Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay: A Message from the President

U.S. Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth Preston talks to U.S. Soldiers of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, at 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)

As you know, we’re currently running a multi-part series on Retroactive Stop Loss Pay, with an introductory essay and valuable insights from the Army and Air Force so far.  We’d like to thank the Department of Defense for their cooperation in bringing this essential information to our audience.

President Obama recently released the video below to emphasize the importance of the October 21 deadline.  That’s almost exactly one month away.  Military members whose service was involuntarily extended or whose retirement was suspended between Sept. 11, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2009, are entitled to a retroactive payment of $500 for each month of extension.

As Admiral Mike Mullen explains in an open letter on the site, “The application process is simple and straightforward. No strings attached. But once the deadline passes, we cannot by law extend it. So jump online and check it out at: www.defense.gov/stoploss.  It’s your money.”

Stay tuned for more from the other branches of the military, and help get the word out to anyone you know who might be eligible.

Retroactive Stop Loss Pay: The Army Perspective

By Major Roy Whitley, Program Manager, Army Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay Program

Image Courtesy of The U.S. Army's Facebook Page

Perhaps the biggest challenges we’ve faced with this program are identifying and notifying Soldiers and veterans eligible for this pay.  Historically, stop loss has been a force management tool and not tied to compensation, so we did not readily maintain lists of those held under stop loss.  Prior to Congress authorizing this pay, the Army took proactive steps to review personnel records spanning a decade to establish who may be eligible.  While the Army has identified 120,000 who qualify, we have consistently asked anyone who may qualify to submit an application.  We’ve expanded our message to the broadest audience, to ensure those whose extended service may not have been captured in our database are still afforded the opportunity to apply for and receive the benefit they have earned.  For that reason, we jump at opportunities like this one presented by the USO.  Like all outreach activities we undertake, I hope this post reaches those yet to hear about the program, while serving as an alert to apply for the pay and to spread the word.

The Army’s Retroactive Stop Loss Program Management Office has been taking and working claims since October 21, 2009.  To date, over 70,000 Soldiers and veterans have at least initiated a claim.  The Army has completed disbursement of almost $200 million.  Currently, we have many cases to work through over the next few months.  However, as the October 21 deadline approaches, we’d like to see more claims in our system.

Image Courtesy of US Army Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay Facebook Page

Through our work over the past year, we have learned a great deal about stop loss and the mentality of Soldiers and veterans.  Many of those the Army has contacted directly are skeptical about this pay.  This pay is real.  The Army’s average payout is around $4,000.  Many of those who hear about this program from a friend aren’t sure they qualify.  The Army is encouraging everyone who believes they served under stop loss to submit a claim.  Our case management team will review your submission and make a determination.  If you think you qualify, you should apply.  If you know of someone who may qualify, please tell them to apply.

We have read and heard some of the great stories born from this program.  For many Soldiers and veterans, this is money they never expected to receive for their extended service.   Mathew Ecker, whose son SPC Michael Ecker passed away after separating from the Army, received notification from the Army that his son was eligible for retroactive stop loss pay.  As a beneficiary, our office worked closely with Mr. Ecker to ensure his experience was easy and successful.  He wrote to us, “I just wanted to send you a thank you. Each time I contacted your office concerning stop loss, the staff was pleasant to talk with, patient, and knowledgeable. Their help alone made this process flow without any problems. You are free to share my experience, so others might benefit.”  We endeavor to provide the same level of assistance to all claimants, specifically focusing on those who have been wounded and survivors.

I encourage everyone to visit our official Facebook page—US Army Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay—to read more about other experiences people have had with the program.  To apply for retroactive stop loss pay and learn more about eligibly requirements you can visit the Army’s site directly at https://www.stoplosspay.army.mil

This blog is part of an ongoing series on Rectroactive Stop Loss Pay.  Learn more by visiting the Department of Defense’s Retroactive Stop Loss Pay Special website today.

We’d like thank Major Roy Whitley for his contribution.  The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of Major Whitley and do not necessarily reflect those of the USO.

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.

eBenefits: Your Gateway to Benefit Information

Attention service men and women, and veterans!  Help us get the word out about eBenefits, a joint DoD/VA initiative.

Through eBenefits, you can transfer your GI Bill entitlement, get imaged copies of your personnel record (DD214), or check the status of your pre-discharge disability claim.  These are just a few of the self service opportunities that eBenefits provides with continual enhancements every quarter.  Come check us out and register to obtain your account…

Click here to get started with eBenefits today!

2010 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award

National Guard and Reserve members and their families are strongly encouraged to nominate employers who have gone above and beyond in their support of military employees for the 2010 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award.  This award is the highest recognition given by the U.S. Government to employers for their outstanding support of their employees who serve in the Guard and Reserve.  Nominations are currently being accepted at www.FreedomAward.mil through January 18, 2010.

ESGR flag logo

“There is much excitement surrounding the 15th anniversary of the Freedom Award,” noted acting ESGR Executive Director Ms. Polli Brunelli, “and we’re enthusiastic to begin selection of the 2010 recipients from amongst all of the heartfelt nominations that will be submitted by thousands of proud Citizen Warriors.” The fifteen 2010 recipients will be announced in the spring and honored in Washington, D.C. at the 15th annual Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award ceremony on September 23, 2010.

Freedom Award was instituted in 1996 under the auspices of ESGR to recognize exceptional support from the employer community. ESGR is a Department of Defense agency established in 1972 to gain and maintain employer support for Guard and Reserve service by recognizing outstanding support, increasing awareness of the law and resolving conflict through mediation.

For questions regarding the Freedom Award nomination process, please visit www.FreedomAward.mil or contact Maj. Melissa Phillips, ESGR Public Affairs, at 703-380-9262.