A headline in yesterday's editions of The Washington Post stated incorrectly that 13,354 HEW employees are receiving welfare. The figure is for the number of employees in all agencies of the federal government who are receiving welfare.

The Department of Health. Education and Welfare has found that 13,354 current federal employees - including some earning more than $10,000 a year - are on the welfare rolls in 20 states and the District of Columbia.

The cases were found in a computer search for welfare cheaters on the federal payroll. HEW Secretary Joseph A. Califano Jr. said yesterday. Another 12,980 persons who have recently left government work are also receiving welfare, the search found.

Many of the current and retired Workers may be eligible for welfare because they have large families and work in low-paying jobs, Califano cautioned.

Califano said he does not believe federal employees are "more fraudprone than any other group of citizens." But, he added "I firmly believe that our efforts to clean up the welfare rolls should begin at home."

The 26,334 names represent 1.4 per cent of the 1.3 million federal employees whose names were checked against welfare records under a few HEW program called "Project Match." It found 2,537 current or recent government workers receiving welfare in the District of Columbia, 382 in Northern Virginia and Norfolk and 706 in Maryland.

The only indication of how many are fraudulently receiving welfare is a pilot study of 216 HEW employees who turned up to the computer survey, Califano said.

Ninety, or 41 per cent of the persons investigated in the pilot study, were found to be either ineligible for welfare or getting too large a payment; 84, or 39 per cent, were eligible and receiving correct payments. Two persons were underpaid. Forty cases are still under investigation.

Only seven of the persons investigated in the pilot study earned less than $5,000 last year while 20 per cent of them earned more than $10,000. Four HEW workers on welfare were paid more than $12,000.

The lowest-ranking full-time government worker, a GS-1, now receives $6,219 a year. The highest ranking group, the GS-18s, receive a top salary of $58,245.

A nonworking mother of three in the District of Columbia is eligible for a maximum payment of $340 a month under the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program, the largest single welfare program. Such a family is also eligible for food stamps and free health care under the Medicaid program.

The names of government employees found on welfare will be sent to federal agencies to verify their employment and salary. Califano said. Then state agencies, which administer welfare programs, will be asked to decide if they are eligible or not. When welfare fraud is found, federal agencies will decide how punish violators - for instance, firing or demotion - and their cases will be referred to federal prosecutors.

On other topics, Califano said:

St. Elizabeths Hospital, the big Washington mental hospital run by HEW, has passed a Medicare recertification examination given last January. This means Medicare will continue paying about $1 million a year for the care of Medicare patients despite the fact that the hospital has been disaccredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals. Califano said the recertification is a "first step" in returning the hospital to "excellent."

It is "unfortunate" that Congress has not passed the hospital cost control legislation that President Carter asked, since "in the last four months alone" lack of a limit on hospital expenditures has cost taxpayers $1 billion and "the American people as consumers" $2 billion.

HEW in January will begin the most vigorous campaign it has ever conducted against cigarette smoking, since "cigarettes cause 40 per cent" of all cancers in American males.

But Califano said he won't try to change Carter's mind on continuing federal payments to tobacco growers. "I'm not going to tilt at that windmill," the secretary said.