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Travel

Travel Governance Council Meeting Updates

Program Support Center hosted the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Travel Governance Council (TGC) on August 29.

Agenda topics included:

  • SmartPay® 3
  • Travel Policy Update Project
  • Instance Consolidation Project
  • E-government Travel System Major Releases
  • New General Services Administration Industrial Funding Fee for City Pairs Program

The Council serves as the executive-level strategic and guiding body for the Department’s travel program. It was established to oversee the Department’s travel strategy and set monitored performance objectives to ensure the HHS travel program remains aligned with government-wide strategies and the President’s Management Agenda. The Council meets the third Tuesday of every other month.


 

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Travel Leadership Coalition Meeting Updates

Program Support Center hosted the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Travel Leadership Coalition (TLC) on August 14 and September 11.

Agenda topics included:

  • SmartPay®3 Implementation Project Status
  • Instance Consolidation Project
  • Travel Policy Update Project, including the publishing of the HHS Travel Policy Manual FY 18 Q4
  • Centrally Billed Accounts Reconciliation Standardized File

The TLC is an advisory group to the HHS Travel Governance Council, the Department’s Executive leader forum. It also serves as a forum where every program area and interest has a voice as it pertains to travel. HHS travel activities are associated with many program areas, including information technology security and development, human resources, financial operations, program management, credit cards, policy, and more.

The coalition meets the second Tuesday of each month. To participate, contact your operating division Lead Federal Agency Travel Administrator or Senior Travel Official.

 

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Register for VILT Training

Program Support Center (PSC) is offering multiple Virtual Instructor-Led Training (VILT) courses this year for travelers, travel arrangers, as well as for Federal Agency Travel Administrators (FATAs).

VILT is a virtual, interactive learning methodology designed to engage students with practical exercises as well as group and individual dialog — as if they were in a classroom setting. Students benefit from having a live, online instructor teaching them the latest in computer technology, receiving a “hands on” learning experience, and having the convenience to take training at any place, anywhere of their own choosing. All that is required is the time to learn, a phone, and a computer with an internet connection.

VILT is also less expensive than traditional classroom training. The cost is only $150 per student for FATA training and $100 for the traveler/travel arranger training. Additionally, classes are modularly designed so that students can enroll in a single course to gain the latest knowledge about a specific topic and do not have to sit through the entire course again.

Proposed VILT dates are as follows:

November 27-28 Arranger Training

December 18-20 FATA Training

January 29-30 Arranger Training

February 26-28 FATA Training

March 26-27 Arranger Training

April 23-24 FATA Training

May 21-22 Arranger Training

June 25-27 FATA Training

July 30-31 Arranger Training

August 27-29 FATA Training

September 24-25 Arranger Training

PSC also accepts group and advanced reservations to support employees’ annual individual development plans. PSC is updating its entire current training course offering to be delivered by VILT. The courses may be paid through a purchase card.

Register today for VILT training by emailing transportation@psc.gov.

 

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TRAVEL CHARGE CARDS

New Travel Charge Cards Are Coming this Month: How to Get Them, How to Activate Them

Sample image of the old charge card. Sample image of the new charge card.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is transitioning to a new bank, Citibank®, effective November 30, 2018.

This requires all HHS travel and PSC GO!cardcardholders to receive new Citibank-issued charge cards.

Sample image of the white envelope the charge card will arrive in.

Figure 1: White Envelope

New travel cards will be sent the week of October 22 with delivery taking up to 10 business days. Travel cardholders will receive new cards to the mailing address (home or P.O. Box) on file with the former bank provider JPMorgan Chase.

New travel cards will be delivered in a plain envelope (Figure 1). Travel cards should be activated immediately upon receipt. The easiest and fastest way to activate the travel card is calling the phone number or visiting the website printed either on the sticker or on the back of the new travel card.

New GO!cards will be sent beginning the week of October 15 to ensure receipt by November 29, 2018. Please note delivery can take up to 10 days. GO!card cardholders will be notified by email when their new GO!cards have been mailed.

GO!cards issued by Citibank will be sent to the mailing address provided in the PSC Transit Benefit Program Application. The new GO!card will be sent in a white envelope with minimal markings (Figure 1).

GO!cards should be activated immediately upon receipt by calling the phone number provided using the activation instructions on the card. When activing the GO!card, cardholders will be prompted to enter the last four digits of their HHS Identification Number, which is located on the back of their Personal Identification Verification (PIV) card.

Please also note that while the new travel card and GO!card may be activated before November 30, 2018, they will not be usable until November 30, 2018, at 12:00 a.m. E.T.

To learn more about the implementation and transition to the new charge cards and their delivery, contact your Operating Division SmartPay® 3 Implementation Lead.

 

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New Temporary Travel Reimbursement Process Effective October 1

Starting October 1, 2018, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) employees with a travel card who participate in “Split Pay” will be responsible for paying their full travel card bill — even if they have not filed a voucher — as soon as the statement is received.

HHS will temporarily turn-off E-government Travel System (ETS, or “ConcurGov”) “Split Pay” travel reimbursement functionality from October 1, 2018 to December 31, 2018. Traveler’s full travel reimbursement amount due will be directly deposited to their personal bank account in ETS.

Split Pay is an ETS feature which pays for air fare, lodging and rental car expenses directly to the employee’s personal bank account. During the Department’s transition from SmartPay® 2 travel card provider JPMorgan Chase, to SmartPay® 3 provider Citibank®, Split Pay will be unavailable.

The temporary change is expected to end by December 31, 2018, or sooner. During this time, HHS travel cards issued by Citibank will be uploaded to ETS in order to allow travelers time to get accustomed to checking their personal bank accounts for their travel payments.

Please reference the HHS Travel Card FAQs for information on the travel card transition, including the temporary reimbursement process change.

For more information or questions, contact your Agency Organization Program Coordinator approving official, Federal Agency Travel Administrator, or email SmartPay3@psc.hhs.gov.

 

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TRANSIT

Ensure There Is No Interruption to Your Transit Benefits

Program Support Center (PSC) is issuing new GO!cards. Make sure your PSC GO!card℠ is delivered to your correct mailing address through the PSC GOVGO! Transit Benefits and Bike2Work Portal.

Below are the steps on how to access GOVGO! to review and validate or update your mailing address to ensure your GO!card is mailed to the correct address:

To update your address:

  • Log into the GOVGO! portal at https://ossiservices.hhs.gov/Transit. For assistance logging in, visit the GOVGO! job aids webpage.
  • Once on the site, go to the “My Benefits” tab and in the drop down select “New/ Recertify/ Pending Application”.
  • In the upper left hand corner, you will see each section of the application marked with either an X or check mark.
  • Click on “Commuter Information”.
  • You’ll be taken to a web page where you can update your home, mailing, and office addresses.
  • Once you have made your updates select the “Save and Continue” button on the bottom left side of the page.
  • If you have any red check marks you must go and update those sections before you can submit your application.
  • Once all the sections have the green check marks, you can submit your application. You should see the message Application Submitted Successfully and receive a confirmation email.

For questions about transit benefits, email gocard@hhs.gov or call (301) 492-4774.

 

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POLICY

Updated HHS Travel Policy Manual Available Now

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published an updated Travel Policy Manual on September 10, 2018. The latest version is entitled, “HHS Travel Policy Manual FY 2018, Quarter 4”.

The Department’s travel policy manual is now published up to four times a year on a fiscal schedule. This helps ensure the travel policy remains current according to the latest laws and regulations, as well as court decisions.

The “HHS Travel Policy Manual FY 2018, Quarter 4" is applicable to travel starting on or before September 9, 2018.

Updates to the manual include:

  • eliminated grammar errors;
  • removed sections that simply requoted the Federal Travel Regulation; and
  • eliminated sections that suggested disciplinary actions.

The next manual update can be expected within Quarter One of FY 2019.

 

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It Happened When Leaving the Airport Parking Lot

The Civilian Board of Contract Appeals recently published a decision regarding airport parking.

In this case, an employee was on temporary duty (TDY) in Japan. He was originally assigned to be gone for seven days, but his TDY was extended to 28 days.

Upon his return to his Official Station, he accumulated an airport parking bill of $237!

Although he claimed he was instructed by his supervisor to park at the airport, he was still only reimbursed the constructive cost of a round-trip taxi fare, which was $36. The employee was informed he was personally responsible for $201.

The Civilian Board of Contract Appeals quoted the Federal Travel Regulation §301-10.308 which states:

What will I be reimbursed if I park my POV at a common carrier terminal while I am away from my official station?

Your agency may reimburse your parking fee as an allowable transportation expense not to exceed the cost of one of the following to/from the terminal as determined by your agency:

  1. The cost of a taxi.
  2. The cost of a TNC [transportation network company] fare.
  3. The cost of using an innovative mobility technology company.

But wait… the traveler was only following orders! The Civilian Board of Contract Appeals has consistently upheld their ruling — including supervisory approval or discretion — which does not supersede published regulation, nor does it establish an obligation upon the government to fulfill something that is not permissible under law or regulation. In the case, the Board wrote:

The approving official’s advice concerning use of a POV did not amend the travel orders or extend entitlement to parking fees not allowable by regulation… Any implication from the approving official that claimant would or could be reimbursed for additional parking fees if his TDY were extended was erroneous. When an employee receives erroneous advice as to the extent of his reimbursement for long-term parking, such advice does not enlarge entitlement.

Ultimately, because the employee only lived a few miles from the airport, the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals found that he did not act prudently.

By using his POV to travel to the airport, claimant did not act prudently, and he is financially responsible for the additional parking fees resulting from his extended TDY. Had he used a taxi or other allowable mode of transportation to travel to the airport, the additional parking fees would not have been incurred… The agency properly reimbursed claimant and claimant is not entitled to additional reimbursement.

 

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Your Personal Vacation, Your Responsibility

According to the Federal Travel Regulation:

§301-10.8 What is my liability if, for personal convenience, I travel by an indirect route or interrupt travel by a direct route?

Your reimbursement will be limited to the cost of travel by a direct route or on an uninterrupted basis. You will be responsible for any additional costs.

The Civilian Board of Contract Appeals has consistently held that the costs that may arise from personal travel include more than the price of the airfare. If anything happens while on personal vacation, even if it started out as authorized travel, must be born be the employee.

For example, in a case recently published by the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals, an employee on temporary duty (TDY) travel decided to delay her return back to her Official Station for personal reasons. The last leg of her return flight to her Official Station was grounded due to inclement weather.

The employee decided not to wait for a spot on a new flight. Instead, she rented a car and drove home, returning the rental car the next morning.

The employee requested to be reimbursed for a total of $230.00, which included $163.75 for the rental car, $14.50 for gas, and a per diem of $51.75, for her efforts report to work the next day.

The Agency denied the request, noting that the employee rented a car without authorization and on the personal end of the TDY.

The good news is that the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals held that:

The agency would have expended $100.67 for the claimant to travel from the layover airport to the final destination. Pursuant to the regulations, the claimant is entitled to be reimbursed actual costs of rental and associated costs up to that amount . . .The return travel occurred for personal reasons on other than the date that was required for the temporary duty assignment. Because the delayed return was unnecessary or unjustified in the performance of official business, other costs the claimant seeks associated with the canceled flight (e.g., payment for additional Meals and Incidental Expenses) are not reimbursable. The claimant would not have encountered the canceled flight but for the return delayed for personal convenience.

 

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Who Pays for Travel Cancelation Fees

Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher who lived over 2000 years ago, wrote, “The only thing that is constant is change.” Clearly he could foresee the 21st Century and government travel! When plans and reservations change, sometimes there are fees involved. If employees are not careful, cancelation fees can be their personal liability.

Below are three cases taken from the decisions published by the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals. See if you can guess in advance who must pay the cancellation fee, the traveler or the government.

Booking Outside of the System!

The Situation: A traveler booked lodging outside of the E-government Travel Systems (ETS) in order to stay at a particular hotel where a conference was being held. When he needed to cancel his reservation, he was notified that he would have to pay $838 in cancelation fees. Who should pay? The traveler or the government?

The Answer: The traveler. The Civilian Board of Contract Appeals held:

In accordance with the Federal Travel Regulation (FTR). . . unless an exception is granted by the head of the agency . . . under very narrow circumstances specified in the regulations, it is mandatory that an employee make arrangements for official travel through either the E-Gov Travel Service (ETS). . . The regulation further provides that, where the employee fails to use either the ETS or its agency’s TMS, he/she will have to bear responsibility for any additional costs, including, inter alia, “cancellation fees” . . . There is no authority, under statute or regulation, for shifting such responsibility to the Government.

My Boss Cancelled My Travel!

The Situation: A traveler was scheduled to go on temporary duty. When her flight confirmation window opened, she logged in, printed her boarding pass, and paid a checked baggage fee for $25. Closely thereafter, her travel was canceled because she was needed to support her boss at a meeting on Capitol Hill. However, the traveler already paid the checked baggage fee. Who should pay? The traveler or the government?

The Answer: The government. The Civilian Board of Contract Appeals held:

Non-refundable fees resulting from cancelation of travel plans have been held to be reimbursable if the cancelation was the result of a legitimate change in government requirements and the employee acted with reasonable prudence. . . In this instance, claimant’s travel was canceled as the result of a legitimate change in government requirements.

 

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TRAVEL

Know What Constitutes a Receipt to Help Support Voucher Filing

It’s important to understand exactly what is acceptable as a receipt and when a receipt is needed before filing a travel voucher.

A receipt is a digital or paper document presented by a seller and given to a buyer showing an itemized list of goods and/or services purchased and amount of the purchase to serve as evidence for the exchange. It constitutes as documentary evidence of a business transaction between a seller and a buyer. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of a buyer to obtain a receipt from the seller.

An example of when a receipt is required is the Federal Travel Regulation which established that lodging expenses cannot be reimbursed without an itemized receipt. A credit card statement is not an acceptable substitute for a receipt.

Find out how to easily uploaded receipts into ConcurGov E-government Travel System by referencing the Attaching Paper Receipts to a Travel Document job aid.

 

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What is Project “Redwood”

Redwood is a SAP Concur project name given to enhance the usability for a new approval workflow. Redwood was successfully deployed to the ConcurGov E-government Travel System in the July 2018 software release.

The enhancements include:

  • A new review page that brings together the information an approver needs to inform an approval decision, including travel policy and audit alerts.
  • A new approval page that progresses the document through the approval workflow.
  • A clear indication of success on completion of an approval.

Redwood features are an improved alternative to the existing approval options. Although not required, we encourage users to try the new workflow. Approvers can access the new approval workflow in three different ways (as you do today):

  • Through the “Approvals” navigation option on the site header;
  • By selecting the “Approve Documents” link on the Home page (Shortcuts Menu);
  • By selecting the “View Approval” link from the Documents Action menu on the Home page.
 

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Industry News & Highlights

See the latest travel service providers offering updates:

Airlines

Southwest is adding additional service from Dallas Love Field and in New York City area airports.

  • Dallas Love Field
    • Adding 3 additional daily service on January 7, 2019 to Louisville (SDF), Ft. Myers (RSW), and Milwaukee (MKE) airports
    • Adding daily service to Jacksonville, FL (JAX) beginning January 19
  • NYC Area Airports
    • Adding twice daily service from Newark Liberty (EWR) to Nashville (BNA) beginning January 7

Lodging

Sheraton Hotels is updating some hotels with lounge-type lobbies with power outlets at each seat and soundproof spaces.

Marriott Rewards & Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) has migrated to a single platform on August 18. Members should have received a new nine-digit reward number (password remains the same). If you did not receive a new number, please contact Marriott Rewards.

Before considering a Marriott property as a viable lodging option, it is important to keep in mind that Marriott does not actively participate as a FedRooms hotelier, so travelers would not receive the benefits of using FedRooms program lodging. One very important benefit is FedRooms offers a very generous cancelation policy, which allows cancelation up to 4 p.m. on the day of arrival.

Also, a Marriott property might offer a discount that appears to be the General Services Administration (GSA) established lodging per diem rate, but actually is not. To attract government travelers, Marriott properties might offer “Government Rates” that are discounts; however, the discount might not exactly match the GSA-established government per diem lodging rates. This especially occurs in areas where there is a large amount of government travel business.

 

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