Volunteer Program - Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is the current hourly volunteer rate ($/hr)?
A. FY 2023 - $31.80
Q. Where should I enter Volunteer data in CWBI-OPS?
A. Starting in FY 23, all volunteer data will be captured in the Partnerships and Volunteers submodule of NRM. Volunteer data will be broken down into two categories: Non-Partnership volunteers and Partnership volunteers. Non-Partnership volunteers are those who perform volunteer service who are NOT affiliated with any organization. Ex. Camp hosts, visitor center hosts, an individual or family volunteering on their own. Anyone volunteering as part of a group/organization such as a church, school, sports club, nonprofit, business, agency, Tribe, etc. should be counted as Partnership volunteers. In Step 1- Review/Add Volunteer Activity, you will enter the Non-Partnership volunteers numbers, hours of service, and incidental expenses paid to volunteers this FY. In Step 2- Annual Update, you will enter the Partnership volunteers numbers and hours of service affiliated with each Partnership agreement this FY. Partnership volunteer data will automatically upload to the Volunteer Activity page once saved in the Annual Update. Total volunteer numbers, hours, and expenses will be auto calculated by adding Non-partnership volunteer numbers/hours with Partnership volunteers numbers/hours. Click here for a decision tree/flow chart to walk you through the process.
Q. Can we use appropriated funds to pay for an individual volunteer's training, such as for CPR/First Aid/AED training?
A. Yes, USACE appropriated funds may be used to pay for training directly related to and necessary for the volunteer to perform their duties (e.g., CPR or other safety related training). Training fees may be paid directly to the provider from USACE or reimbursed to the volunteer if approved in advance by the volunteer coordinator and documentation of completed training is provided by the volunteer.
Q. When is the FY hourly volunteer rate determined?
A. The rate is determine by the Independent Sector in April of each year.
Q. What type of work may volunteers perform?
A. Volunteers may perform any official government business, under the direction of a paid Corps staff member, except policy making or law/regulatory enforcement. Volunteers serve as campground and park hosts, staff visitor centers, conduct programs, clean shorelines, restore fish and wildlife habitat, maintain park trails and facilities, and many other important duties.
Q. Do volunteers receive any compensation?
A. Volunteers do not receive any salary, but in some cases may be reimbursed for actual out-of-pocket expenses. Reimbursement is not required, should be approved in advance, and identified on the Volunteer Agreement. Some expenses might include local transportation costs and meals during duty hours.
Q. How do I reimburse incidental expenses to a volunteer?
A. Check the procedure in your district before approving incidental expenses for volunteers. Reimbursement is authorized by Implementation Guidance for Section 1047 (d) Services of Volunteers, of the Water Resources and Reform Development Act (WRRDA) of 2014, Public Law 113-121. Document the incidental expenses on Optional Form 1164, Claim for Reimbursement and follow your district's procedure, such as:
- VISA check - contact the staff person in your district authorized to issue a VISA check and follow the procedure.
- Check from Defense Finance & Accounting Services in Millington: Contact the Resource Management Office and follow the prescribed procedure.
Q. What benefits do volunteers receive?
A. Volunteers receive protection for personal liability under the Tort Claims Act as long as they are acting within the scope of responsibilities. Volunteers are entitled to first aid and medical treatment for on-the-job injuries under the Federal Employees Compensation Act.
Q. Can volunteers receive a free campsite from the Corps?
A. Yes, the Corps may offer a free campsite during the time period that volunteers are performing work.
Q. Why do people volunteer?
A. People volunteer for many different reasons. Volunteers gain valuable skills, often work outdoors at beautiful lakes, help people and the environment, enjoy making a difference, meet new people, achieve a proud sense of contributing to the future of the nation, and have fun!
Q. Are volunteers allowed to sell permits and collect fees?
A. Yes, volunteers are authorized to sell permits and collect fees at campgrounds, day use areas, visitor centers, and administrative offices. The accepting official shall ensure that the volunteer:
- Signs a statement on the volunteer agreement or other document that he/she accepts the risk and liability of handling government funds.
- Receives proper training.
Q. Are volunteers authorized to use government-owned or leased vehicles, vessels, or other equipment?
A. Yes, volunteers may use vehicles, vessels, and other equipment if approved by the accepting official and the volunteer has the proper training, license, and/or experience. The Security Officer in some locations may prefer that volunteers use computers that are not networked with other Corps computers.
Q. What length of time do volunteers serve?
A. Length of service is by mutual agreement between the Corps and the volunteer. Some volunteers may serve only a couple of hours for a one-time event, while others may serve for months or years. Some projects ask volunteers for a minimum commitment of 20 hours per week and a 30-day length of stay for positions that require more training.
Q. How can projects locate and recruit volunteers?
A. Some sources to recruit volunteers:
- Local civic groups, Scouts, and church groups.
- Project visitors, outdoor clubs, campers, and non-profit organizations.
- One-on-one conversations, news releases, posters, and programs are some of the ways to spread the word about the volunteer program.
- Workamper News: a bimonthly and online publication that targets campers that want to work or volunteer opportunities. www.workamper.com.
- The nationwide www.volunteer.gov can help fill volunteer needs
Q. Where are the volunteer numbers and value of service available?
A. A volunteer report is available in OMBIL with the number of volunteers, number of volunteer hours, reimbursed expenses, and value of services. Projects should enter their data annually in October to ensure their program is counted.
Q. Do you include the time that members of Cooperating Associations donate as volunteer hours in the volunteer report?
A. Yes, projects should include in the OMBIL report the time that members of Cooperating Associations donate.
Q. Is there a photo contest and/or a place where volunteer photos are needed?
A. Yes, you can submit Volunteer photos to the Corps Photo Album at any time. There is also Volunteer section on the photo contest conducted by the HQUSACE Water Safety Committee. Check the website, http://watersafety.usace.army.mil. In addition, you may submit photos to the Volunteer, Clearinghouse, LRN in Outlook to be posted on the Clearinghouse website.
Q. Can non-U.S. citizens volunteer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers?
A. Volunteer service may be accepted from legal aliens (permanent residents) or foreign exchange students. Any non-U.S. citizen must present his/her Visa (or passport if in the U.S. in tourist status from a visa-waiver country where visas are not required) or U.S. Permanent Resident Card INS Form I-551 (formerly known as Alien Registration Receipt Card) for review and verification. Examples of acceptable documentation forms are provided in Appendix E of ER 1130-2-500
Q. Where is additional information available about the volunteer program?
A. Contact the District Volunteer Coordinator or the Corps Volunteer.gov hotline at 800-865-8337.
Q. What is www.Volunteer.Gov?
A. Volunteer.Gov is a multi-agency website with on-line volunteer opportunities from various Federal agencies and some state agencies.
Corps volunteer coordinators should send volunteer opportunities to their district volunteer coordinator to be listed on the VOLUNTEER.GOV website.
Q. What action do I take if a volunteer does not do a good job?
A. Volunteers that do not perform their duties in a satisfactory manner may be tactfully released. The Volunteer Agreement has a place to terminate the agreement.
Q. Can we purchase small items of appreciation of nominal value?
A. Volunteers may receive a free Corps annual day use pass upon completion of 100 hours of service, an America the Beautiful Pass upon completion of 250 hours of service, a Corps Foundation Volunteer Excellence coin, and may also be nominated for the National Volunteer Award
Q. How can I obtain access for a volunteer to use a government computer connected to the network?
A. Volunteers may be authorized to operate government computers connected to Department of Defense (DOD) networks, subject to all applicable Federal regulations, local policies, ACE-IT, and AR 25-2 requirements. Volunteers requiring computer access must be issued a Volunteer Logical Access Credential (VOLAC) card. Volunteers must meet the following eligibility requirements to obtain a VOLAC card:
- Require frequent access to a DoD network to perform their volunteer duties.
- Be a U.S. citizen
- Be registered in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) through the Trusted Associate Sponsorship System (TASS)
- Receive a favorable National Agency Check with Inquiries (NACI). A credential may be issued upon submission of the NACI and upon favorable completion of the FBI National Criminal History Check (fingerprint check). The volunteer coordinator will work with CPAC or the Security Office in requesting support from the Personnel Security Investigation - Center of Excellence (PSI-CoE) for submission of the proper investigation to meet this requirement. Fingerprints may be obtained by the Security Office or by local law enforcement officials on the SF 87 and submitted to the Security Office. Volunteers who only use stand alone government computers that are not connected to a Department of Defense network do not require a VOLAC.
- Be eligible for a DoD sponsored unclassified network account through Army Knowledge Online (AKO).
- Agree to be photographed and have fingerprints taken and stored in the volunteer's DEERS record.
Q. How does a District office establish a Trusted Associate Sponsorship System (TASS) VOLAC program?
A. Submit a request for approval to the HQUSACE TASS Service Point of Contact to establish a Trusted Agent Security Manager (TASM) in the District Office and a TASS Site ID. The TASM will need to complete a training course to become certified. Once approved, the TASM will appoint Trusted Agents (TA) for each of the project offices within the District. The TAs will need to complete a training course to become certified. Once a TASS VOLAC Program infrastructure has been established within a District, the following procedures must be followed to issue VOLAC cards to eligible volunteers:
- The project volunteer coordinator (sponsor) will submit a request for a VOLAC card to a VOLAC Trusted Agent (TA), which will typically be the Operations Project Manager, Natural Resource Manager, or Natural Resource Specialist/Park Ranger at the project.
- The VOLAC TA will review the request and create a volunteer record in TASS, then notify the volunteer coordinator to complete the request in TASS.
- The volunteer coordinator will complete the application and return it to the TA for verification and approval in TASS.
- The volunteer will be notified to report to the servicing DEERS/RAPIDS ID Card issuance facility for VOLAC issuance.
- Volunteer Access Cards expire after 180 days, but may be renewed automatically.
- At the end of a volunteer's service, the VOLAC must be returned to the Volunteer Sponsor to a RAPIDS ID Card issuance facility for disposition, and access revoked in the TASS system.
Q. Should I include hours served by SCA interns/conservation crews or other youth conservation corps participants as volunteer hours in OMBIL?
A. Yes, hours served by SCA and other youth conservation corps groups should be entered as volunteer hours in the REC- Annual Update (wizard) in both the Annual Project Data Update and Annual Partnerships Update sections. Although USACE pays money to the SCA or other organization to use their services, the National Fair Labor Standard Act states that participants who make less than minimum wage are technically and legally considered "volunteers."
Q. Are there any questions that are inappropriate or illegal to ask when interviewing a potential volunteer for a position?
A. Yes, click here for a list of illegal interview questions.
Q. Where can I find instructions to help my volunteer fill out the OF 301 suite of forms?
A. Click here for instructions.
Q. How can a volunteer earn one of the Corps Foundation sponsored volunteer Excellence recognition coins?
A. Each year in the fall, a request for nominations is sent to each Division to submit up to 3 nominations for the national volunteer award. The overall national winner of the award will receive a plaque, coin, and certificate. The remainder of the regional nominees will receive a coin and certificate. Special extraordinary accomplishments by a volunteer may also warrant a Volunteer Excellence coin. An example might be if a volunteer plays a role in saving someone's life in a park, or something else out of the ordinary day to day operations. Contact your PAC team representative if you have a volunteer that might be a good candidate for this recognition. (Contact Heather Burke if you are within Pacific Ocean Division)
Q. Are there any restrictions regarding providing a reference or recommendation letter for volunteers that have worked with the Corps?
A. No, there are not restrictions. You may provide references or a letter of reference to any volunteers that have served at our sites. This is a great way to recognize hard working and productive volunteers. Many are interested in going on to other parks/locations and could use these for job references.
Q. What procedures do we need to follow if a volunteer gets injured while performing their duties?
A. Volunteer injuries are processed in the same manner as a Corps employee. As of January 2016, volunteers must be registered on the Department of Labor's ECOMP (Employees' Compensation Operations & Maintenance Portal) website.
Q. What is considered appropriate training or training equal to a government employee when handling fees? Do volunteers need to take Fiscal Law training?
A. Fiscal law training is not required. Volunteers should go through the same training that contract park/gate attendants go through in regard to handling of federal fees. Security briefings should be held with any volunteers that plan to be involved with the Use Fee Program prior to that person's involvement with the program. The security briefing should include, but is not limited to, the following subjects: Funds Security, Personnel Safety, Theft/Loss of Government Funds, Personal Responsibility, Reporting Procedures, Conflict of Interest, and Inspections/Audits.
Q. What are the procedures to reimburse a volunteer?
A. Click here to see example procedures developed by Mobile District.
Q. What is the timeframe that a volunteer coordinator must respond to a potential volunteer regarding their application for a volunteer opportunity?
A. The Volunteer Coordinator has 10 days to respond to the potential volunteer. Response times longer than 10 days has historically resulted in potential volunteers losing interest in working with the Corps, and looking to other agencies to provide their services.
Q. I have a person who is interested in volunteering for the Corps, but is not a good fit for the project or the work. Am I obligated to hire the person as a volunteer?
A. The Corps is under no obligation to accept every person interested in volunteering their services. There are often more interested potential volunteers who approach the Corps than there are volunteer positions and staffing oversight available to manage the volunteer program.
Q. What are the various levels of background investigations?
A. See Decision Matrix from Volunteer Background Investigations Procedures March 2020 memo
Tier 1 background investigations are required for the following:
- Individuals who volunteer for more than 6 months consecutively, regardless of number of hours served each day;
- Volunteers who will have access to a USACE networked computer; or
- Volunteer positions that involve regular contact with children under 18 years of age without a parent or guardian present, or where the volunteer does not work under constant line of sight supervision (LOSS) by USACE personnel who have been screened in accordance with Army Directive 2014-23.
SAC FBI fingerprint checks are required for the following:
- Volunteers that require access to government files and records;
- Volunteer positions that require the collection and handling of fees; or
- Volunteers that work independently of USACE personnel and have unescorted access into controlled space/non-public areas such as dams, offices, or locked government buildings.
Background investigations are not required, but may be conducted at the local project level through outside contractor or through a SAC processed by the District Security Office, for any of the following:
- Individuals who volunteer for one-time events;
- Individuals who volunteer for less than 6 consecutive months and do not meet any of the scenarios described in 3.f. or 3.g. above; or
- Volunteers who only work under LOSS by USACE personnel and have infrequent contact with minors.
Q. My volunteer works for another Federal agency and already has a CAC or PIV card. Do they need a background investigation?
A. No, volunteers with a military Common Access Card (CAC), or transferring from another Department or agency who possess a VOLAC or Personal Identity Verification (PIV) Credential, or have undergone the required Tier 1 (NACI) or higher background investigation at their current or former agency do not need a new background investigation unless there has been a two year break in service.
Q. How long are background investigations good for?
A. With the exception of volunteers in positions that involve regular contact with children under 18 years of age without a parent or guardian present, or where the volunteer does not work under constant line of sight supervision (LOSS) by USACE personnel who have been screened in accordance with Army Directive 2014-23, background investigations will be effective indefinitely, unless there is a two year break in service or if the command learns of any adverse information about the individual that was not previously adjudicated in a background investigation. Volunteers who have regular contact with children under 18 without a partner/guardian present require re-verification every three years.
Q. Are background investigations required for minors who work more than 6 months consecutively?
A. No, background investigations for volunteers working more than 6 months are only required for adults ages 18 and older.
Q. Can I provide background investigation results directly to the volunteer if they request them?
A. No, any background investigation results provided to USACE by OPM, FBI, DCSA cannot be released by USACE to the volunteer. The volunteer would have to file a FOIA request with those agencies. USACE is not the release authority of other agencies’ information.