By Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden, American Forces Press ServiceOctober 22, 2009
WASHINGTON (Oct. 21, 2009) -- The Defense Department will implement a new program this week to compensate former and current servicemembers for each month they involuntarily served from Sept. 11, 2001 to Sept. 30, 2009, a defense official said.
Congress approved an appropriation bill last summer, giving the department $534 million over the next year for an estimated 185,000 servicemembers affected by the "Stop Loss" authority since 9/11, said Sam Retherford, director for the department's officer and enlisted personnel management office.
In an interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service, Retherford explained that qualified servicemembers will receive $500 for each month served past their contracted end-of-service, resignation or retirement date.
"Stop Loss is very difficult," he said. "Members have obligations and have intended periods of service, then they have plans for themselves and their families afterward. So we're doing everything we can to discontinue the use of this authority and compensate our members."
Survivors of servicemembers killed in combat or who died after their service will be allowed to make claims. Retherford said those families are entitled to the compensation and shouldn't be forgotten. "We've asked the services to go out there and identify those who've passed away subsequent to their military service or in the conflict," he said.
Those seeking claims have until Oct. 20, 2010 to do so. The services were directed to develop their own online application process and Web sites defining criteria, as well as their systems for seeking out those who qualify and may have lost contact with their service, he said.
Here's where to get information from each service:
-- Army: https://www.stoplosspay.army.mil or e-mail to RetroStopLossPay@conus.army.mil
-- Navy: E-mail to NXAG_N132C@navy.mil
-- Air Force: http://www.afpc.randolph.af.mil/stoploss/
-- Marine Corps: https://www.manpower.usmc.mil/stoploss or e-mail to email@example.com
Servicemembers must have been discharged honorably, and have sufficient documents proving their case. Servicemembers who were affected by Stop Loss, but later decided to extend or re-enlist also qualify.
"You'll have to submit documentation to show that you were Stop Lossed -- certificate of discharge, separation orders, retirement orders, memoranda from previous commanders or organizations," Retherford said. "Even if you don't have all the correct documentation, we encourage you to submit and articulate the claim, because the service may have the documentation."
The process shouldn't be difficult for most applying for claims. The military departments will verify eligibility to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. "So all the work will be done right up front," Retherford said. "All DFAS will have to do is issue payment."
For those who don't have documents and believe they should qualify, the department included a provision in the policy memorandum that allows them to make their case through a memo from their former chain of command.
Locating former servicemembers and survivors is the most challenging aspect of the program, Retherford said, and the program was designed with that in mind. The department tasks each service to develop its own initiatives to seek out those who qualify.
"Getting the word out is our No. 1 challenge," Retherford said. "Many are former members. Many have no obligation to the military anymore and are scattered across the world right now. Getting the word out for people to solicit the claim is our first challenge."
The retroactive special pay isn't an official end to the Stop Loss authority, but the department plans to phase out its use in fiscal 2011. The department retains the authority in case of a national emergency.
"In this case, we've been frustrated in our attempts to minimize Stop Loss because of the persistent and dynamic nature of the conflict," Retherford said. "The secretary of defense has already established a plan, and we've reduced Stop Loss significantly."