SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
A member of the Sheppard AFB finance office recently won a $10,000 award for discovering a glitch in the Air Force's travel voucher process.
Kimberly Hervey, a travel pay clerk for the 82nd Comptroller Squadron, with the help of the IDEA office, suggested that Sheppard's Finance office regularly contact Bank of America to check the balances of their card holders - paying particular attention to airline ticket refunds. The idea stemmed from a discrepancy in the travel voucher of a member who returned from a TDY.
"When you're flying from, say, Wichita Falls to (Dallas-Fort Worth) and for whatever reason the flight is cancelled, and you drive to DFW instead, you still have an airline ticket for a flight that never happened," Mrs. Hervey said.
Cancelled flights are sometimes refunded by the airline directly back to a customer's GTC. Mrs. Hervey felt the problem might be more widespread than the one incident.
"Finance doesn't know about it, the commercial travel office doesn't know about it, and if the customer doesn't check their statements regularly, they won't know about it," she said.
Meanwhile, when the customer returns from their TDY and files their voucher, they request reimbursement for the entire ticket price - leading to an overpayment on the voucher.
Mrs. Hervey contacted Bank of America requesting a list of all Sheppard GTC holders who'd received a credit to their accounts from March 2006 to April 2007. The amount came to $7,343.33.
As a new employee at the time, she had no idea how to rectify this, but she wanted Sheppard to make credit list requests the rule rather than the exception.
That's when Mrs. Hervey turned to the IDEA office. With their assistance, she drafted a proposal for Air Education and Training Command asking that regular credit list requests and deductions from correlating travel vouchers become a new procedure at Sheppard.
AETC responded by having all its other bases request a one-month refund list. The total lost on credit refunds came to $21,066 - and that was without Sheppard's numbers.
Mrs. Hervey estimated in her IDEA proposal that the annual loss for AETC bases would amount to more than $250,000.
She said she hopes the money saved will go back to the TDY programs of each base, especially as some bases have difficulty affording to send their people TDY.
"This money could fund someone else's TDY," she said. "Now, other people who wanted or needed additional training can get it."
With the $10,000 awarded by the IDEA program, Mrs. Hervey bought a catered lunch for her entire squadron.
"It didn't use up the whole $10,000, but it wasn't cheap," she said. She used the rest for other bills.
More than anything, Mrs. Hervey said she wants to stress that this new procedure does not rip the customer off - although that's how it may seem when they suddenly learn they owe money back from their travel voucher payout.
"People need to understand they got paid back more than they spent," she said.
She went on to suggest that people who want to avoid the deduction process entirely should hold off on claiming their ticket. If a credit refund shows up on their statement, they should notify the Finance office.
"If your travel route is altered, call us and let us know," she said. "If you see a refund on your statement, deduct it from your voucher. No one wants to owe money back."
Mrs. Hervey stressed that a customer's best chance of not becoming a victim of this glitch is by checking their GTC statements regularly.
The IDEA program is an incentive system for recognizing ideas that streamline processes or improve and increase productivity and efficiency in the Air Force. The submitter can get awarded from $200 up to $10,000 for approved ideas.
People interested in submitting their own ideas should contact the IDEA office, located in Bldg. 402, Room 201, at 676-4332, or access the link, https://ipds.csd.disa.mil
, available on Sheppard's home page.