Retroactive Stop Loss Pay: An Introduction

U.S. Soldiers of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, listen to Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth Preston speak during a visit to Joint Security Station Loyalty, eastern Baghdad, Iraq, March 22, 2009. Preston discussed issues of interest to the enlisted Soldier, such as changes to the Army noncommissioned officer education system, Army force structure, and the Army's stop-loss policy. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. James Selesnick/Released)

By Lernes Hebert:

First, I’d like to thank the USO for helping us to get the word out on Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay.  The USO is well known for its support and commitment to our military.

Last year Congress authorized Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay of $500 per month to Service members, veterans, and beneficiaries of Service members who were stop-lossed between Sept. 11, 2001 and Sept. 30, 2009.  By law, claims must be submitted by Oct. 21, 2010.

For the past nine months the services have been working hard to reach the 145,000 Service members and veterans who are eligible for this pay.  I’m proud of their efforts, which include direct mail, posters at VA health clinics and recruiting stations across the country, and outreach to radio, TV, newspapers and social media outlets.

I’m thankful to the many veteran and military service organizations and bloggers who have helped spread the message, urging vets to apply before the deadline.

Today, 55,000 claims have been paid, so there are many out there who have yet to apply.  My office and each of the services will continue to remind those eligible of the opportunity and encourage them to submit claims before the deadline.

You can help veterans and Service members get the money that is waiting for them.  If you or someone you know was stop-lossed, please take a few minutes to submit your claim or share this with someone you know.

For about a 30-minute investment of time spent submitting the claim, the average benefit totals $3,800.  Claims take only a few weeks from application to payment.

Over the course of the last decade, much has been asked of all our Service members.  Separation from loved ones, voluntarily entering into harm’s way, and long and strenuous deployments have been commonplace for the one percent of our nation that dons a military uniform.  Congress enacted this benefit to compensate members who had to put their lives on hold, at a time of our nation’s greatest need.

If you are a service member whose service was extended under Stop Loss, I thank you for your service and unflinching commitment, and urge you to apply for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay before October 21.  I also ask that you take a moment to tell other members of our extended military family of this important and well-deserved opportunity.

For additional information and to apply, please go to www.defense.gov/stoploss.

Lernes “Bear” Hebert is the acting director, Officer & Enlisted Personnel Management at the Department of Defense. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of Lernes Hebert and do not necessarily reflect those of the USO.

Soldiers Enjoy New USO at FOB Konduz

Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Division deployed from 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y., enjoy a movie during their off time in the recently reopened FOB Konduz United Service Organizations. The building was recently remodeled and opened to the Soldiers. (U.S Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Megan P. Lyon)

By Staff Sgt. Megan P. Lyon, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division Public Affairs

FORWARD OPERATING BASE KONDUZ, Afghanistan – When Soldiers deploy, what to do during the rare time off is not something many spend time thinking about.

But thanks to the work of Capt. Tony Hampton, chaplain for 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment deployed from 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y., and numerous volunteers, Soldiers have a spot at the FOB Konduz United Service Organizations to get away from it all, even if it’s just for an hour or two.

Long before members of the Soldiers stepped off the plane, coordination had begun to secure “a bit of home away from home” for the Soldiers.

“Before we left Fort Drum, I contacted the USO and asked if they would send us a USO2GO pack,” said Capt. Hampton. “When we arrived on the ground, boxes started appearing.”

Inside those boxes was everything a Soldier could ask for to be entertained.

According the USO’s webpage, inside of the USO2GO delivers the USO’s most popular services to troops in the remote and restricted areas. Included are beanbag chairs, snacks, and coffee, toiletries, DVDs as well as gaming platforms.

“Everything you see in the USO, came from the USO2GO packs that they sent us, said Capt. Hampton.

When Soldiers first arrived, the building set to house the USO had been left unattended and required several days to renovate. During that time the interior was painted, new furniture brought in and arranged in the building. Different areas were set up to accommodate numerous activities including a section to watch movies or play video game, a reading area, a ping-pong table, a foosball table and a music area complete with guitars and a karaoke machine.

“The greatest thing for me is just seeing the Soldiers coming and having a place to relax,” said Capt. Hampton. “They can watch a movie, play a and get something to eat. Just seeing them come in, get off their feet and relax is the biggest reward to me.”

The decision to update the facilities was an easy one for the chaplain.

“Part of my job description for the battalion is the morale and spiritual welfare of the Soldiers, said Capt. Hampton. “If they go out there and fight, when they come back in, they should have some where that feels somewhat like home, that they can come and relax.”

“They can come in here and watch movies or play video games, “said Pfc. Andrew Taylor, 1st Brigade, 87th Infantry Regiment medic, who volunteers his time to help run the USO.

“It’s like a slice of home in a way,” he added.