Chapter 7: Travel & Transportation Support

TRAVEL & TRANSPORTATION SUPPORT

 
The AmeriCorps VISTA program provides support for travel directly related to the service of AmeriCorps VISTA candidates and members (excluding daily commuting). This travel, referred to as “official travel,” must be approved in advance by the AmeriCorps VISTA program and includes:
  • Travel to and from CNCS-sponsored training events and conferences (e.g., an in-person Pre-Service Orientation)
  • Travel to and from the service site, prior to and after service, for members and leaders relocating more than 50 miles from their homes
  • Emergency travel (see Chapter 9: Leave Benefits – Emergency Leave)
The AmeriCorps VISTA program covers expenses for official travel within the continental United States, as well as for official travel by those who serve in or whose home of record is in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands. All AmeriCorps VISTA members authorized by CNCS to travel will be reimbursed for travel expenses as described in this chapter. All travel payments are subject to collection to offset debts owed to the federal government (see Chapter 5).
 
 

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TRAVEL TO TRAINING

 
The AmeriCorps VISTA program arranges and pays for cost-effective means for travel to an in-person Pre-Service Orientation, Supervisor Orientation, and Leaders Orientation for all authorized travelers – most candidates, members, and supervisors.

REQUESTING APPROVAL FOR TRAVEL TO TRAINING

 
Thumbnail for [node:title][user:name][comment:title] For travel to and from an in-person Pre-Service Orientation (PSO), AmeriCorps VISTA candidates indicate their preferred departure point and their preferred mode of travel on their “Travel to Training” Travel Request Profile. The “Travel to Training” Travel Request Profile is located on your my.americorps.gov homepage under the tab “My Travel Request Profile”. If you are traveling to PSO and also relocating to serve, please review the following section on Relocation Travel. See Chapter 4 for more information on PSO. 
 
The VISTA Training Unit will review your travel request, approve or reject it, and if necessary, notify you of alternate travel options that can be approved. Once your travel is approved, the VISTA program will purchase your air, rail, or bus tickets, unless you indicate otherwise. 
 
AmeriCorps VISTA candidates enrolled in a Virtual Member Orientation (VMO) need not complete a Travel-to-Training Travel Request Profile.

PREFERRED MODES OF TRAVEL

 
For travel to and from in-person PSO, you may be approved to travel by air, rail, bus, or automobile. Based on the schedules and fares of commercial carriers, the VISTA program determines whether a person's preferred mode of travel and preferred point of departure are most appropriate. Travel from small, regional airports is often cost prohibitive; therefore, the VISTA program urges you to consider alternative, cost-effective modes of travel and larger, hub airports when indicating your travel preferences.
 
 

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RELOCATION TRAVEL

 
VISTA candidates who are relocating more than 50 miles from their home of record to their service site to serve may be entitled to a Relocation Travel Allowance.

RELOCATION TRAVEL ALLOWANCE

 
VISTA candidates approved to relocate to serve are eligible for a Relocation Travel Allowance, which is intended to offset the cost of relocating to serve and the shipment of personal effects between the home of record and the service site. The rate, established by the VISTA program, is based on the mileage between the home of record and the site, not to exceed $1,000.

REQUESTING APPROVAL FOR RELOCATION TRAVEL

 
VISTA candidates who are relocating more than 50 miles from their home of record to their service site indicate the points of travel and the mode of travel on the Relocation Travel Request Profile, located on your my.americorps.gov homepage. The VISTA Member Support Unit reviews all relocation travel requests. 
 
If relocation is approved by the VISTA Member Support Unit, the candidate is then eligible for a relocation travel allowance.
 
VISTA candidates must not make relocation travel arrangements without receiving written approval from the VISTA Member Support Unit. Candidates who relocate without approval will receive reimbursement, if at all, only up to the amount the VISTA policy permits.

MODES OF TRAVEL FOR RELOCATION

 
Unlike travel related to training where the VISTA program arranges and purchases travel on your behalf, if you are relocating to serve, you arrange your own relocation travel. The VISTA Member Support Unit informs you of the reimbursement amount. Then, you decide how you will travel to your service site.

RELOCATION TRAVEL ROUTING

 
Candidates indicate their preference to relocate prior, on their way to, or after PSO on a “Training and Relocation Travel” Travel Request Profile. The VMSU, in direct communication with the candidate, approves the final routing.

TRAVEL TO PRE-SERVICE ORIENTATION FOR THOSE WHO RELOCATE

 
The VISTA program arranges travel to an in person Pre-Service Orientation for everyone except those approved to relocate on the way to PSO (referred to as “relocate through”).  In these cases, you are responsible for arranging your own travel to PSO, in addition to your relocation travel. 
 
You may request to travel to PSO from either your home of record or site. Your approved departure point is determined by the VMSU. See the "Travel to Training" section above for more information.
 
 

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REQUESTING REIMBURSEMENT FOR TRAVEL

 
To claim reimbursement for travel-related expenses, you must complete and submit a Travel Reimbursement Voucher.  The voucher is available at an in-person PSO or posted to your my.americorps.gov homepage if you participate in a virtual PSO.
 
Your travel must be approved in advance by the VISTA program in order to receive reimbursement.
 
In order to receive reimbursement for travel-related purchases, you must pay for the purchases with actual money (i.e., U.S. Dollars). You cannot be reimbursed any amount for which you use award points or frequent flier miles to pay for travel-related purchases.
 
Payment is made through electronic deposit to your bank account identified in my.americorps.gov. Reimbursement may take up to eight weeks due to administrative processing.

TRAVEL REIMBURSEMENT AT END OF SERVICE

 
VISTA candidates approved to relocate to serve at the beginning of service are eligible to receive a Relocation Travel Allowance at the close of service. The allowance is intended to offset the cost of returning home and shipment of personal effects between the service site and approved home of record. The rate, established by the VISTA program, is based on the mileage between the site and the approved home of record, not to exceed $1,000.00.
 
Thumbnail for [node:title][user:name][comment:title] The approved home of record is the location approved at the start of service and may not be redefined without written authorization of the Director of the VISTA Member Support Unit. Home of record may not be altered after the tenth (10th) month of service.
 
You must submit a Travel Reimbursement Voucher form to collect the close of service Relocation Travel Allowance. Your reimbursement voucher will be made available to you via your member homepage in my.americorps.gov no later than fifteen days prior to the end of your service term. Payment will be deposited into your bank account through direct deposit. This may take up to eight weeks due to administrative processing. (Refer to Chapter 12, Close of Service Travel Assistance, for more information about end-of-service travel payment.)

Additional Year of Service

 
If you serve an additional year at the same project site and have a break in service, you will not be reimbursed for travel to your home of record until the end of your final year of service. The VISTA program cannot reimburse travel home between service years. Please see the sections "Breaks in Service" and "Additional AmeriCorps VISTA Service" in Chapter 12 for more details.
 
 

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SERVICE-RELATED TRANSPORTATION

 
For an AmeriCorps VISTA member to perform his or her project assignment effectively, transportation may be essential. The sponsoring organization is responsible for determining the service-related transportation needs of members. These needs are based on activities identified in your VISTA Assignment Description (VAD) and do not include daily commute or other non-service trips. 

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION FOR SERVICE-RELATED TRAVEL

 
The sponsor reimburses the VISTA for authorized, service-related public transportation expenses.

VEHICLES OWNED OR LEASED BY SPONSORING ORGANIZATIONS FOR SERVICE-RELATED TRAVEL

 
Thumbnail for [node:title][user:name][comment:title] When public transportation is not available or adequate, the sponsoring organization is responsible for providing or supporting vehicles used by members in the performance of their assignments. Vehicles owned by or leased to a sponsoring organization may be authorized for service-related transportation if necessary to carry out your project assignment. You are responsible for complying with the sponsoring organization's rules, in addition to complying with all applicable VISTA requirements, when you operate a sponsor's vehicle.
 
While performing your assigned duties you may not transport passengers other than those determined by the supervisory authority to be directly related to and within the scope of your official responsibilities. There will be a presumption that you are not in the performance of official responsibilities when transporting unauthorized persons.
 
In the event it is determined that you were performing official activities while transporting unauthorized passengers, the passengers will not be covered by the government for personal injury, and you may be personally liable for injury to the passengers and subject to appropriate administrative action.

PRIVATELY OWNED VEHICLES FOR SERVICE-RELATED TRAVEL

 
If a privately owned vehicle is necessary to carry out your assigned duties, the sponsoring organization should reimburse members for authorized, service-related mileage at the rate established by the sponsoring organization's reimbursement policy.

LICENSING AND INSURANCE

 
Sponsoring organizations and VISTA members are responsible for complying with all laws concerning vehicle registration, operator licensing, and insurance on any vehicles used officially or unofficially by members in the state and locality where they serve and reside. You are covered by the Federal Tort Claims Act (see Chapter 15) for third-party liability (e.g., damage or injury to others only while in the performance of official duties) and by the Federal Employees' Compensation Act (see Chapter 15) for personal injury. CNCS is not responsible, however, for any damage to your own vehicle; thus, it is essential that you maintain adequate insurance on your own vehicle.

ACCIDENTS WHILE DRIVING A VEHICLE

 
If an accident occurs while you are driving a vehicle within the scope of your AmeriCorps VISTA duties and other people sustain injuries or property damages because of the accident in which you were the driver, the exclusive remedy for those persons is under the Federal Tort Claims Act. If you are injured, you may be eligible to receive benefits to cover medical expenses under the Federal Employees' Compensation Act, also known as the Federal Worker's Compensation Act (see Chapter 8 for claims procedures). CNCS is not responsible, however, for any damage to your own vehicle. (See Chapter 15 for more information about the Federal Tort Claims Act and the Federal Employees' Compensation Act.)
 
If an accident occurs, you must immediately summon the local police, comply with local requirements, and within two days of the accident make sure the following actions are taken:
In all instances where state laws require an official police report based on the extent of damages, a copy of such report must be included along with the other forms mentioned previously. In all cases involving damage to property (regardless of how minor), an official police report, if available, must be included and attached to the Form SF-91. In any accident in which personal injury has occurred, you must notify your CNCS State Office within 24 hours.  CNCS State office contact information is available here: https://www.nationalservice.gov/about/contact-us/state-offices
 
Thumbnail for [node:title][user:name][comment:title] An original and one copy of all reports noted above, as well as the police report if appropriate, must be submitted to the CNCS State Office who will forward the original report(s) to CNCS's Office of General Counsel. The member, sponsoring organization, and CNCS State Office should retain copies of all submitted forms for their records.
 
All members and sponsoring organizations are prohibited from making any representations concerning the ultimate liability of the federal government on a particular claim to other parties. CNCS's Office of General Counsel and, where applicable, the Department of Justice, will make the final determination on whether an accident occurred within the scope of your project-related activities and the extent of the government's liability. (Travel to and from your home of record to the project site is not covered under the Federal Employees' Compensation Act.)
 
Members and sponsoring organizations are expected to cooperate fully with CNCS's Office of General Counsel in obtaining necessary evidence and materials, and with the Department of Justice or U.S. Attorney in the event legal action is taken in connection with the accident. If requested, sponsoring organizations, supervisors, and members are authorized to provide third parties with copies of Form SF-95, Claim for Damage, Injury, or Death (available here: https://www.nationalservice.gov/documents/americorps-vista/2013/claim-damage-injury-or-death-sf-95) and to advise that the claim must be submitted to the CNCS State Office that has authority over the member.
 
If a civil action is brought in a local court against you or the sponsoring organization as a result of an accident, or if you are asked or ordered to testify or be deposed, you must immediately notify the CNCS State Office, which will notify the Office of General Counsel. 
 
CNCS is not responsible for any indemnification or contribution to the sponsoring organization for any damages sustained by the sponsoring organization.
 
 

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TRAVEL FORMS AT A GLANCE*

 
Form
Use
Required Approvals
Notes

"Travel to Training" Travel Request Profile – Available in my.americorps.gov

Required for all VISTA candidates who attend an in-person PSO. Documents the points and modes of travel for PSO and other special needs.

VISTA Training Unit

 

"Training and Relocation Travel" Travel Request Profile – Available in my.americorps.gov

Required for VISTA candidates who relocate more than 50 miles from their home of record to serve and will be attending an in-person Pre-Service Orientation prior to starting service. Documents the preferred dates, route, and mode(s) of travel.

VISTA Member Support Unit – you must receive written approval arranging relocation travel

 

“Relocation Travel” Travel Request Profile – Available in my.americorps.govRequired for VISTA candidates who relocate more than 50 miles from their home of record to serve, and are not attending an in-person PSO. Documents the preferred dates and mode(s) of travel.VISTA Member Support Unit – you must receive written approval prior to arranging relocation travelThe Relocation Travel Request Profile is also used to inform end-of-service travel benefits; changes to your home of record must be submitted to the VMSU Director for approval up until the tenth month of service.
“Ending Service” Travel Request Profile – Available in my.americorps.govCreated by the VMSU on behalf of VISTA members who relocated to serve at the beginning of service. Calculated based on mileage from service site to home of record (as established at the beginning of service)VISTA Member Support UnitRequest to change home of record must be submitted to the VMSU Director for approval prior to the end of the member’s tenth month of service.
Use of Vehicles or Public Transportation Form (V-81) – Available in my.americorps.gov

Required for VISTA members involved in an accident while operating a vehicle for service-related purposes.

Sponsor and CNCS State Office – approval process is automated
Form V-81 is not used for:
  • Commuting purposes
  • Personal travel
  • Travel to PSO
  • Relocation travel
  • General operation of a vehicle for service-related purposes (i.e., when no accident occurs)
* Check with your sponsoring organization for deadlines.

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