In a victory for employees, we are pleased to announce that the agency agreed to have the new transit benefit caps applied retroactively to January 1, 2016, for those employees whose commuting costs have exceeded $130 per month. This was not GAO’s initial plan. It is critical for us that the process by which employees apply for and receive these retroactive payments be as painless as possible. The agency plans to implement a process to provide these retroactive payments to non-bargaining unit employees that will require them to submit transit receipts and usage history as part of an application for reimbursement (Form 581R).
We are working with management to establish a process that makes sense for the rest of us, and to do it as soon as possible. We have been informed by GAO officials that, for Metro commuters who use a SmarTrip card, the usage history is readily available by accessing the online account associated with the card that is registered to receive your transit benefits each month. However, we know that some commuters who have commuting costs above the cap of $130 use personal SmarTrip cards once the $130 is used. If a personal SmarTrip card is registered, it is possible to access the usage history of that card, including any usage that occurred before the card was registered. The SmarTrip online usage history can show the dates of commuting, and the metro stations entered and exited on those dates.
The various commuter systems other than Metro have different ways of producing documentation, or receipts, and employees may have had different practices for covering transit costs above the prior $130 transit benefit cap.
We would like to hear from you about what process for disbursing retroactive payments for the increased transit benefit would work for you. Would you be able to obtain records or receipts of your commuting expenses that were above the $130 cap going back to the beginning of 2016? How easy or difficult would this process be?
As always, we greatly value your thoughts, questions, and concerns on these matters. Please direct any messages to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re pleased that employees will soon have greater commuting purchasing power, and that this benefit will be retroactive to January 1, 2016. We hope to iron out the rest of the logistics with the agency soon so that the process is as stress free as possible for you. We look forward to your input.