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Understanding GSA Per Diem Rates for Healthcare Travelers

For a travel nurse, it’s important to consider what kinds of pay and the type of salary you will receive. Typically, per diems are offered as part of the stipend package for travel nurses. Although each staffing agency sets these rates, there are federal guidelines for per diems. If you qualify, this is a daily amount added to your pay intended to provide for housing, meals, and other living expenses during your travel assignment.

How Much is Per Diem Stipend?

To calculate the per diem qualification, the agency will typically have you complete a form based on a formula established by the federal General Services Administration (GSA). They have developed standard travel rates for government as well as non-government employees, including travel nurses.

The current continental U.S. (CONUS) rate is $91 per day for housing and $51 per day for other expenses, including food. An agency may change these rates depending on the living costs of the area where they send you. The GSA website has a chart for users to play with – you can enter the zip code of a city and see what the average rates are.

The GSA has also established and publicly posted daily maximums for each region.

Each year, the GSA per diem rates increase at the beginning of October. Increases depend on the daily cost of living averages.

Safety Tips for Choosing an Agency

While receiving a per diem is an integral part of your compensation for a given assignment, the daily maximum is established to prevent agencies from avoiding taxation by paying nurses a meager hourly rate and a very high per diem. Avoid agencies that use this practice; although the rates sound advantageous, this pay structure exposes you to tax and legal risk. You will have to report any per diem amount above the daily maximum as income tax. Otherwise, these stipends are tax-free.

Instead of offering a per diem, some agencies require you to save receipts and submit them for direct reimbursement of your expenses. If you exceed the daily per diem and your agency does not offer to reimburse you, you may be able to write off the difference on your income tax return. This is a typical situation when a nurse is working in a major metropolitan area where meals are more costly than average.

Before coming to any final decisions, weigh out your options and do your research. Make sure that any agency you work with will pay you enough to live in your desired destination. At Ardor Health Solutions, we make sure that all of our travel nurses are placed in the best healthcare services around the U.S. Contact us today to join our network of nurses throughout the country.