Reaping Savings from the SAVE Award Easier Said Than Done

A Washington Metro train makes its way toward Union Station. A Washington Metro train makes its way toward Union Station. Susan Walsh/AP File Photo

The Obama administration is hoping to save $3 million annually by encouraging more eligible federal employees to take advantage of the senior citizen discount on public transit benefits, but implementation of the voluntary change remains a work in progress.

Last December the White House announced that the winner of the 2012 Securing Americans Value and Efficiency (SAVE) Award was Fred Winter, a program officer for the Education Department’s Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education.

Winter had noticed that when he turned 65 he was able to cut his Washington Metro fare in half for the year before eligibility for Social Security kicks in at age 66. “Federal workers who receive transit benefits, and who are waiting until they turn 66 to retire, have at least a year during which they could take advantage of the senior discounts, save the government money in their transit subsidies, and still have no loss in their effective benefits,” Winter explained.

In a recent issue of the Education Department’s staff newsletter Inside ED, he penned an essay describing his family’s Feb. 20 visit to meet President Obama in the Oval Office as a reward for having submitted the idea. And he added the detail that both he and Office of Management and Budget officials had independently calculated that the move could save $3 million annually.

One challenge, however, is that claiming the benefit is voluntary, not mandatory, and another is getting the word out. Officials with Washington Area Metro, which could lose out on the deal, were not even aware of the change, a spokesman told Government Executive.

The lead player for encouraging senior-age employees is the Transportation Department, which “manages the distribution of transit benefits for more than 100 federal agencies, though not the entire federal government, through the Transportation Services (TRANServe) program,” according to a statement. “Those agencies set their own benefit policies, but look to DoT for comprehensive information and best practices.”

On March 25, Transportation released a memo considered “an initial step toward implementation” of Winter’s SAVE award idea. It applied to “all DoT employees, and is available for use by other agencies that use TRANServe.”

On April 8, OMB sent all chief financial officers an alert, reminding them that they have a responsibility to implement SAVE Award proposals “to the extent practicable and relevant to the agency….Agencies should make certain that their certification process captures reduced senior rates for employees who are eligible,” it added, asking also for quarterly reports on progress.

At the Education Department, Winter said, there was a “general email to staff reminding them that this is a possibility. It was not presented as a mandate, but a means of potential savings.”

"Agencies are actively working to implement SAVE Award ideas included in the president’s budget proposals," an OMB spokesman said. "It is also important to note that agencies do not uniformly renew their transit contracts on the same date. Therefore, some agencies renewed their transit benefits for this year prior to announcement of the 2012 SAVE Award winner," making it difficult to gauge progress to date.

Dan Stessel, spokesman for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, told Government Executive that “No one here has heard of this.” But assuming that the $3 million figure applies nationwide, the effect in Washington “would be a faction of that, a relatively small number,” he said. “Some people are already taking advantage of the senior fare, which is split among all transit properties, and we’re only talking one year for all seniors.”

Hence, Stessel said, “We don’t believe it will have a significant financial effect” on Metro. “ Seniors are able to take advantage of discounted fares at 65, and as long as someone is eligible, they’re welcome to take advantage of it.”

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.