Because of the legal limit on the amount of money feds can receive from Uncle Sam, most of the senior executives who recently won $20,000 bonuses actually took home less than half that amount.

They also were shortchanged (in the publicity department) when the White House made a last-minute schedule change that excluded the press from the Rose Garden ceremonies. Nevertheless, the executive did win top honors for being judged the best in the business. Here are the names of the men and women who got the top honors and personal thanks from President Reagan:

Stuart E. Schiffer and John F. Murray of Justice; Michael Yachnis, Robert M. Hillyer and John R. Wakefield, Navy; James E. Williams Jr. and Janusz S. Przemieniecki, Air Force; Percy Brewington Jr. and Thomas R. Clark, Energy.

Also, Dwight O. Calhoun, Agriculture; Kisuk D. Cheung, Fathollah K. Mostofi, Joseph P. Cribbins and Jack E. Hobbs, Army; Sally H. Christensen, Education; Aaron Cohen and George F. Page, Space Agency.

Also,Walter Reid Dowdle, HHS; Robert L. Fairman, Transportation; William D. Goldsberry, Securities and Exchange Commission; F. Eugene Hester, Interior.

Also, Richard R. Hite, Interior; Raymond A. Kline, GSA; Henry L. Longest II, EPA; John M. Melchner, Defense; James H. Michel, State; Jerome A. Miles, Agriculture.

Also, Richard D. Nicholson, National Science Foundation; James L. Owens, IRS; Elizabeth E. Smedley, Energy; Louis Sokoloff, HHS; Dorothy L. Starbuck, VA; Charles O. Starret Jr., Defense Contract Audit Agency.

Also, Philip H. Stoddard, State; Clarence A. Syvertson, Space Agency; Robert L. Trachtenberg, HHS; Beatrice N. Vaccara and John B. Wachtman Jr., Commerce.