Questions concerning this policy chapter should be directed to:

0701 Overview

This chapter establishes the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) financial policies regarding honoraria payments. Of particular note are the following items:

  • VA certifying officials will solicit Office of General Counsel (OGC) ethics official guidance before authorizing an honorarium payment to current VA employees;
  • VA will not pay honoraria to VA employees or other-agency federal employees for service related to their official government duties;
  • If payment is required to receive a service, the payment will not be processed as an honorarium;
  • Honoraria payments will not exceed $100 for each recipient at a single event;
  • Honoraria payments will not be paid using a purchase card or convenience check; and
  • A senior executive service employee (SES), GS-15 or title 38 SES or GS-15 equivalent employee must approve honoraria in advance of the actual payment.

0702 Revisions

SectionRevisionOfficeReason for ChangeEffective Date
AllUpdated to new format and performed content review.OFPFull review.January 2024
0703 DefinitionsAdded certifying officials.OFPDiscussed throughout policy.January 2024

0703 Definitions

Honoraria – Payments granted in recognition of a special service or distinguished achievement for which custom or propriety forbids any fixed business price such as an hourly rate. Honoraria include payments or the value of a non-monetary gift for one or a series of appearances, speeches, or articles if the subject matter is directly related to the recipient’s official duties. An honorarium is not a means to circumvent the contracting process.

Necessary Expense Rule – is a combination of two slightly different, but closely related concepts:

  • An appropriation made for a specific purpose is available for expenses necessarily incident to accomplishing that purpose unless prohibited by law or otherwise provided for, and
  • Appropriations, even for broad categories such as salaries, frequently use the term “necessary expenses”. As used in this context, the term refers to “current or running expenses of a miscellaneous character arising out of and directly related to the agency’s work.”

Necessary Expense Test – the standard for measuring the propriety of a particular expenditure not specified in a statute is referred to as the Necessary Expense Test. Under this test, the expenditure is permissible if it is reasonably necessary in carrying out an authorized function 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.

0704 Roles and Responsibilities

Under Secretaries, Assistant Secretaries, Chief Financial Officers, Fiscal Officers, Chiefs of Finance Activities, Chief Accountants, and Other Key Officials are responsible for ensuring compliance with the policies set forth in this chapter.

Office of General Counsel (OGC) Ethics Officials will provide legal advice regarding honoraria payments to VA certifying officials and employees.

Certifying Officials are federal employees authorized by 31 U.S.C. §§ 3321 and 3325, responsible for certifying each invoice for payment and for ensuring that the invoice is correct, accurate and in accordance with the related obligation document.

Senior executive service employee (SES), GS-15 or title 38 SES or GS-15 equivalent are responsible for approving honoraria in advance of the actual payment.

0705 Policies

070501 General Policies

  1. VA may pay honoraria only as an expression of appreciation for a voluntary service received. If payment for a service is negotiated or required to receive the service (e.g., fees or an hourly rate for speaking, playing the piano, appearance, etc.), the payment is not an honorarium. Such service would require proper approval, processing, and payment as a service contract or other agreement. The local contracting office can provide guidance on contracted services.
  2. Travel costs and other miscellaneous expenses reimbursed in supporting the voluntary service are not considered honoraria and are not limited to $100. Refer to VA Financial Policy Volume XIV, Chapter 1, Travel Administration on invitational travel.
  3. A SES, GS-15 or title 38 SES or GS-15 equivalent will approve honoraria in advance of the actual payment by the certifying official.
  4. VA honoraria payments are limited to $100 for each recipient at a single event.
  5. VA may pay honoraria to invited guest speakers not employed by the federal government, subject to the Necessary Expense Rule and Test. Refer to VA Financial Policy Volume XIV, Chapter 10 – Conference Planning, Oversight, and Reporting, on incurring expense related to honoraria payments for speakers.
  6. Honoraria payments must be made via Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT). Honoraria payments will not be paid using a purchase card or convenience check.
  7. Recipients of VA honoraria whose vendor pay records are not already established in VA’s accounting system must submit VA Form 10091: VA-FSC Vendor File Request Form, before an honorarium payment will be processed.

070502 Honoraria Payments to Federal Employees

  1. Certifying officials should avoid authorizing an honorarium payment for current federal employees.
  2. Multiple statutes and regulations restrict federal employees from receiving honoraria payments including, but not limited to:
    • 5 U.S.C. § 5533, Dual pay from more than one position;
    • 5 U.S.C. § 5536, Extra pay for extra services prohibited;
    • 18 U.S.C. Crimes and Criminal Procedure, Part I, Crimes, Chapter 11, Bribery Graft and Conflicts of Interest:
      • § 201 – Bribery of public officials and witnesses
      • § 203 – Compensation to Members of Congress, officers, and others in matters affecting the Government
      • § 205 – Activities of officers and employees in claims against and other matters affecting the Government
      • § 207 – Restrictions on former officers, employees, and elected officials of the executive and legislative branches
    • § 208 – Acts affecting a personal financial interest, and
    • 5 C.F.R. Chapter XVI, Office of Government Ethics, Subchapter B, Government Ethics, Part 2635, Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch, subpart H, Outside Activities, § 2635.807 – Teaching, Speaking, and Writing, (discussion of honoraria and related restrictions, exceptions, and examples).
  3. If a certifying official considers making an honorarium payment to a federal employee, the certifying official will:
    1. Consult with OGC ethics officials to evaluate the feasibility of a potential honorarium payment.
    2. Consult with OGC to ensure honoraria payments are not violating any statutes such as; employee pay restriction, taxable payment reporting, Government employee ethics requirements, limits on use of appropriated funds, etc.
    3. Ensure at a minimum the following conditions are met:
      • The federal employee provides professional services outside regularly scheduled duty hours or during an approved leave period;
      • The employee does not represent themselves as a federal employee; and
      • The service provided is not related to the employee’s official duties.
  4. Federal employees must provide evidence that the professional services performed were outside their official full-time or part-time tour of duty, or during an approved leave period. Documents an employee could provide include:
    • Personnel and timekeeping records from the home agency;
    • A letter from the supervisor; or
    • Other relevant payroll/timekeeping information.
  5. VA will not provide guidance to employees from another agency on the legality of receiving or the reporting of honoraria payments.

0706 Authorities and References

0707 Rescissions

VA Financial Policy Volume II,  Chapter 7B – Honoraria, January 2022

0708 Policy Approval

This policy was approved by the VA Chief Financial Officers’ Council on January 10, 2024.

Appendix A: Prior Revisions

SectionRevisionOfficeReason for ChangeEffective Date
AllFormat and content reviewOFP Full review; references and links updateJanuary 2022
0701 Overview and 070502B Honoraria Payments to VA EmployeesRequire approving official consultation with OGC ethics officials.OFP & OGCEthics officials will evaluate honoraria payment propriety.January 2022
070502 Honoraria Payments to VA EmployeesRemove prohibition on VA payment to current VA employees.OFP Conflict with Supreme Court decision identified among Authorities and References.January 2022
070502C and 070503A & BExpand leave type flexibility beyond annual leave and non-pay status.OFP Various other paid leave types may apply as would time outside regularly scheduled hours.January 2022
070504 Payment of Honoraria to Non-federal SpeakersAdded coverage of Necessary Expense Rule and Test (including definitions).OGC and OFP Support for approving official review of payment authorityJanuary 2022
Appendix A Prior RevisionsMoved prior revisions detail.OFP Movement to the back helps readers focus on current requirement.January 2022
 VariousReformatted to new policy format and completed 5-year reviewOFP Reorganized chapter layoutFebruary 2018
 0701 OverviewUpdated to provide high-level overview of chapter  OFP  Reformatted to new policy formatFebruary 2018
 0703 DefinitionsRevised/Added definitions: HonorariaNon-pay StatusObject Class (Budget Object Code (BOC)) ObligationOFP OGCHonoraria Definition – GAO case, B-20517, September 24, 1941   All – enhance reader understandingFebruary 2018
 0704 Roles and ResponsibilitiesUpdated Roles and ResponsibilitiesOFP  Enhance reader understandingFebruary 2018
 0705 General PoliciesRemoved “fees” from areas that reference reimbursements and honoraria payments   Stipulated that travel costs were to be treated as in Invitational Travel   Stated that VA may not pay honoraria to VA employees   Added: Payment limitation of $100   VA may expend funds for Honoraria if properly approved   Honoraria payments will not be made by a purchase card or convenience check  OFP OGCGeneral policy update and per OGC guidanceFebruary 2018
 0706 Authorities and ReferencesUpdated links to appropriate authorities and referencesOFP OGCGeneral policy update and per OGC guidance February 2018