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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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SMG 3113.15





Transmittal Number: 87-42 -- Date: 07/20/1987

[PDF Version]

 1. Purpose
 2. Eligibility
 3. Definitions
 4. Submissions
 5. Approval Authority for Cash Awards for Employee Suggestions
 6. Suggestion Program Coordinators
 7. Submission Requirements
 8. Processing Suggestions
 9. Maintenance of Records
 10. Limitations on Consideration
 11. Criteria for Cash Award
 12. Special Awards Ceremonies
 13. Nonmonetary Awards
 14. Inventions
 15. Presidential Letters of Commendation

Attachment A - Responsibilities - Suggestion Program Coordinators
Attachment B - General Processing Procedures
Attachment C - Cash Award Processing Suggestions/Inventions
Attachment D - Cash Award Schedules
Attachment E - Presidential Letters of Commendation


This Guide provides instructions and guidelines for the administration of the FDA Suggestion Program in the Food and Drug Administration.


Any person who is appointed to a full-time or part-time position in FDA, including Commissioned Corps personnel, may participate in the Suggestion Program. All employees with the exception of persons serving in a consultant capacity, and the Administrative Law Judge, may receive cash awards for adopted suggestions/inventions. Former employees, their legal heirs, or estates of deceased employees, may receive cash awards for adopted suggestions, if the contribution being recognized was made during FDA employment.


A. "Agency" means the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

B. Government" means the Government of the United States.

C. "Employee" means an individual engaged in the performance of the duties of his position within FDA.

D. "Contribution" means a suggestion or invention that contributes to the efficiency, economy, or other improvement of Government operations.

E. "Nonmonetary Award" means a letter of appreciation or other appropriate means to recognize employee contributions which do not meet the standards for a cash award.

F. "Award" means cash award, an honorary award, or both.

G. "Suggestion Award" means an award granted for an idea submitted in writing by an employee or employees and adopted by management, which benefits the Government.

H. "Invention Award" means a monetary and/or honorary recognition granted for an invention by an Agency employee for which patent coverage is sought or granted.


A. Suggestions Acceptable for Consideration. To be considered as a suggestion, the contribution must be a constructive proposal submitted in writing by one or more employees that directly contributes to economy, efficiency, or increases the effectiveness and services of Government operations. The proposal need not be new or original, and may result from the suggester's previous work experience, research, or education. Examples include (but are not limited to): significantly reducing paperwork; conserving manpower, materials, or money; accomplishing a job better, faster, or more economically; simplifying procedures, methods, tools, or organization; providing better and more courteous service to the public.

B. Suggestions Not Acceptable for Consideration. Any idea which falls into one or more of the following categories will not be processed through the Suggestion Program. It will be returned to the suggester with an explanation of why the idea cannot be processed through the Suggestion Program.

1. Ideas which are normally expected to be within the employee's job responsibilities, are the result of a work assignment, or are so closely allied to the employee's work that management has the right to expect the employee to submit the idea as a routine recommendation. Example: Calling attention to misspelled words, typographical errors, clarifications of a manual or regulation.

2. Ideas whose costs will clearly exceed the benefits, if adopted.

3. Ideas that are considered complaints or grievances.

4. Ideas that deal with employee services, benefits, working conditions, housekeeping, routine safety practices, or maintenance of buildings and grounds.

5. Ideas that call attention to stocking or re-stocking office supply items listed in the GSA Supply Catalogue.

C. Suggestions Identifying Problems.

1. Employees may use the Suggestion Program to identify problems for which they have no proposed solution. Problem submittals will be processed in the same manner as idea submittals; however, such submittals shall not be processed provided:

a. They relate to interpersonal relationships on the job.

b. They relate to situations outside the Department or to areas over which the Department has no control or responsibility.

c. They are not sufficiently specific in content so as to make processing manageable.

2. Problem submittals will be referred to the appropriate official who is responsible for the subject matter discussed in the problem.

a. An employee may be considered for a cash award for an adopted suggestion of a submitted problem if receipt of the problem causes the responsible official to take action to correct the problem.

b. An employee is not eligible for award consideration of a submitted problem if the responsible official has been aware of the problem prior to receipt of the submission or if no solution to the problem is found within two years.

c. If an employee who is not officially assigned to find the solution to a problem submittal provides a solution, the employee and the problem identifier should share equally in whatever recognition or award is merited.


See FDA Staff Manual Guide 1415.4 for delegated authorities.


A. Designations.

1. FDA Suggestion Coordinator. The Chief, Division of Compensation, Benefits, and Training, Office of Human Resources and Management Services (HFA-410), is the staff representative of the Commissioner for the Suggestion Program. The Chief is designated as the FDA Suggestion Coordinator and is responsible for overall administration of the Program in FDA. The FDA Suggestion Coordinator is authorized to communicate directly with other suggestion coordinators both within and outside FDA and with reviewing and approving officials within FDA. The Chief shall serve as the coordinator for the Office of the Commissioner and for FDA personnel in the regional offices. Responsibility for the day-to-day operation of the Program may be delegated to a staff member.

2. Area Suggestion Coordinators. Center/Office Directors, the Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs, Regional and District Directors, the Director of the Minneapolis Center for Microbiological Investigations, the Director, National Center for Toxicological Research, and the Director, Winchester Engineering and Analytical Center, shall designate a local suggestion coordinator who will administer the suggestion program within their respective organizations.

B. Responsibilities. Specific responsibilities of the FDA and the area suggestion coordinators are listed in Attachment A.


A. Format. Suggestions must be submitted on Form HHS-170, Employee Suggestion. The form must be signed and dated by the suggester to be accepted for consideration. For a suggestion to be considered as a group idea, the names and signatures of all contributors must appear on a single form HHS-170.

B. Method. The employee has the option of submitting a suggestion to the immediate supervisor, the area suggestion program coordinator, or the FDA Suggestion Coordinator. Consultation between the employee and the immediate supervisor in the development and preparation of employee suggestions is encouraged, especially when the suggestion concerns the supervisor's area of responsibility. A supervisor shall forward all suggestions within two days of receipt to the appropriate suggestion coordinator.

C. Anonymity. The suggester who wishes to remain anonymous during the evaluation process may do so by indicating in Item 10 of Form HHS-170. The suggestion shall be forwarded directly to the appropriate area suggestion coordinator. The suggestion will then be processed without disclosure of the suggester's identity during the evaluation process.


A. Coordination. Coordination of suggestions and problems during evaluation and conclusion is a responsibility of the suggestion coordinators. Employees should be officially encouraged to discuss their ideas with their supervisors. This activity encourages supervisory and management participation in the suggestion program.

B. Evaluation.

1. Suggestion coordinators determine which management official is responsible for the subject matter covered by the suggestion. The responsible official shall determine which suborganization and which individuals are to make the evaluation; however, the coordinator must get approval from the official who ha, full authority to implement the change before recommending an award. The award consists of a certificate and/or cash.

2. Reviewers will be provided with all comments made during the evaluation process. This material is not provided to influence the reviewer, but to assist in providing for a more complete evaluation through knowledge of previous evaluation(s).

3. Reviewers shall provide suggestion coordinators with a completed suggestion evaluation report, recommendation of action, and justification. If the recommendation is to adopt, the amount of the recommended award, in accordance with the Cash Award Schedules (Attachment D), and a description of the method of implementation is to be included in the evaluation report. The FDA Suggestion Coordinator is available to advise on the best type of award or to assist in computing the appropriate amount for a cash award.

a. Nonadopted Suggestions. The appropriate suggestion coordinator shall prepare a letter informing the employee of the nonadoption and the reason therefore.

b. Adopted Suggestions. All individual employees and groups of employees are eligible for cash awards for adopted suggestions. The appropriate suggestion coordinators shall determine if the amount of the recommended award, in accordance with the Cash Award Schedules (Attachment D), is proportionate to the benefits resulting to the Government from the contribution.

c. When more than one person is involved in the contribution, the total amount of the award shall be shared equally. However, when a contribution is made by more than one employee and the amount of the award, when shared by all contributors, would be too small to be meaningful and motivating, the total amount of the award may be adjusted accordingly.

4. Timeliness.

a. Prompt processing of employee suggestions will encourage greater management support and employee participation in the FDA Suggestion Program. Failure to act promptly on suggestions, or to keep employees fully informed of the status of their suggestions, undermines management's credibility and the employee's confidence in the Program. Suggestions with potentially high savings to the Government should receive priority processing.

b. Suggestions should be given due consideration of its value and usefulness to the Agency within 30 days from the date of receipt if the review is within the originating organization, and within 60-90 days of such date if the suggestion requires Agency consideration.

c. If it is necessary to test a suggestion for a period of time to determine whether or not to adopt it, the time limit for processing may be extended for the length of the trial period. The suggestion program coordinator at the level of evaluation has the responsibility of communicating this action to the suggester.

C. Wider Application. When a suggestion might have wider application both within the Agency or Government-wide, the contribution should be referred by the area coordinator to the FDA Suggestion Coordinator (HFA-250). The area coordinator is responsible for assuring that:

1. All documentation in the file is legible.

2. The file is complete, including

a. A form HHS-170, Employee Suggestion, signed and dated, describing the contribution.

b. Any attachments.

c. All substantive internal evaluations.

d. Recommendations for adoption, comments on the merits of the suggestion, and estimate of the benefits that might accrue to the Agency.

3. The FDA Suggestion Coordinator will maintain control files of these materials, make reasonable followups on the status of the suggestion, and periodically inform the suggester of the progress.

D. Suggestion Awards.

1. Awards $400 and Under.

a. The District Director has the authority to approve cash awards up to $300.

b. The Regional Food and Drug Director has the authority to approve cash awards up to $400 for an adopted suggestion (individual or group).

c. The appropriate coordinator shall prepare the necessary staff papers to grant the suggester(s) an award. Area coordinators shall forward Form HHS-171, Recommendation for a Cash Award in duplicate, and a copy of the suggestion, to the FDA Suggestion Program Coordinator (HFA-250) for processing.

2. Awards Over $400.

a. Center Directors and Deputy Directors (Headquarters) have the authority to approve cash awards up to $500 for an adopted suggestion (individual or group).

b. The Associate Commissioners and the Deputy Associate Commissioners have the authority to approve cash awards up to $1,000 for individual and $1500 for group suggestions.

c. The Deputy Associate Commissioner for Management and Operations has the authority to approve cash awards up to $1500 (individual or group).

d. Cash awards up to $2500 shall be forwarded to the PHS for approval.

e. Cash awards that exceed $2500 shall be forwarded to the Secretary for approval.

f. The FDA Suggestion Coordinator shall prepare the necessary staff papers to grant the suggester(s) an award.

3. Award Letters.

a. If the award is up to $1,000 for individual or $1500 for group, the award letter shall be prepared for the signature of the appropriate official who has the authority to make such awards.

b. If the award is up to $1500 (individual or group), the award letter shall be prepared for the signature of the Associate Commissioner for Management and Operations.

c. If the award is over $1500 but less than $2500, the award letter shall be prepared for the PHS official who has the authority to make such awards.

d. If the award exceeds $2500, the award letter shall be prepared for the signature of the Secretary.

e.  Suggestion Coordinators, supervisors and/or managers are not to discuss award recommendations with suggesters/inventors. Award letters and a framed certificate are not to be forwarded to the suggester(s) until the cash award check has been received.

f. A copy of the signed approval letter shall be forwarded for filing in the suggester's Official Personnel Folder.


A. The employee's Official Personnel Folder (OPF) must contain a permanent record of all awards granted to the employee. A copy of the approved recommendation certifying that an award was presented will be filed in the employee's OPF (permanent side).

B. Records related to the administration of the FDA Suggestion Program, in addition to adopted and nonadopted suggestions, will be retained for the period specified in the FDA Records Control Schedule.


A. Informally Submitted Suggestions. In order to protect an employee's rights to an idea that has been informally communicated, the area suggestion coordinator should urge the employee to submit the idea immediately as a written suggestion. An employee who informally communicates an idea to management that is adopted must document the idea and submit it as a suggestion within 6 months; otherwise, the suggester will not be considered for a cash award.

B. Award Entitlement Period.

1. Suggestions.

a. A two year period following the date of final action on a suggestion is designated as the award entitlement period.

b. If, during this period, the idea set forth in the suggestion is adopted and there has been no significant change in the conditions which applied at the time of rejection, the appropriate suggestion coordinator will reopen the case for award consideration. However, credit for an adopted suggestion is to be given to the suggester who initiated the action to reopen the case. All other suggesters do not qualify.

c. A suggester may request reconsideration of the rejected suggestion at any time within the award entitlement period provided: new factors can be presented, additional justification is furnished, information is presented that the suggestion was not properly evaluated, or a valid claim is made under (b) above. These actions extend the award entitlement period.

d. The decision to adopt or not adopt a suggestion, and to grant or not to grant an award, is not grievable.

e. A suggester is limited to two (2) requests for reevaluation of any suggestion.

f. An employee who identifies a solution to a problem submitted by another employee is eligible for a cash award provided the employee was not officially designated to develop the solution to the problem.

2. Problems. If action is not taken to alleviate the problem within two years, the employee is no longer eligible for an award.

C. Duplicate Suggestions. Any employee suggestion which essentially duplicates in subject matter another employee suggestion may not be considered for two years after the date of rejection of the first suggestion. If the second suggestion is similar to the first but is based on different conditions, it may be processed at any time and its suggester is eligible for an award if the suggestion is adopted.


A. A suggestion award is granted for an idea which is submitted in writing and adopted by management.

B. Award amounts should be proportionate to the benefits resulting to the Government from the contribution, and may be granted when tangible and/or intangible benefits reach $1,000.00.

C. An award may be based on tangible benefits, intangible benefits, or combined tangible and intangible benefits.

D. The cash award schedules in Attachment D shall be used to determine the amount of an award. When an award is based on tangible and intangible benefits, the amount of the award should be determined by applying each schedule separately and adding the amounts obtained from the schedules.

E. The cost of implementing an employee suggestion affects the benefits to be obtained and should be taken into consideration in determining the amount of the award.

F. The cost of processing a suggestion has no affect on the amount of the award.

G. When two or more employees collaborate on a suggestion which is adopted, the total amount of the award to be shared should be the same as it would be had only one person been involved. However, when the amount of the award, when shared by all contributors would be too small to be meaningful and motivating, the total amount of the award may be adjusted accordingly.

H. Cash awards and recognition for inventions are fully described in Paragraph 14.

I. When determining a cash award for a suggestion adopted for wider application, the amount initially awarded at the local level is deducted from the recommended national award, prior to issuance of the award.


A. Suggestion award letters should not be forwarded to the suggester(s) until the check is received from Central Payroll.

B. It is recommended that awards in the amount of $250 and over, be presented at an informal ceremony by the appropriate official. The award and presentation should be publicized at the local level. The suggestion coordinator should work with the appropriate official to determine how the award is to be presented.


Nonmonetary awards should be given when the contribution has benefitted the Government in areas such as energy conservation, improved communications with or services to the public, and/or where the savings to the Government from the adopted suggestion is less than $1,000. The suggester should receive a letter of commendation and/or a certificate.


An invention is a new and useful device, contrivance, or process that is (or may be) patentable under the patent laws of the United States.

A. All employees with the exception of the Administrative Law Judge are eligible for an invention award.

B. Even though creating an invention is considered to be within an employee's official duties, the employee inventor whose contribution is in the public interest or contributes to the efficiency, economy, or other improvement in Government, shall be considered for a cash award and recognition.

C. Employee inventors are obligated to report an invention, if it is related to official duties, and must submit an HHS Form 570, Employee Invention Report, in triplicate to:

Patents Branch
Office of the General Counsel, HHS
Room 5A-03
Westwood Building, NIH
Bethesda, Maryland 20205

One copy should be sent to the FDA Suggestion Coordinator, HFA-250.

D. Patent statutes require that a patent application be filed within one year after:

1. the invention is described in a printed publication.

2. the invention is in use (other than experimental).

E. An initial invention award of $100 is granted when the patent application has been filed.

F. An additional award of $300 will be granted at the time of patent issuance.

G. Additional awards shall be granted when the invention has commercial use.

H. The FDA Suggestion Coordinator shall be responsible for:

1. Providing the promotional program to motivate and recognize employees to make and report inventions.

2. Preparing the award letters for appropriate authorized official.

3. Preparing the HHS-171, Recommendation for a Cash Award.

4. Providing a framed award certificate.

5. Processing invention cash award recommendations as described in Attachment C.


A. These awards consist of personal letters of commendation from the President.

B. All suggesters/inventors, with the exception of the Administrative Law Judge, whose ideas resulted in first year tangible benefits of $250,000 or higher are eligible for this award.

C. Those suggestions and inventions that qualify are determined from records maintained by the FDA Suggestion Coordinator. Nominations for Presidential Letters of Commendation are prepared by the FDA Suggestion Coordinator and forwarded to the Department through the PHS Suggestion Coordinator.

D. Attachment E contains a sample of the format and text to be used in requesting a Presidential Letter of Commendation.