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Enhancing the Health of Veterans through Research and Education

Travel Policy

Travel Policy

PVARF funds may be used to support domestic or foreign travel expenses to bona fide scientific meetings or for other research and/or educational conferences, seminars, etc. that are directly related to conducting research or educational activities. Travel charged to a research account must be limited to purposes that relate to that project account’s research activity.

Travel for educational activities not related to research must support the training and education mission of the VA.

GUIDELINES AND REQUIREMENTS FOR PVARF SUPPORT FOR TRAVEL

Non VA Employees- No prior authorization is needed from PVARF for domestic travel that is obviously linked to an investigator’s research or educational program (e.g., a national meeting or scientific conference). If the link is not readily apparent, the traveler will need to obtain approval prior to the trip by submitting a Travel Reimbursement form. This form should be submitted to the Executive Director and accompanied by documentation that provides dates, location and purpose of trip. Obtaining prior approval will help to ensure that the traveler will be able to receive reimbursement for the costs of the trip.

VA Employees- All travel by VA employees paid for by the PVARF must be pre-approved in accordance with the appropriate VAPORHCS policies. If you are a VA employee seeking reimbursement from PVARF for travel related to your research or education programs, prior approval is required using the VA Form 0893. As a government employee going on domestic or foreign travel, you are responsible for complying with the requirements of your employer. The VA imposes special requirements for foreign travel for VA-paid employees.  VA-paid employees are responsible for complying with these requirements.

Foreign Travel -All travel that is outside of the United States requires prior approval from the PVARF Executive Director.

Cash Advances

Cash advances will be granted in very rare instances based on need, generally to cover the ME&I (Meals and Incidentals) per diem. If you need to request an advance, please contact the Executive Director.

Transportation

Reimbursement for travel costs will be based on the most reasonable method of travel to the location, generally coach airfare. If the traveler chooses to take an indirect route, interrupt the business travel or utilize a mode of travel that requires additional accommodations en route, any resulting expense will be borne by the traveler.

Airline Reservations- If you would like the Foundation to make the airline reservations directly, please complete a Request for Prepaid Travel Form (with required signatures), attach the conference flyer/agenda, the preferred itinerary, and contact the Accounts Payable specialist to schedule a time to book your airline reservations. Traveler must be present to book airline ticket.

NOTE: Persons traveling on Foundation funds may not use government rate airfares. All Foundation paid airfare will be purchased at the basic coach rate. If you make changes to your ticket and there is a fee associated with this change, you and/or your project will be charged for the change(s). Generally, the cost of air travel is reduced with a Saturday overnight stay. If you can document that the cost for the hotel/per diem for the extra day is equal to or less than the difference in air travel with the Saturday overnight stay, you may be approved to take advantage of this option.

Registration

Registrations can be pre-paid through PVARF directly to the meeting organizer. For the Foundation to pay your registration fees directly, complete a Request for Prepaid Travel, attach the conference flyer/agenda and include a completed registration form. Submit the entire travel packet at least two (2) weeks prior to any registration deadline to the Accounts Payable Specialist.

Alternatively, the registration cost will be reimbursed after the meeting along with other travel expenses.

Per Diem

A traveler may elect to accept per diem reimbursement for Meals and Incidental Expenses (M&IE) without a requirement for receipts.  The per diem rate for domestic travel will be established at the current U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) per diem rate for the destination city.  The per diem rate for foreign travel will be that set by the U.S. State Department.  Per diem for the first and last day of the trip is reimbursed at 75% of the M&IE rate applicable for the city visited. 

It is the traveler's responsibility to deduct partial per diem if participating in meals provided by a conference.  See the Meals and Incidental Expense breakdown at the GSA website http://www.gsa.gov/mie.

Alternatively, a traveler may elect to claim actual expense reimbursement.  Receipts are required for such claims.  In determining reimbursement for these claims, a test of reasonableness will be applied. 

Hotel/Accommodation Charges

Travelers will be reimbursed for reasonable standard hotel room costs up to 150% of the Federal government rate or up to a maximum of $300 per night. Rates can be located at http://www.gsa.gov/. The original itemized hotel bill must be submitted with the reimbursement request. 

Ground Transportation

Ground transportation reimbursement is generally limited to travel to and from the departure city airport/train station; from airport/train station to hotel; and from hotel to airport/train station. Reimbursement for ground transportation cannot exceed $25 per each leg of trip without a receipt, i.e. airport to hotel, taxi from home to airport. Once the traveler has arrived at the hotel, taxis will not ordinarily be reimbursed; exceptions will be reviewed on an individual case basis. Excessive taxi costs will not be reimbursed if the traveler elected to forego reasonable less expensive transportation.

Baggage

Baggage includes both the traveler’s personal property and any VA or PVARF property.  Excess baggage charges may be allowed if justified by an explanation of the circumstances and provision of an original receipt for such charges.

Rental Cars

Rental cars may be used only when such rental is justified as being more advantageous to PVARF than the use of other means of transportation.  Midsize or smaller cars should be rented.  When renting a car the traveler should elect to take insurance offered by the rental car company.  (If the traveler foregoes such insurance any liability will accrue to the traveler.)  Original receipts for gasoline purchased for use in rental cars must be included if that is claimed as reimbursement. Rental cars are an exception and requires prior approval from the PVARF Executive Director.

Phone/Internet Charges

Business related long-distance telephone calls are permitted but should be kept to a minimum. Personal long distance telephone calls are usually limited to one per day and should be reasonable.

Charges for internet connections for purposes of reading e-mail are also permitted and will be reimbursed up to $20.00 per day.  

Split Travel Costs

If travel costs are to be divided among the PVARF and another organization (such as the VAMC or OHSU) prior approval must be obtained from the Executive Director. Submit a copy of the other organization’s travel report and a completed Split Travel Form to the Executive Director.

Procedure for Reimbursement

Following return from travel ALL travelers must complete and submit a Travel Reimbursement form. Travel expenses which are appropriately documented (original receipts, boarding passes) will be reimbursed. Original itemized invoices or receipts documenting proof of payment are required for reimbursement of the following:

  • Transportation to and from the destination; if travel was prepaid by PVARF attach copy of Prepaid travel form.

  • Lodging accommodations; 

  • Meals if claiming actual reimbursement instead of Federal Per Diem rate;

  • Rental cars, including associated gasoline purchases;

  • Parking charges; Economy Lot

  • Ground transportation costs in excess of $25 per leg.

If there are insufficient funds in the project account to cover the reimbursement, you will be reimbursed up to the amount of available funds.

The Travel Reimbursement form must be completed and approvals obtained before your request for reimbursement will be processed. Incomplete forms will be returned to the traveler for completion, thereby delaying reimbursement. Claims for travel reimbursement should be submitted within 10 days of completion of travel.  The claim must be submitted using the Travel Reimbursement Request form and be accompanied by required documentation, including original receipts and justification as discussed elsewhere in this policy and copies of any expenses prepaid by the foundation.  IRS regulations require that travelers adequately account for expenses within 60 days after they were incurred. Therefore, it is critical that requests for travel reimbursement are submitted as quickly as possible. 

    • Submit the completed Travel Reimbursement Request Form with the original receipts as described above and documentation of the conference, meeting, or seminar – This may be in the form of a copy of a cover page of a brochure, a flyer, or print out of a web page showing the name, dates and location of the conference. Individual expenses should then be entered for all items of expenditure on each day of the trip. There will be at least one column for each day of the trip. In the section "Purpose of Travel" the relationship to the research project being supported by the PVARF account. Please make sure a brochure/agenda is attached.

    • The federal per diem rate per day should be included on the form. There is a link to the Federal per diem on the reimbursement form. Travel days will be paid at 75%. Appendix D is an example of a correctly completed Travel Authorization Reimbursement form.

    • If your transportation and/or registration were prepaid by the foundation please attach a copy of your approved prepaid Request for Prepaid Travel.

    • Submit all documentation and approved Travel Reimbursement form to the Accounts Payable specialist within 10 days of your return.

Reimbursable travel expenses DO NOT include expenses incurred for travel costs of spouse (unless they traveling for recruitment purposes), dependents, or anyone other than the traveler.

Summary:

Personal car mileage

Reimbursed at federal mileage reimbursement rate. Limited to travel between the home or place of business and the airport and return.

Airline travel

Original airline ticket receipt is required. First class travel is not permitted.

Bus, rail

Actual expense, receipts required if over $25 per leg of trip.

Taxi, bridge or ferry

Actual expense, receipts required if over $25 per leg of trip.

Car rental

Allowable only as an exception. Include a justification of why car rental was used instead of public transportation. Actual expense, receipts required.

Parking

Actual expense, original receipts required, $10.00 per day Maximum

Registration

Actual expense, original receipts or copy of registration form required.

Hotel

 Hotel costs up to 150% of the Federal rate or $300.00

Per Diem -


Meals Provided

Federal Per Diem rate. Travel days paid at 75%


Partial per diem- Breakdown per meal use http://www.gsa.gov/mie.

 

Internet Connection fees

Internet costs will be reimbursed up to $20.00 per day.

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Personal Time with Business Travel

Occasionally an employee may take a trip that includes both personal and business travel or the trip may originate from another location because of personal reasons.  Foundation funds cannot be used to reimburse personal expenses.  When a traveler decides to combine personal travel with business travel, regardless of the type of transportation, the amount reimbursed will be the costs directly related to the point(s) of business.

A combination trip does benefit the traveler to some extent, therefore, travelers should exercise special care not to seek reimbursement for expenses that could be construed as personal.

When combined personal and business occurs, the following rules apply:

Air Travel

When this occurs, the following rules apply:

  1. If the stay at a business location is extended either prior to or after (no more than 2-3 days) the business mission, the entire ticket may be reimbursed. 

  2. If any other destination (other than normal connecting airports) is included on the ticket that does not pertain to the business purpose, the amount reimbursed will be the fare directly related to the point(s) of business based on the fare class used.

The traveler must provide a written quote.  See Cost Comparison Quotes.

 

Parking expense at the airport and hotels must be reduced for personal day expenses.

Lodging:  

Lodging expense will be reimbursed based on the location of travel, upon presentation of an original receipt from a commercial lodging establishment. The receipt should show dates of occupancy and the name and address of the place of lodging.

Individual travelers are limited to reimbursement of the single room rate. If a family member or other non-business related person stays in the room with the traveler, it is the traveler's responsibilities to have the hotel indicate the single room rate on the receipt at the time of check-out.

Per Diem

Per Diem will not be reimbursed for any days in which an employee is in vacation status. One day per diem is allowed for each travel day to and from the business destination (Reimbursed at 75% of the rate).

Parking and Taxi:

Parking expense at the airport and hotels must be reduced for personal day expenses.

Taxi and shuttle expenses during personal days are not reimbursable.

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Cost Comparison Quotes

WHAT DOCUMENTATION CAN BE USED AS A QUOTE/COST COMPARISON? 

  1. Printout from an online vendor, i.e., Expedia or Orbitz - obtained prior to the trip

    1. Acceptable cost comparison printouts should be the search results to the business
      destination for dates and times needed to complete the business mission.
      Some websites may show the search results on the left side of the page.
      In this case, please print the all the pages to be sure the entire search range is provided.

A cost comparison is a comparison of all available flights and airlines.

  1. Copy of a co-worker's airfare itinerary/receipt that attended the same business event and traveled
    to business destination and returned with no personal or other travel destinations involved.
  2. A written statement from a travel agency obtained prior to the trip

TO QUALIFY AS COMPARISON 'PRIOR' TO TRAVEL

  • Comparison must show the lowest available commercial coach airfare for one individual traveling to and from  the business destination for the days of business only. 
    Remember only print out the first page of the search results.
    See 1a under 'What Documentation can be Used as a Quote/Cost Comparison?'.
  • Comparisons should not be limited to only one airline, such as preferred carrier or reward program carrier.
  • Comparisons are only accurate if obtained ‘prior’ to travel.
    • Comparison should be obtained at the same time the tickets are purchased.
  • One-Way tickets should not be used as a cost comparison.

WHEN IS A COST COMPARISON REQUIRED?

Any cost comparisons should be made 'prior' to the trip and for the same dates as the actual business trip.

1.  Driving VS Flying:

The mileage reimbursement cannot exceed the best available airfare prior to travel.  The comparison must show the lowest available commercial coach airfare for one individual traveling to and from the business destination for the days of business.  To qualify for reimbursement when driving longer distances (Rule of Thumb: Greater than 800 miles roundtrip) normally accomplished by flying, the expense under the "Drive Vs Fly" rule must be the lesser of the actual mileage expense or total of: 

  • Lowest available coach airfare prior to travel for dates of business only 
  • Roundtrip mileage to airport
  • Airport parking (contracted rate of $10.00 per day)
  • Shuttle expense to/from airport to business location

2.  When leaving from a location other than Portland (official station):

Travel expense reimbursement is limited to the lesser of expenses incurred from the departure point or from the "official station". 

If the traveler is departing from some place other than Portland, a comparison/quote obtained prior to travel must be attached to the Travel Reimbursement Request Form, indicating expenses are the lesser of the two.

When a traveler returns from a location other than the business location, a comparison must be provided.

3.  Discounted Fare Due to Additional Overnight Stay (generally a Saturday Night):

Discount air travel arrangements that require additional night(s) lodging and/or per diem are reimbursable under the following conditions:

  • Additional lodging and per diem must not exceed regular economy/coach fare at the time the trip is taken.
  • The comparison should include a quote for coach fare (prior to travel) without the additional stay, amount of discounted fare, additional lodging, per diem, rental car days, airport parking, and any other expenses incurred on behalf of the extra day(s) stay.
  • The total of the discounted fare, days of additional lodging, per diem, rental car, airport parking, and any other expenses incurred because of additional stay should be less than quote without additional stay.

4.  When Combining Personal and Business Travel:  

Occasionally an employee may take a trip that includes both personal and business travel.   When this occurs, the following rules apply.

  • If the stay at a business location is extended (no more than 2-3 days) either prior to or after the business mission, the entire ticket may be reimbursed.  Any extension longer than 2-3 days (prior to or after end of business) requires a cost comparison for the direct route to and from the business location for the days of business.  Additional expenses, i.e., parking, lodging, per diem, etc., will not be reimbursed for personal days added.  
  • If any other destinations (other than normal connecting airports) not pertaining to the business purpose are included on the ticket, the amount reimbursed will be the fare directly related to the point(s) of business based on the fare class used.  The traveler must provide a cost comparison for the direct route to and from the business location for the days of business.  This must be obtained 'PRIOR' to travel, and attached to the Travel Expense Reimbursement Request.

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