Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Many troops not claiming back pay for 'stop-loss' duty

WASHINGTON — Uncle Sam wants to give free, no-strings-attached money to about 145,000 troops who were involuntarily kept on duty after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, but is having trouble convincing them that it's not a gimmick.

In October, Congress approved retroactive bonus pay for military personnel who were forced to remain on duty beyond their original discharge date, a controversial policy known as "stop-loss." Lawmakers approved back pay of $500 for each month of involuntary service; the average lump-sum due is between $3,500 and $3,800.

To get the cash, an application must be submitted by Oct. 21; only about a third of those eligible have handed in paperwork. With just six weeks remaining before the deadline, the Department of Defense is scrambling to track down about 90,000 veterans, as well as some active-duty troops, to ask them to apply for their back pay.

The military has mailed letters to those who are eligible and mounted an extensive publicity campaign, but the message isn't sinking in. More than 80 percent of those entitled to the bonuses are Army veterans.

Many veterans have ignored the letters, forgotten about filing the paperwork or concluded that the deal is too good to be true, said Lerners "Bear" Hebert, acting director of officer and enlisted personnel management at the Pentagon. "It is unusual, and because it's unusual maybe that's why some people are questioning whether this is legitimate," he said.

Between September 2001 and September 2009, the military used its stop-loss authority to force 186,000 troops to remain on active duty beyond their scheduled discharge dates.

Stop-loss is used as an emergency measure to keep deployed units in the field or retain specialists whose skills cannot be easily replaced. The military first invoked it in 1990 in preparation for the Persian Gulf War, but expanded it significantly during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Since the spring of 2009, troops serving under stop-loss orders have been receiving an extra $500 a month in their paychecks. Congress later ordered the military to dole out back pay to those affected by the policy dating to 2001. There are some exceptions. Soldiers who accepted re-enlistment bonuses, for instance, are ineligible.

As of the end of last month, the military had processed about 55,000 applications and approved $210 million in back pay, according to Eileen Lainez, a Department of Defense spokeswoman. Congress allocated $534 million for the program, so there's $324 million left unclaimed.

Defense officials said they are running social media campaigns, reaching out to veterans groups, tracking down relatives of those whose whereabouts are unknown, but that it's been hard to persuade people to submit an application, which can be done online at Officials said the application is required by law and they can't simply mail out unsolicited checks.

"We knew it was going to be a challenge," Hebert said. "As a military culture, we generally don't pay people for services rendered; we pay them when they serve."

fast facts

How to get bonus pay

Troops affected by "stop-loss" duty can apply online to receive retroactive bonus pay of $500 for each month of involuntary service. Go to

Many troops not claiming back pay for 'stop-loss' duty 09/05/10 [Last modified: Monday, September 6, 2010 11:26am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bar review: Les Partners Lounge goes old-school in Clearwater

    Bars & Spirits

    There are some local places that I'm shocked aren't more well known, and I think that's the result of a general aversion to stepping out of one's comfort zone. I make regular concerted efforts to step outside of mine, which often leads me to strange and rewarding drinking establishments.

    Les Partners Lounge is an old-school, smoker-friendly cocktail lounge and live music venue tucked away in a nondescript shopping plaza in Island Estates.
  2. Local craft beer of the week: Plongeur a L'eponge, Saint Somewhere Brewing Co.

    Bars & Spirits

    Tarpon Springs' Saint Somewhere Brewing Co. has a somewhat idiosyncratic approach to wild ale brewing, utilizing an open brewing approach involving uncovered fermenters in order to brew beer with local ambient microbes, reminiscent in some ways to the fermentation techniques used by rustic farmhouse breweries in Belgium …

     Plongeur a?€š€™L?ˆš??ponge, Saint Somewhere Brewing Company, 6/23/17  Electric Chair Sour Shandy, Angry Chair Brewing, 6/30/17   Pulp Friction Grapefruit IPA, Motorworks Brewing 7/7/17
  3. No tapes: Trump says he didn't record meetings with Comey


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Thursday he "did not make" and doesn't have any recordings of his private conversations with ousted FBI Director James Comey, speaking up on Twitter after a month-long guessing game that began with him delivering an ominous warning and ended with his administration ensnared …

    President Donald Trump speaks during the "American Leadership in Emerging Technology" event in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, June 22, 2017, in Washington. [AP Photo/Evan Vucci]
  4. Ramadan having an economic impact on local charities, businesses

    Economic Development

    TAMPA — Dodging the rain, a few families and customers gathered inside Petra Restaurant on Busch Boulevard. Around 8:30 p.m., the adham (or call to prayer) music begins, signaling Iftar, the end of the daily fast. Customers grabbed a plate to dig into the feast.

    Baha Abdullah, 35, the owner of the Sultan Market makes kataif, a common dessert that is eaten during the month long celebration of Ramadan in Tampa. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  5. Senate GOP leaders face tough job in selling health-care bill to their members


    WASHINGTON — Senate Republican leaders on Thursday moved swiftly to begin selling their health-care measure to substantially rewrite the Affordable Care Act to their wary members as they seek to garner enough support to pass the bill in an expected vote next week.

    U.S. Senate Republicans on Thursday unveiled a proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The bill's chief author, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has said "Obamacare is collapsing around us, and the American people are desperately searching for relief." [AP]