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Meals and How They Affect a Traveler’s Per Diem (For Distribution to AOs)

According to the Joint Travel Regulations (JTR), there are two categories of meals that affect a traveler’s per diem: “available” meals and “provided” meals.  Since those probably aren’t terms that you throw around on a regular basis, we’re happy to give you some simple definitions:

-  Available meal: The traveler is required to eat at a Government dining facility, where the meal is available at a discounted price.  This only applies to uniformed service members and not to civilian employees.

-  Provided meal: The Government purchased the meal and provided it to the traveler.  Some common examples include:

  • Meals offered at a conference (seminar, event, etc.) if the Government paid a registration fee for the traveler to attend said conference, and said meals were included in the registration fee.
  • The traveler selected a more-expensive lodging rate that included a meal (e.g., the standard room rate is $100, but the traveler selected the “Bed & Breakfast Rate” for $110 instead).

However, the JTR also talks about non-deductible meals (Translation: a meal that won’t reduce the traveler’s per diem allowance).  Some examples of non-deductible meals are:

-  Meals included in the standard lodging rate (i.e., the traveler’s room rate is the same regardless of whether or not a free meal is provided), which are pretty common at hotels that offer “free breakfast” and “manager’s evening meal.”

-  Meals that would have been considered deductible, but the traveler could not eat them for mission, medical, or religious reasons.

  • Note: If you encounter this situation, the JTR says that you can ask for documentation from a professional authority (e.g., a note from a doctor).

-  In-flight meals or snacks.

-  Meals during a travel day.

So… to bring it back around to you, noble AO, here’s how you check for meals on a DTS voucher:

-  Look for the Per Diem Entitlements section on the Preview Trip Screen.

-  Select the View link to get to the Per Diem Entitlements screen.

-  On any days where a meal was available/provided, look for:

  • The word MEAL under the Code column; and/or
  • An X under the B (for breakfast), L (for lunch), or D (for dinner) columns.

Based on your knowledge of the trip, check for times when the traveler had a meal available/provided, but they didn’t mark it in DTS.  If the traveler didn’t deduct a meal correctly, return the voucher and have them fix it.  Otherwise, they’ll be overpaid.

ASIDE: Since we’re firm believers that you should coach your travelers, you can always send them this article, which will give them step-by-step instructions on how to claim their available and provided meals in DTS.

You may also encounter times when the traveler incorrectly marked a meal that was non-deductible (i.e., a meal that shouldn’t have reduced their per diem).  If that happens, return the voucher and have them correct it.  Otherwise, they’ll be underpaid.

So… now you know what to look for in the meals department.  For more information on the regulations behind meals, check out the JTR or take our Programs and Policies - TDY Travel Policies 101 web-based training module in the Travel Explorer.

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