for non-Government personnel. There are limited exceptions to the general prohibition.
  • Promotional items, embossing, or imprinting the name of the organization on supplies or mementos can only be procured when the items provide information or outreach data concerning the Department’s mission, functions, or programs and promotional information is clearly visible.
  • Commemorative or Challenge Coin purchases must be approved in advance by the appropriate Under Secretary, Assistant Secretary or OKO and may not be personalized with the name of the official presenting them or the office or individual receiving them.

0402 Revisions

SectionRevisionOfficeReason for ChangeEffective Date
040512 040516  Appendix JImplement OGC guidance on the use of appropriated funds for Gala events and Secretary’s Reception & Representation AllowanceOFPOGC guidanceApril 2024
Appendix DUpdated appendix to latest version of Veterans Canteen Service (VCS) Director’s Promotional Fund Policy MemoVCSUpdated Policy MemoApril 2024
0403 DefinitionsEdit Conference, and Swag reference to coins; add Mission (Operational)OGCRemove conflict within policy guidance and agree with travel policy changesMay 2023
040506 Conferences Food ExceptionAdded provisions for non-Federal employee and invitational travel participantOGCAdding guidance per August 2022 White PaperMay 2023
040508 Training Food ExceptionAdded approving official considerations and restrictionOFPTo align with travel policy guidance and limited delegationMay 2023
0406 Authorities and ReferencesAdded DoJ OLC opinionOGCDoJ guidance overrides GAO for impact on an Executive AgencyMay 2023
Appendix FAdded OGC White Paper, Purchasing Refreshments with Government FundsOGCOGC guidance directly informs chapter coverageMay 2023

Previous revisions can be found in Appendix A.

0403 Definitions

Award – A generic reference to the entire range of rewards available to recognize an employee under VA’s Employee Recognition and Awards Program, or a reward to a non-VA employee or entity for excellence in providing Veteran employment, training or placement services.

Award Ceremony – A formal observance to recognize employees who made an extraordinary contribution to agency success or efficiency through a suggestion, invention, superior accomplishment, or other significant effort.

Certificate – As used in this chapter, a certificate is a document of recognition for an honor; e.g., high performance certificate, certificate of participation, or commemoration of an achievement or accomplishment. A certificate does not have a cash value. Note: A gift certificate is not considered an award certificate as a gift certificate may have a cash value.

Conference – A meeting, retreat, seminar, symposium, or event involving travel for attendees (Federal Travel Regulation (FTR) § 300-3.1). The term “conference” also applies to training activities that are considered conferences as defined by 5 C.F.R. § 410.404. A conference typically includes a registration process, a published substantive agenda, scheduled speakers or discussion panels and participation by multiple Federal agencies, or multiple organizations within an agency and/or private sector attendees. Mission (Operational) events as defined by FTR Chapter 301 and OGC determination (e.g., ceremonies, Veteran outreach events, site visits, etc.) are not considered conferences but may be reportable if exceeds established thresholds.

Cultural Event – An event to celebrate an ethnic group’s history and cultural contributions to advance audience awareness and appreciation of its culture that is offered as an educational experience. A cultural event is normally presented as part of an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) program objective.

De Minimis – Something of minimal value, cost, or import. Consider the frequency of providing something of similar value when determining whether the value of those items together is too small to make accounting for them reasonable or practicable. A non- monetary award should be of minimal value to help ensure that it is not a disguised form of compensation. Cash awards and cash-equivalent awards such as gift certificates are not considered de minimis and are taxable at any amount.

Employee – For purposes of this chapter, an employee is an individual appointed in civil service by, and subject to supervision of, an authorized Government official. The employee will maintain a successful performance level in performing Federal service to be eligible to receive awards. See VA Handbook 5017, Employee Recognition and Awards, Part I, paragraph 2b, for additional information.

Entertainment – An event, performance, or activity designed to entertain others. Entertainment expense incurred is subject to quarterly reporting to Congress in accordance with 38 U.S.C. § 517(b)(1)(G) among other conference cost reporting.

Fair Market Value (FMV) – For this policy and for tax purposes, FMV is the value or amount of a non-monetary award that an employee would have to pay a third-party in an arm’s-length transaction to obtain the same item.

Food or Refreshments – Examples of refreshments include but are not limited to coffee, tea, milk, juice, soft drinks, bottled water, donuts, bagels, fruit, pretzels, cookies, chips and muffins. Food may include a buffet luncheon or a meal.

Fund – A sum of money made available for a specific purpose, activities, or attaining certain objectives in accordance with special regulations, restrictions or limitations. The term “fund” is used throughout this chapter to identify any type of fund or appropriation used (e.g., general appropriations, General Post Fund, revolving, franchise, Supply Fund, and trust).

Gala – A specific festive celebration; often a public entertainment marking a special occasion. Galas tend to be awards ceremonies that include light refreshments or a meal.

General Post Funds (GPF) – Established by Congress as Federal trust funds under 31 U.S.C. § 1321(a)(45) to hold donated funds and funds derived from liquidated donations. The statute authorizes the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to accept donations on behalf of Veterans or to enhance Veteran services.

Government – Where capitalized in this chapter, and in accordance with the definition in 5 U.S.C. § 4101, Government refers exclusively to the Government of the United States of America.

Incentive Award – A monetary or non-monetary award recognizing a contribution, special act, or service of an employee.

Intrinsic Value – The perceived or true value of an asset or service to the one determining worth, which may not relate closely to purchase cost, face value or current market price.

Mementos – Keepsakes or souvenirs designed to commemorate an event or occasion.

Mission (Operational) – Per FTR Chapter 301, Appendix C, includes: Travel to a particular site in order to perform operational or managerial activities; Travel to a conference to serve as a speaker, panelist, or provide information in one’s official capacity; and Travel to attend a meeting to discuss general agency operations, review status reports, or discuss topics of general interest. Examples of these types of events include: employee’s day-to-day operational or managerial activities, as defined by the agency, to include, but not be limited to: hearings, site visit, information meeting, inspections, audits, investigations, and examinations.

Necessary Expense – VA may use appropriated funds to pay an expense if it is reasonably necessary in carrying out an authorized function of the appropriation or will contribute materially to the effective accomplishment of that function, it is not otherwise prohibited by law, and it is not otherwise provided for in a different appropriation. Refer to GAO Principles of Federal Appropriations Law, Chapter 3, Fourth Edition, Section B, pp. 3-14 through 3-17.

Non-monetary Award – Examples include but are not limited to plaques, medals, certificates, desk items (e.g., pens) and clothing items (e.g., T-shirts). Material items exceeding the de minimis value are taxable.

Pershing Hall Revolving Fund – Established by section 403(d) of Public Law 102-86. The law transferred WWI American Expeditionary Forces in France memorial property to VA custody and control.

Post-Ceremony Reception – A reception or activity held after an official ceremony. For example, in the case of a building dedication, the ceremony is the actual act of breaking ground with the ceremonial shovel, laying of a cornerstone, or cutting of a ribbon. If a gathering is held afterwards, it would be considered a post-ceremony reception for which food or refreshment expense is generally prohibited.

Promotional Items – Mementos, gifts, keepsakes, reminders, prize items, “swag”, coins, and other VA “logo” or “message” items.

Public Building or Works – Properties occupied and used by government agencies, or facilities and infrastructure funded by government for use by the general public.

Secretary’s Reception and Representation Allowance – Limited general administration funds the VA Secretary may spend in connection with official agency events, typically characterized by a mixed ceremonial, social, and or business purpose, hosted in a formal sense by high-level agency officials and relating to a function of the agency.

Swag – “Stuff We All Get” including, but not limited to, merchandise such as coins, mugs, shirts, key chains, pens, hats, thermoses, and bags that typically display an organization’s name, logo or an agency seal. Swag items are commonly distributed to all participants in an event or activity with a purpose of promoting or advertising the organization or project.

Traditional Ceremonies – Ceremonies held in observance of a special occasion. As related to this policy, such special occasions are specific to the construction, opening of, the naming or re-naming of a public building or works, a significant anniversary or swearing in a Presidential appointee. Ceremonies for office renovations and improvements, or the opening of a component part of a building are not considered traditional ceremonies.

  • Groundbreaking or dedication ceremonies are appropriate for new and replacement facilities, which may include major additions to an existing facility or new satellite outpatient clinics.
  • Traditional ceremonies for groundbreakings or dedications may exceed the normal ceiling of $10,000 where an infrastructure does not exist, e.g., a new cemetery groundbreaking held in an area where there are no roads.
  • Re-dedication ceremonies are appropriate when a facility or a portion of a facility is re-named for an individual.
  • VA facility anniversaries are generally celebrated at 25-year intervals.

Training/Training Events – Training is the process of providing for and making available to an employee, and placing or enrolling the employee, in a planned, prepared, and coordinated program, course, curriculum, subject, system, or routine of instruction or education, in a scientific, professional, technical, mechanical, trade, clerical, fiscal, administrative, or other field which will improve individual and organizational performance and assist in achieving the agency’s mission and performance goals (5 U.S.C. § 4101(4)).

Veterans Canteen Service (VCS) Director’s Promotional Fund – The VCS Director as an event sponsor may make available to VA entities money that will be used to advertise, promote sales, and build customer loyalty and support for VCS.

Volunteer – An individual engaged by VA Voluntary Service who offers uncompensated services supporting Veterans, Veteran services or caregivers.

0404 Roles and Responsibilities

Under Secretaries, Assistant Secretaries, Chief Financial Officers, Fiscal Officers, Chief Accountants, and OKO are responsible for ensuring compliance with the policies set forth in this chapter.

Award Approving Officials are responsible for determining the value of a non- monetary employee award is in accordance with Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Publication 15-B guidance on award valuation, and for identifying whether taxable awards will be grossed-up to include estimated tax in the award value.

0405 Policies

040501 General Policies

  1. VA will generally adhere to the GAO Principles of Federal Appropriation Law and investigate questionable transactions before making an expenditure. When spending authority remains unclear, VA’s Office of General Counsel (OGC) should be consulted.
  2. Certifying Officials may be held personally liable for fraudulent or improper spending of Government funds.

040502 Awards

  1. Employee award spending will comply with related approving official and appropriation limits.
  2. VA may spend appropriated funds for awards to recognize employee achievements that benefit VA or the Government in accordance with:
    • Government Employees Incentive Awards Act (GEIAA), codified in 5 U.S.C. §§ 4501-4509;
    • 5 C.F.R. §§ 451.101-107; and
    • VA Directives and Handbooks 5017, Employee Recognition and Awards, and 5027, Senior Executive Service.
  3. VA will recognize the value of non-monetary awards that exceed de minimis value as taxable earnings. Currently VA has set this de minimis value at $100. See IRS Publication 15-B for guidance on award valuation.
  4. The award approving official must determine the fair market value (FMV) of an award for tax purposes. FMV may be the purchase price of the item, but FMV will be determined based on all relevant facts and circumstances.
  5. When the award is taxable, the approving official may choose and has the final decision to “gross-up” a taxable award. When an award amount is “grossed-up” to cover the employee’s estimated taxes, the award value including the tax amounts must be included in the employee’s gross wages. The total grossed-up award including tax amounts cannot exceed the maximum award amount allowable.
  6. The servicing payroll office will provide gross-up tax estimates when requested using the IRS rate for supplemental payments, applying a common 4% rate if in a state charging income tax, or the state and local taxing authority’s required withholding rate, and adding amounts for social security taxes applicable.
  7. Cash and cash equivalent awards (e.g., gift cards, gift certificates, and savings bonds) are always taxable and cannot be considered de minimis in value. To help ensure appropriate tax treatment, cash equivalent awards are not permitted as employee award items. When issued in error, VA payroll will submit a deductions remedy ticket selecting the “gift card” purpose.
  8. Length of service and safety awards may have a higher threshold for non-monetary award taxability; the exemption amount may vary from year to year, see IRS Publication 535, Chapter 2.
  9. All expenses incurred and related to the full cost for the award(s) will come from the awards budget of the office whose employee(s) is(are) being recognized. When the VA organization primarily benefiting from the employee’s contribution is not the recipient’s employing organization, funds shall be transferred to the employing organization in accordance with 31 U.S.C. § 1534. Related necessary expenses may be paid from funds available to the organization the employee is assigned to or from funds available to the organization primarily benefiting from the employee contribution.
  10. Approving officials will complete and certify VA Form 4659, Incentive Awards Recommendation and Approval.
  11. In accordance with 38 U.S.C. § 4112, VA may use Veteran Employment, Training or Placement Service Awards to recognize excellent service from state representatives or other (non-VA employee) individuals and entities providing or improving Veteran employment, training or placement services.

040503 Ceremonies and Events

  1. VA may spend funds for awards ceremonies and traditional ceremonies as
  2. determined appropriate under statutory authorities or the “necessary expense” rule established in GAO guidance.
  3. In accordance with 5 C.F.R. § 451 GAO appropriation law guidance, and VA Handbook 5017, VA has authority to spend funds for award ceremonies. The ceremony must be a special occasion that is distinct from normal day-to-day conduct of official business.
    1. The total cost for food or refreshments and space rental per person will be of a nominal value and will not exceed $30 per person unless proper approval from the appropriate official has been requested and received in advance of the award ceremony. Restrictions on food purchases are covered below. Should an award ceremony exceed $10,000 in total, it must also be approved in advance of the event. Approving officials for award ceremony expenses are the respective administration Under Secretaries, Staff Office Assistant Secretaries and OKO.
    2. VA may spend funds to pay for the presence of a spouse, other family member(s), and or prominent person(s) when an authorized VA management official determines that their presence would materially enhance the award ceremony. The cost of the food or refreshments for the guest(s) may also be considered a necessary expense of the fund.
    3. VA may spend funds to pay the fee charged for the attendance of nominees, award recipients, and supervisors or managers attending a regional award ceremony and luncheon sponsored by a local Federal Executive Board. Prior approval for paying the expenses of an attendee will be necessary when the cost per person is greater than $50 or the number of VA attendees is greater than 50.
  4. Traditional ceremony expenses may include the following items with appropriate authorization.
    1. VA may spend funds for swearing-in ceremonies for Presidential appointees including the VA Secretary, Deputy Secretary, and those who head Staff Offices or Administrations. Refer to the Reception and Representation Allowance section below.
    2. Expenses directly related to a traditional ceremony or opening may include but are not limited to printing of invitations or programs, flowers or centerpieces, chrome plating and engraving on a ceremonial shovel, transportation, and rental of platforms, carpets, tents, chairs, and public address systems.
    3. VA approving officials will ensure the traditional ceremony expenses are directly related to the ceremony and not to post-ceremony receptions which are generally a personal expense.
    4. Funds may not be expended for food or refreshments served during a traditional ceremony or at post-ceremony receptions except as identified below.

040504 Food or Refreshments General Prohibition

  1. Generally, VA may not spend Government funds to purchase food or refreshments for either Government personnel at their normal duty stations or non-Government individuals, including VA beneficiaries and stakeholders. Unless authorized by law or under special exceptions or circumstances, food, refreshments, and bottled water are considered personal expenses not payable with appropriated funds. To warrant an exception, VA must demonstrate the benefit of an expense to the Government, advancing a Government function or mission aside from the collateral benefit to an individual.
  2. VA will not, except as identified in the Food or Refreshments Authorization Requirements section, purchase food or refreshments for the following types of meetings:
    • Community partnerships;
    • Conferences, outside the exceptions described in this or the following section;
    • Event planning;
    • Task forces;
    • Workgroups at employees’ normal duty stations; and
    • Meetings with or including elected officials (Only the Secretary may authorize spending discretionary funds from his or her Reception & Representation or Pershing Hall accounts).
  3. Bottled water is a personal expense not payable with appropriated funds, unless there is no immediate source of potable water onsite in the workplace, or in response to an emergency.
  4. Excess food may not be provided to employees. See Appendix E, OGC White Paper, “Options for Use of Excess VA Food”, explaining restrictions on disposal of VA property which supplement restrictions on use of appropriated funds to purchase food for employee use.

040505 General Food or Refreshments Authorization Requirements

  1. Food or refreshments must be directly related to the organization carrying out its mission, function, or program activities.
  2. Food may be provided to employees on a reimbursable basis when in travel status. Travelers will deduct the cost of any furnished meal (e.g., breakfast, luncheon, dinner, buffet) from their travel per diem allowance at amounts specified in FTR § 301-11.18.
  3. VA may only spend funds for food or refreshments for certain activities or events when:
    • Specifically authorized by law; or
    • The cost of the food or refreshments is incidental or of no extra cost; and
    • Food or refreshment is necessary to achieve the objectives or enhance participation in a program; or
    • Employees are under extreme or emergency conditions.
  4. Food expense approval must be obtained prior to purchase. Requesting officials will forward the obligation request with all supporting documentation, to include the signature (written or electronic) of the approving official, to the local finance and procurement offices. If a contract is already in place, contact the contracting officer.
  5. Approving officials must ensure requests meet all acquisition rules and regulations. Approving officials should be cognizant of the scrutiny given to Federally funded conferences and events, and the need to avoid the perception of using taxpayer money for lavish or wasteful events.
  6. Approving officials may not be below the level of a GS-15 or Title 38 equivalent employee. Documentation of the approval must be maintained with the order.
  7. Food purchased without prior approval will be considered an unauthorized commitment as addressed in Volume II, Chapter 5, Obligations Policy. Related expense, as for any improper purchase, could subject the approving official to personal liability.
  8. Requested expenses considered legally questionable will be forwarded through the appropriate chain of command to OGC for legal review prior to obligation and purchase.
  9. See Volume XVI, Chapter 1B, Government Purchase Card for Micro-Purchases, for specific procedures when purchasing food or refreshments with the Government purchase card.
  10. Blanket purchase approval cannot be used for advance approval for food or refreshments for conferences or incentive award ceremonies. Blanket approvals may only be used for approval of routine food and beverage purchases for Nutrition and Food Service meals for patients, volunteer meals and food and beverage purchases using GPF. Blanket purchase approvals cannot exceed a six-month supply.
  11. The Local Finance Office will maintain the obligation request and all supporting documentation for reporting requirements and audit purposes.
  12. Employees or working groups may use or pool personal resources to pay for coffee, tea or refreshments at routine meetings or functions.

040506 Conferences Food Exception

  1. Purchasing refreshments or meals at Government-sponsored conferences with appropriated funds is generally prohibited unless all of these provisions apply. Additional information, from VA’s OGC, on meals and light refreshments is contained in Appendix F: OGC White Paper, “Purchasing Refreshments with Government Funds”.
    • Meals and refreshments are incidental to the conference;
    • Attendance during meals and when refreshments are provided is necessary for full participation in the conference; and
    • Participants are not free to take meals elsewhere without missing essential formal discussions, lectures, or speeches concerning the purpose of the conference.
  2. The Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel opined (Memorandum for the General Counsel Environmental Protection Agency regarding Use of Appropriated Funds to Provide Light Refreshments to Non-Federal Participants at EPA Conferences, April 5, 2007) that 31 U.S.C. § 1345, “Expenses of meetings,” bars Federal agencies, except as specifically provided by law, from purchasing meals and light refreshments for non-Federal participants at agency-sponsored conferences.
  3. If food or refreshment is provided at a conference involving traveling attendees, expense will be kept under the allowable per diem for the area. Travelers will deduct the cost of any furnished meal from their travel per diem allowance in accordance with FTR.
  4. VA may cover the subsistence costs of a non-Federal employee on invitational travel providing a direct service to VA through their conference participation in accordance with 5 U.S.C. §§ 5701-5706.
  5. Refer to Volume XIV, Chapter 10, for additional conference planning, oversight and reporting requirements, and for further discussion of differences between conferences and mission or operational meetings and events which do not qualify for the conferences food exception addressed in paragraph A of this section.

040507 Award Ceremonies Food Exception

  1. VA may spend general operating appropriations to provide food or refreshments at award ceremonies if an authorized VA management official determines that the food or refreshments would materially enhance the effectiveness of the award ceremony. Incentive award ceremonies are not to be “created” as an excuse to purchase food or refreshments.
  2. The requesting office must ensure the following when determining what expenses are necessary and appropriate for an awards ceremony:
    • The attendance and invitation are broader than just those being recognized;
    • The perception of the cost of the ceremony or of related gifts or mementos is of nominal value; and
    • There is adherence to spending limits and numbers of invitees unless higher level approval has been expressly granted.

040508 Training Food Exception

  1. Under the Government Employees Training Act (GETA), codified in 5 U.S.C. §§ 4101-4109, VA may provide food or refreshments to employees if the agency determines that providing them is a “Necessary Expense” to achieve the objectives and full benefits of the training program.
  2. The GETA exception to general food expense prohibition requires that the event be bona fide “training” rather than merely a meeting or conference. Refer to GAO opinion B-249795, May 12, 1993, “…Appropriated funds are not available to pay the cost of meals at quarterly managers meetings…; These expenses do not fall under the training exception of [5] U.S.C. Sec. 4109 merely because of the presence of speakers.”
  3. The Assistant Secretary for Human Resources and Administration/Operations Security and Preparedness (AS HRA/OSP) must opine that the event is considered a bona fide training event, in accordance with:
    • 5 U.S.C. § 4118(a);
    • 5 U.S.C. § 4118(a)(8);
    • 5 U.S.C. § 4101 (4); and
    • 5 C.F.R. § 410.404.
  4. Once the event has been approved as a GETA event by the AS HRA/OSP, the authority to determine whether food or refreshments are a “Necessary Expense” of training under GETA has been delegated to the Deputy Secretary, Under Secretaries, Assistant Secretaries and OKO with no further re-delegation authorized (refer to Volume XIV, Chapter 1, Travel Administration, Appendix B, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Memorandum, Delegation of Authority for Travel and Conferences).
  5. The VA sponsor of training at which one or more meals will be provided must include in the “Instruction to Travelers” document that they must exclude any meals provided in their travel claim (FTR § 301-11.18).
  6. Employees in local travel status can only be reimbursed actual expenses while in training if specifically authorized under 5 U.S.C. § 4109. Refer to Volume XIV, Chapter 7, Local Travel, for more information and specific requirements.
  7. VA can accept gifts or donations that may be used for food or refreshments expenses subject to certain conditions. See VHA Directive 4721, General Post Fund, for guidance on accepting donations and use of donations if applicable to cover a part of training expenses.
  8. VA may furnish meals to guest speakers who are Government employees, or who are on invitational travel orders, under 5 U.S.C. § 4109 as a necessary expense of training.

040509 Cultural Awareness Events Food Exception

  1. VA may use funds to purchase food or refreshments at cultural awareness events provided:
    • The food is part of a formal program intended to advance Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) objectives and enhance the audience awareness of the cultural or ethnic history being celebrated; and
    • The event provides food samples of the culture and is being offered as part of the larger program to serve an educational function and is not a replacement for an entire meal.
  2. For more information see GAO opinion B-301184, Jan. 15, 2004, Food for a cultural awareness program, and cases discussed therein.

040510 Focus Groups for Veteran Service Outreach Food Exception

  1. VA may use funds to pay for incentives in the form of refreshments and or light meals to increase participation in and effectiveness of non-employee focus groups to evaluate VA programs. From GAO opinion B-304718: “VBA uses focus groups to gather information from its constituents regarding its programs, pursuant to its statutory mandate under 38 U.S.C. sect. 527(a). VBA has determined that focus groups are an effective tool to obtain such information.”
  2. The office conducting the evaluation must make an administrative determination that providing such incentives will result in a clear benefit to VA and Veteran services.

040511 Emergencies Food Exception

  1. When conditions are of such an extreme and unusual nature as to prevent employees from leaving a worksite in their home duty station, and the office must be staffed on a 24-hour basis during an emergency involving immediate danger to human life or Federal property, VA may use funds to provide food or refreshments to the affected employees. Standing alone, any one of these conditions is not sufficient to support an exception to the general prohibition on paying for employee meals with appropriated funds:
    • The requirement to remain on duty for a 24-hour period,
    • The requirement to remain on duty beyond regular working hours, or
    • Inclement weather.
  2. More information is provided in GAO opinion B-226403, May 19, 1987:

    “We have created an exception to the general rule by authorizing government purchase of meals for employees at headquarters based upon findings that furnishing these meals was necessary in an extreme emergency involving danger to human life or destruction of federal property. See 53 Comp.Gen. 71 (1973) and Richard D. Rogge, B-189003, July 5, 1977. And a recently enacted statutory provision, 5 U.S.C. Sec. 5706a (added by Pub.L. 99-234, Sec. 103a, Jan. 2, 1986, 99 Stat. 1757), provides authority for the payment of subsistence expenses at headquarters when the life of an employee who serves in a law enforcement, investigative, or similar position is threatened.”

    And GAO opinion B-189003, July 5, 1977:

    “We believe that the facts of the present case warrant an exception to the general prohibition on payment for employees’ meals from appropriated funds. The emergency conditions clearly presented “danger to human life.” moreover, it was necessary to maintain the essential functions of the office during the emergency, and the stranded employees assisted in this function. Again, we emphasize, however, that such cases are an exception to the general rule.”

040512 Meetings Sponsored by Other Organizations-Food and Attendance Fees

  1. VA may pay charges for meals at meetings sponsored by other organizations when the meeting purpose is concerned with the functions or activities of the appropriation charged or will contribute to improved conduct, supervision, or management of the appropriation’s functions or activities.
  2. Although 5 U.S.C. § 4110 authorizes agencies to incur attendance and meal expenses for training sponsored by non-Governmental organizations, the Comptroller General has extended this authorization to meetings sponsored by other Government organizations, provided:
    • The meeting satisfies the same conditions as required for non-Government- sponsored meetings; and
    • The Government-sponsored meeting is not an internal business meeting.
  3. The following rules apply whether a conference takes place within the employee’s home duty station area or elsewhere.
    • If a single fee is charged covering both attendance and meals, and no separate charge is made for meals, the Government may pay the full fee if funds are otherwise available for the cost of training or for attending an awards ceremony except a gala event.
    • If a separate charge is made for meals, the Government may pay for the meals if:
      • The meals are incidental to the meeting;
      • Employee attendance at the meals is necessary for full participation in the business of the conference; and
      • The employee is not free to take the meals elsewhere without being absent from essential formal discussions, lectures, or speeches concerning the purpose of the conference.
  4. It is generally not permissible to use appropriations to pay for an awards gala ticket at a non-Federal event, e.g., an awards banquet sponsored by a professional association, news media entity, or local business group.
  5. VA will not purchase a “sponsorship” (including recognition and meals) at a non-governmental dinner and awards ceremony.

040513 Volunteer Meals

VA may purchase meals for volunteer workers when their scheduled assignment extends over a meal period, subject to an administrative determination that the furnishing of such meals is in the interest of the Government. Refer to GAO opinion B- 145430 (1961) and to VHA Handbook 1620.01, Voluntary Service Procedures, for additional information.

040514 General Post Funds (GPF)

  1. GPF holds appropriated funds that VA will disburse in compliance with the terms of the trust, and use, if specified, in accordance with the donor’s intent and stated restrictions.
  2. VA may authorize payment from VHA GPF, subject to availability of funds, for volunteers to foster recognition and retention.
  3. More information on General Post Funds policy, uses, and accounting practices can be found in VHA Directive 4721, VHA General Post Funds – Gifts and Donations.

040515 VHA Medical Treatment

VHA may purchase food or refreshments when they are part of the provision of medical treatment to VA beneficiaries under 38 U.S.C. § 7301(b), e.g., in-patient meals, therapy involving food preparation, and refreshments for blood donors.

040516 Secretary’s Reception and Representation Allowance

  1. Congress traditionally provides $25,000 each year in the Department’s general administration appropriation for the Secretary’s Reception and Representation Expenses, customarily referred to as the Secretary’s reception allowance.
  2. The Secretary has a wide measure of discretion in using the reception and representation funds, but such discretion is not unlimited. The allowance may not generally be used for business meetings with Federal employees since such meetings do not qualify as official receptions. Furthermore, the allowance may not be used to pay for food or meals for employees working beyond working hours at their duty station. The more a meeting qualifies as an “official agency reception or representation event,” the more likely the associated expenses may be funded from the reception allowance.
  3. One indicator of an official reception would be the presence of the Secretary or the Secretary’s designee. This does not in and of itself qualify food or refreshments at an event as an appropriate reception allowance expense. Other indicators such as an official reception program, ceremonial remarks of appreciation and recognition made by the Secretary or their designee, and serious VA business underlying the event could support use of the reception allowance to cover refreshment expense.
  4. OGC has opined that the Secretary’s reception allowance administered only within the Office of the Secretary is available for, but not limited to, the following:
    • Providing meals or refreshments to visiting Members of Congress, representatives of Veterans service organizations, White House staff and other individuals to discuss VA programs and benefits;
    • Paying for the Secretary’s meals when invited to functions as the representative of VA;
    • Paying for a business luncheon in the context of the performance of official duties, hosted by the Secretary;
    • Paying for a holiday reception hosted by the Secretary for VA employees;
    • Paying for receptions following swearing in of VA officials; and
    • Paying for refreshments at events hosted by the Secretary.
  5. See Appendix J OGC White Paper, “Secretary’s Reception & Representation Allowance” for more details.

040517 Pershing Hall Revolving Fund

  1. If there are excess funds after paying Pershing Hall operating expenses, the Secretary may spend up to $100,000 per fiscal year from the Pershing Hall Revolving Fund for activities that the Secretary determines to be in keeping with the VA mission.
  2. The Secretary may use the Pershing Hall Revolving Fund to supplement the Secretary’s reception allowance.
  3. Funds are available for funding gifts or mementos to Members of Congress and state legislatures, Veterans Service Organizations, VA and other Federal employees whose activities have significantly contributed to VA’s mission.
  4. Expenditures from the fund will be identified in the annual Pershing Hall Revolving Fund expense report to Congress.

040518 Veterans Canteen Service (VCS) Director’s Promotional Fund

  1. The VCS Director’s Promotional Fund may be used to support activities where the majority of beneficiaries are customers or potential customers of VCS.
  2. These activities could include food or refreshments, catered events, drawings, and merchandise in accordance with VCS Policy Directive 23-01 copied in Appendix D.

040519 Gifts or Mementos

  1. VA may expend funds for gifts and mementos as determined appropriate under statutory authorities or the “Necessary Expense” rule and in accordance with the type of funds used to pay for the expenses. Gifts and mementos should be of little intrinsic value and low cost to the agency.
  2. OGC has opined that the Secretary’s reception allowance, administered only within the Office of the Secretary, is available for providing gifts and mementos to members of Congress and state legislatures, Veterans Service Organizations, business organizations and other individuals concerned with Veterans’ affairs.
  3. Executive Order 13589 called upon all agencies to reduce spending on “extraneous promotional items” (e.g., plaques, clothing, and commemorative items) where they are not cost effective. VA Chief of Staff March 19, 2012, Memorandum copied in Appendix B prohibited further spending on promotional items for distribution to VA employees.
  4. Under 38 U.S.C. § 7423 (f), VHA may purchase promotional items of nominal value for use in recruiting to fill certain mission-critical positions covered under 38 U.S.C. Chapter 74 staffing authority. This expense is linked to the urgent need to interest qualified applicants given current and anticipated job market conditions.
  5. Gifts and mementos for recruitment should clearly display a recruitment slogan or other specific informational message as space permits.
  6. Under the “Necessary Expense” rule, VHA maintains policy that permits the purchase of incentive items to encourage target behaviors for patients to keep their appointments and continue treatment for certain illnesses.
  7. Inexpensive gifts and mementos for members of the public that promote further understanding of a VA program or mission may be distributed to conduct outreach and inform the public about agency programs. For example, it is permissible to distribute informational and educational items such as, notepads, pens, matchbooks, and jar grip openers inscribed with VA contact information that direct Veterans to services.
  8. VA may not purchase gifts or mementos to provide at a traditional ceremony or post- ceremony unless expressly allowed in statutory authority.
  9. The Chief of Staff issued several memoranda in 2012 that addressed restricting purchases of promotional items. See excerpts below, and copies in Appendices B and C.
    • May 25, 2012, Chief of Staff Memo, “Spending for Food or Refreshments and Gifts or Mementos”, states: “Another Chief of Staff memorandum dated March 19, 2012, prohibits spending funds for promotional items intended for distribution to employees. Promotional items are defined as mementos, gifts, reminders, and keepsakes. Non-monetary awards presented in compliance with VA Directive and Handbook 5017, Employee Recognition and Awards, are still permitted”.
    • September 26, 2012, Chief of Staff Memorandum, “Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Conference Oversight” “Department of Veterans Affairs Hosted or Co-Hosted Conference Request Guidance”, states: “it is not permissible to purchase promotional items, such as mementos, gifts, keepsakes, prize items, and other VA “logo” or “message” items, for distribution to VA and other Federal employees.

040520 Coins

  1. Written approval must be obtained in advance of any coin purchase.
  2. Coins, also known as challenge coins, should not be distributed at will.
  3. Only the VA Secretary has the authority to distribute coins or mementos to anyone for good-will purposes.
  4. Spending on coins for distribution to VA employees is only permitted in compliance with the VA incentive awards program and administrative procedures set forth in VA Handbook 5017.
  5. Veteran Services Outreach use of coins must pertain to mission-critical functions and have a clear connection with the Department’s mission of providing benefits and services to Veterans.
  6. While there is no set legal limit to the expense allowed on coins, the minimal intrinsic value concept should be considered along with a “rule of thumb” that suggests that requesting offices and officials should only spend an amount that they would feel comfortable explaining to an auditor or Congress (or seeing on the front page of a national newspaper).
  7. Coins may not be engraved with an individual’s name, with the exception of the Secretary, to avoid obsolescence and allow the individual’s successor to present unused coins.
  8. Any office seeking authority to purchase coins must prepare a memo seeking approval to do so from the appropriate Under Secretary, Assistant Secretary or OKO. The memo must specify:
    • The coins’ mission-related purpose;
    • Potential recipients; and
    • Estimated cost.
  9. See Appendix G for delegation of authority to approve use of VA’s official seal on challenge coins.
  10. Related DoD practice, laws, and statutes pertaining to challenge coins do not apply to VA.
  11. Documentation of the approval to purchase coins must be retained for audit purposes as well as the transaction record.
  12. Coin requests, processes, approvals and costs are subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

0406 Authorities and References

0407 Rescissions

VA Financial Policy Volume II, Chapter 4 – Awards, Ceremonies, Food or Refreshments, Gifts or Mementos, May, 2023.

0408 Policy Approval

This policy was approved by the VA Chief Financial Officers’ Council on April 18, 2024.

Appendix A: Prior Revisions

SectionRevisionOfficeReason for ChangeEffective Date
AllFull reviewOFP (047G)Scheduled updateDecember 2022
0401 OverviewAdded bullet on GAO guidance sourceOFP (047G)Key resource for policy guidanceDecember 2022
0402 RevisionsMoved older revisions to Appendix AOFP (047G)Format standardDecember 2022
0403 DefinitionsMoved description content from policyOFP (047G)Information lacking policy directionDecember 2022
040501 General PoliciesNew general policies sectionOFP (047G)Format standardDecember 2022
040503 CeremoniesReduced gala events coverageOFP (047G)ConsolidationDecember 2022
040505 Special CircumstancesRemoved coverage of VHA residents’ mealsOFP (047G)Statute is not a direct reference; defer to VHA policy coverageDecember 2022
0405, 0406 & Appendix HRemoved agency and title detail in GAO opinion references presentedOFP (047G)Removed unnecessary detailDecember 2022
Appendix EAdd OGC White Paper on Options for Use of Excess VA FoodOFP (047G)Add OGC guidanceDecember 2022
Appendix GAdded Q&A on t-shirt purchase for OutreachVBA and VHA CFOAdd OGC guidanceDecember 2022
Appendix FUpdated DOA for use of SealOFP (047G)DOA had expiredMay 2022
  Appendix F  Added DOA for use of SealOFP (047G)DOA required per OGCFebruary 2020
        0401 OverviewAdded restrictive language on food, entertainment and general expenditures for ceremonies. Also clarified that coin purchases must be approved in advance by the Under Secretary / Assistant Secretary / Other Key Official within each administration or staff office      OFP (047G)      Clarification of verbiage        Oct 2019
0403 DefinitionsAdded definition of “entertainment”OFP (047G)Enhance reader understanding  Oct 2019
040503 B, C, ERequirement for approval of coin purchases is changed from the VA Chief of Staff to the Under Secretary, Assistant Secretary, or other key official within each Administration or Staff OfficeOFP (047G)Revised approval requirementOct 2019
040505 A2Added language clarifying need to keep expenses under allowable per diem rate for the areaOFP (047G)Enhance reader understandingOct 2019
040506 AAdded language to clarify approval role for per person limitOFP (047G)Enhance reader understandingOct 2019
Appendix AReplaced with Frequently Asked QuestionsOFP (047G)Removal of obsolete informationOct 2019
Appendix BRemoved due to containing information that is no longer relevantOFP (047G)Removal of obsolete informationOct 2019
Appendix DRemoved due to containing information that is no longer relevantOFP (047G)Removal of obsolete informationOct 2019
VariousReformatted to new policy format and completed 5-year review.OFP (047G)Reorganized chapter layoutAugust 2017
0403 DefinitionsUpdated Numerous Definitions throughout sectionOFP (047G)Enhance reader understandingAugust 2017
0404 Roles and ResponsibilitiesUpdated roles and responsibilitiesOFP (047G)Enhance reader understandingAugust 2017
0405 Policies Section 040505Edited paragraph 4 “Hosting a Conference” – added “food or refreshment purchases generally not allowed”OFP (047G)New Department of Justice opinion on 31 U.S.C. § 1345August 2017
0406 Authorities and ReferencesAdded links to Authorities and ReferencesOFP (047G)All referenced materials were updatedAugust 2017
Appendix A-HRevisedOFP (047G)Moved information from old Appendix A and B into the policy to the policy section. New appendices include whitepapers and other references.August 2017

Appendix B: VA Chief of Staff Memo, Promoting Efficient Spending

Department of Veterans Affairs Memorandum

Date: March 19, 2012

From: Chief of Staff (00A)

Subj: Promoting Efficient Spending: Extraneous Promotional Items (VAIQ #7202906)

To: Under Secretaries, Assistant Secretaries, and Other Key Officials

  1. The Department of Veterans Affairs is committed to strong stewardship of Veterans’ resources and meeting the requirements of the President’s Executive Order 13589, Promoting Efficient Spending. Your organization recently provided plans for reduced spending consistent with the reduction targets provided for management support contracts, travel, printing, supplies and materials, and employee information technology . devices (category applicable to the Office of Information and Technology only). The Executive Order also directs agencies to limit the purchase of promotional items (plaques, clothing, commemorative items, etc.) that might be considered extraneous and are not cost-effective.

  2. Effective immediately, no funds should be expended for promotional items intended for distribution to employees. Promotional items previously purchased and on-hand may be distributed until exhausted, but should not be replenished.

  3. The Department may continue to purchase promotional items intended for Veterans, such as informational and educational materials that direct Veterans to services (the Veterans Crisis Line, benefit services counseling, etc.). These and related types of materials pertain to mission-critical functions and have a clear connection with the Department’s mission of providing benefits and services to Veterans. Such items help ensure Veterans have timely access to the highest quality benefits and services that they have earned through their sacrifice and service to our Nation.

  4. Please disseminate this information to your staff. I appreciate your assistance with eliminating spending on extraneous promotional items.


John R. Gingrich

Appendix C: VA Chief of Staff Memo for Food/Refreshments/Gifts/Mementos

Department of Veterans Affairs Memorandum

Date: May 25, 2012

From: Chief of Staff (00A)

Subj: Spending for Food or Refreshments and Gifts or Mementos (VAIQ 7228530)

To: Under Secretaries, Assistant Secretaries, and Other Key Officials

  1. In light of the recent reports about the General Services Administration’s misuse of Government funds, I want to remind all Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employees of the Department’s policies regarding the purchase of food or refreshments using Federal funds, as discussed in the Office of Financial Policy Volume II, Chapter 4. The policies and procedures in the chapter apply to all funds (e.g., general appropriations, general post fund, revolving, franchise, supply fund, trust) used to procure these items.
    The entire chapter can be viewed at
  2. The general rule is that the use of Government funds to purchase food or refreshments for either Government personnel or non-Government individuals, including VA beneficiaries, is not authorized.
  3. Chapter 4, Appendix A, Food or Refreshment Purchases, outlines the exceptions under which food or refreshments may be purchased. The exceptions have been reviewed by the VA Office of General Counsel, and the exceptions must be understood by those with approving authority.
  4. When planning any type of meeting or conference where refreshments are being considered, planners should understand that Federal funds may not be used to purchase food or refreshments for Federal employees attending business meetings at their duty station (including “lockdown”-style meetings or “ice-breaker” receptions). If a conference qualifies as training under the Government Employees Training Act, it is permissible to purchase meals and/or refreshments for Federal attendees, but only if the conditions described at Chapter 4, Appendix A, Food or Refreshment Purchases, are present.
  5. Chapter 4 also addresses the appropriateness of gifts or mementos for employees. My memorandum of March 19, 2012, prohibits expending funds for promotional items intended for distribution to employees. Promotional items are defined as mementos, gifts, reminders, and keepsakes. Non-monetary awards presented in compliance with VA Directive and Handbook 5017, Employee Recognition and Awards, are still permitted.
  6. Employees responsible for organizing a conference, reception, meeting, or ceremony should consult with their chain of command and, if necessary, local Regional Counsel or the Office of General Counsel.
  7. Care and due diligence must be exercised when determining whether food or refreshments and gifts or mementos may be allowed. We are the financial stewards of the funds entrusted to us. It is up to all VA employees to ensure that funds are expended appropriately and within the laws that govern them.


  John R. Gingrich

Appendix D: Veterans Canteen Service (VCS) Director’s Promotional Fund



 March 2023                                                                                                              OPR: FC

SUBJECT    VCS Promotional Fund

  1. Purpose and Applicability: This Policy prescribes general guidelines and instructions for the establishment and use of expenditures from the VCS Director’s Promotional Fund.
  2. References:
    1. U.S.C. Title 38, Chapter 7802, Veterans Canteen Service.
    2. VA Financial Policy Volume II Chapter 4, Awards, Ceremonies, Food or Refreshments, Gifts or Mementos
  3. Policy:
    1. General – Promotional Funds
      1. The VCS Executive Director may from time to time make available to VA entities a specific amount of spending for advertising and promoting the VCS. Promotional Funds will be derived solely from revenues generated by VCS. A base-dollar amount will be established for each VA entity dependent upon the level of revenue and volume of customers. These funds are referenced herein as “Promotional Funds” The use of funds is managed via assigned accounts, distributed, and monitored by the VCS Central Office, Office of Finance.
      2. Promotional Funds must be used to market and promote the VCS benefit to Veterans enrolled in VA Healthcare, families, caregivers, VA employees, volunteers, and visitors. The goal is to promote patronage, attain revenue, and build coalitions and partnerships VCS and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Centers (VAMCs), and other VA entities.
      3. Promotional Funds will be established at each VAMC, Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) Offices, and/or other approved VA facilities or program offices. The base-dollar amount for annual spending is based on size categories established from the revenue level in retail, food, coffee, vending, and concessions.
      4. Promotional Funds may be used to support activities where most participants are patrons and potential patrons. VCS patrons are defined as Veteran patients, Veteran outpatients, VA employees, volunteers, and visitors to VA healthcare facilities. A “visitor” may include family members who accompany patients. Visitors can include representatives of Veterans Service Organizations, residents, trainees, affiliates, etc., so long as they are visiting a VA facility.
    2. Permissible Uses
      1. Entities that utilize Promotional Funds must include recognition designed to promote the VCS. VCS must be publicly recognized as the “Sponsor” for an activity or event. The following may be used to promote VCS:
        1. The most effective means of promoting VCS is by verbal recognition of VCS sponsorship of an activity or event. The recognition may be made in the form of an announcement to the assembled audience soliciting support for VCS patronage, as well as highlighting VCS’ contributions in support of the VA mission.
        2. If the activity sponsored by VCS Promotional Funds does not include an assembly, then the written promotion of VCS should be prominent. See Attachment 1 for suggestions to promote VCS.
        3. Signs or posters that promote VCS and recognize VCS sponsorship of the event are also suggested. Signs or posters should be placed in areas that maximize the promotion of VCS contribution to the activity.
        4. At VA facilities where a Canteen is not present (e.g., VISNs, Outpatient Clinics, Program Offices, etc.), Promotional Funds may be used to educate potential customers about the location of VCS operations and encourage patronage on VCS promotional material such as signage, posters, and pamphlets must be distributed throughout the facility.
      2. Promotional Funds may be used for drawings, where the primary purpose of the drawing is to promote VCS. Drawings involve a random selection of an individual or individuals from a group who are eligible for the drawing. Unlike raffles, drawings do not require monetary contributions (e.g., the purchase of a ticket) to win.
      3. Merchandise may be purchased through VCS Business to Business (B2B) as long as it complies with the VA Financial Policy Vol II Chapter 4: The use of government funds for Awards, Ceremonies, Food or Refreshments, Gifts, or Mementos. This policy allows for the use of government funds (Directors’ Promotional or appropriated funds) to purchase promotional items for the following uses:
        1. Mementos (nominal value less than $50 per person) can be purchased to commemorate special observances (e.g., National Nurses Week or Black History Month).
        2. Items that are used to promote VA services to Veterans.
        3. Support for VA Rehabilitation and Adaptive Sports Programs such as Golden Age Games, National Wheel Chair Games, Creative Art Festival, Summer Sports Clinic, and more.
      4. The Promotional Fund may also be used for certain catered events. Catering includes providing meals or refreshments for patrons and potential patrons. A list of permissible Veteran and employee events where promotional funds can be used is listed in Attachment 2.
      5. Promotional Funds may be used to purchase VCS gift cards to use instead of catered events.
    3. Impermissible Uses
      1. Promotional Funds may not be used for prizes/supplies for raffles. Raffles are defined as a lottery in which individuals buy chances to win a prize.
      2. Promotional Funds cannot be used for Department of Veteran Affairs advertising, construction, or recruiting.
      3. Promotional Funds may not be used for activities where the sole or primary purpose of an activity is to improve employee morale or provide for employee recreation.
      4. Promotional Funds cannot be used to purchase promotional items (gifts or mementos) for general distribution to employees as morale boosters or appreciation gifts. Under these circumstances, VA’s Incentive Awards program is the forum for recognizing employee morale and/or accomplishments. Appropriated funds may be used instead of Promotional funds to purchase promotional items or VCS gift cards for use as part of an employee awards program.
      5. Items that are not cost-effective and do not sufficiently advertise VCS may not be purchased using Promotional Funds. Use of outside services will only be approved when the local Canteen is unable to cater the event. The desire for specific food not offered by VCS cannot be the sole factor for requesting outside services.
      6. Promotional Funds cannot be used for facility rental fees to host events off campus.
      7. Promotional Funds may not be used for activities where most attendees are not VCS patrons. For example, meetings with the Joint Commission or the Commission on the Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), affiliate meetings, or events where participants are Veterans, but not enrolled in VA healthcare.
      8. Promotional Fund events may not precede surveys, and site inspections including Combined Federal Campaign, All Employee Survey (AES), Ecolab visits, and OIG visits.
      9. Participation of VCS employees in Promotional Fund activities must be approved by the VCS Chief Operating Officer before a scheduled event.
  4. Fund Distributions
    1. The Promo funds distribution amount will be up to the distribution ceilings established at the end of each fiscal year based on Revenue categories. VCS may discontinue support or reduce funding at the VCS Directors’ discretion, particularly in cases where funds are not being used or not promoting VCS effectively.
      1. Medical Centers:
        1. Funds are allocated in the Spring based on the prior year’s revenues. A Fall distribution may be conducted if there is significant revenue growth. The Fall distribution will occur if there is an increase in revenue for the first eight months of the current year. The comparison is September of the current year compared to September of the prior year.
        2. All Medical Centers will receive a distribution up to the distribution ceiling based on the Canteen category.   An additional allocation will be provided only to Medical Centers where the Promotional Funds are being used to promote the Canteen. The Executive Director may establish criteria that may only provide the additional allocation to Canteens contributing to VCS’ overall revenue growth or growth in a specific category.
        3. A Medical Center will not receive a distribution if the Canteen will not be in operation in the coming fiscal year. Unused promotional funds will be placed back in the distribution pool when a Canteen location closes operations.
        4. Accounts that are over the distribution ceiling will not receive additional funds. Medical Center leadership is encouraged to use the funds throughout the year to advertise and promote VCS.
        5. Medical Center Directors (MCD) may transfer funds to other Medical Centers to support promotional events at facilities other than their own. The MCD providing the funds must approve the transfer. The approval must be sent to the VCS Promotional Funds mail group. Fund transfers are not considered “loans” to be paid back later.
      2. VISN offices
        1. VISN offices receive a flat distribution in Spring. The VCS Director will assess whether the funds are effectively being used to promote the VCS within the VISNs.
        2. VISN Directors may transfer funds to Medical Centers within their VISNs to support promotional events at facilities other than their own. The VISN Director or designee must approve the transfer. The approval must be sent to the VCS Promotional Funds mail group. Fund transfers are not considered “loans” to be paid back later.
      3. VA Central Office (VACO)
        1. The VCS Director may distribute funds to VACO offices to promote the VCS.
        2. VACO offices receive a flat distribution in Spring. The VCS Director will assess whether the funds are effectively being used to promote the VCS.
      4. VACO Program Offices
        1. The VCS Director may distribute funds to program offices to promote the VCS if it is deemed that this is an effective means for promoting the VCS to patrons and potential patrons.
        2. Guidance for how requests and support will be delivered may be unique to each program office depending on how VCS is providing support. VCS coupons, travel reimbursements, payments to third parties, and other forms of support may be used.
    2. The distribution of the VCS Directors’ Promotional Funds will be approved by the VCS Resource Management Board (RMB). The RMB is an advisory and financial investment council that serves to account, manage and allocate VCS annual expenditures. The RMB will enhance organizational stewardship, accountability, and operational transparency relative to the effective management and allocation of funds in support of the VCS mission. The RMB is Chaired by the VCS Executive Director, and the VCS Chief Financial Officer serves as the Vice-Chairperson. The other voting members are the Chief Operating Officer, Chief Stores Officer for Operations, and Chief Human Capital Officer.
  5. Procedures:
    1. The Canteen Manager is the authorized official for granting the use of the Promotional Fund. Local Canteens will be granted first consideration as the primary procurement source for VA activities to purchase retail, food, or other merchandise and services.
    2. Approval of the request for the funds must be attained before an activity is  scheduled or occurs. Under no circumstances will cash be provided from the Promotional Fund before any activity.
    3. If an expenditure is approved, and VCS cannot provide the services, external sources may be used. The purchase price, plus an administrative surcharge of 10%, will be annotated on the Request for Funds Form. Outside services of more than $100 must be authorized by VCSCO before the activity.
    4. Request for funds should be entered as soon as the date and amount for the event have been established.
      1. All requests must be submitted at least 5 business days before the event.
      2. When outside services are requested requiring VCSCO payment and the vendor requires payment (i.e., check) on the day of the event, the request must be approved at least 14 business days before the event.
    5. Reimbursement for approved outside services must process no later than five days after the activity. Extra care should be given when processing reimbursement to VA employees.
      1. Reimbursements for less than $250 will be done by the Canteen Chief using local Canteen funds.
      2. Reimbursements request for amounts $250 or greater must be submitted to VCSCO for payment by U.S. Treasury Check.
      3. A valid and legible receipt or invoice must be obtained before making any reimbursement.
    6. All expenditures from the fund will be documented in the VCS system of record, on the day of the event.
  6. Responsibilities:
    1. The Director, VCS, is responsible for annually determining amounts designated for distribution to Promotional Fund accounts with advisement and consensus of the RMB. The VCS Executive Director will provide semi-annual (April & November) updates to the Assistant Under Secretary for Health for Support (19) on the distribution of funds and the operation of the program. The Director will also render final decisions as to the appropriateness of expenditures from the fund when it is not clear that usage is consistent with this directive.
    2. The VCS Chief Financial Officer is responsible for issuing procedures for processing, reimbursing, and accounting for expenditures from Promotional Funds. Internal reviews will be conducted throughout the year to ensure proper internal controls are in place to monitor expenditures.
    3. The VCS Chief Auditor is responsible for conducting an annual audit of approximately one-third of Promotional Fund activities. Findings and recommendations will be submitted to the VCS Executive Director for appropriate action.
    4. The VCS Chief Operating Officer, Chief Stores Officer for Operations, and Region Managers are responsible for compliance with the provisions of this policy.
    5. Canteen Chiefs are responsible for ensuring Promotional Funds are approved, all requests for use are properly documented, and all uses are properly reported according to published procedures.
    6. The Promo Fund beneficiary (i.e., Medical Center Director or Program Director) is responsible for adhering to the policy and procedures surrounding proper use, requests for use of funds, and properly promoting the VCS.
  7. Rescission: VCSCO Policy Directive 19-01, VCS Director’s Promotional Fund, dated October 20, 2017.
  8. Expiration Date: Effective until rescinded or superseded.


James G. Leahy Executive Director, VCS


  • Suggestions to Maximize Promotion of VCS
  • Permissible Uses

Attachment 1                            

Suggestions to Maximize Promotion of VCS

  1. The announcement by VA Executive (or designee) Promoting VCS (Sample announcement for an event):
    “I want to thank the Veterans Canteen Service for their sponsorship of this event. I encourage you to take time to stop in the PatriotStore and PatriotCafé to thank the VCS team for their contribution to the great care provided to our Veterans. I also encourage you to take advantage of their exceptional values. Your patronage of the VCS allows them to serve close to 40 million customers each year and deploy to provide food and comfort during the pandemic and other natural disasters. The local Store Manager is                                                                               , and he/she welcomes your comments and suggestions.”
  2. Include the Canteen Chief on the meeting agenda to promote VCS.
  3. Include the VCS logo on event memos, flyers, e-mail messages, T-shirts, etc.
  4. Display signs promoting VCS sponsorship (table signs and posters).
  5. Place upcoming VCS Sale Event flyers or other VCS promotional material in place settings or on chairs and reference them in an announcement.
  6. Any promotional items given to patients or caregivers should be accompanied by promotional literature or a printed message with the VCS logo (i.e., VCS Sale Event flyer).
  7. Spotlight VCS promotional fund activities in Medical Center newsletters or daily e- mail messages.

Attachment 1

Image removed for HTML conversion. See authorities and references section for hyperlink to source document.

Attachment 2

Examples of permissible instances include:

Veterans Activities

  • Veteran focused events
  • Whole Health events
  • Veteran Welcome Home Celebrations
  • Community Stand Down
  • Holiday Open House
  • Veterans Day Celebrations
  • Valentines for Vets
  • Spinal Cord Injury Units
  • Light refreshments for waiting areas