Carleton King says the Army still owes him $500 for each of the 18 months he was stop-lossed from November 2007 to May 2009.
Right now, he is getting by on $400 a week in unemployment benefits as he looks for work with police departments in the Washington, D.C., area. His wife is living with her sister in Arizona and his step-son is living with his father in Hawaii.
“I just need that money from the Army that they owe me to pretty much get my feet back on the ground, that’s pretty much the reason I need that, for me, my wife and my son,” King said on Friday.
But King is one of about 3,100 people whom the Army recently told that their Social Security numbers are not on the master list of all known stop-lossed soldiers. Their applications for the promised compensation pay have been referred to case managers, delaying indefinitely the arrival of extra money that many former soldiers have been counting on since learning of the compensation program.
“I just don’t get what they’re doing,” he said. “I’m obligated to get [the money]. I have paperwork that says I’m eligible to get it, but they’re not executing on what they’re saying.”
Maj. Roy Whitley, project manager for the compensation program, said there is no payment schedule in place and could not say how long the entire process will take.
“Since not one payment has been made by [Defense Finance and Accounting Service], it’s virtually impossible to put a number out there that would give anybody a credible date or time.”
Freddy Cordova, who was stop-lossed for more than seven months, was also told he wasn’t on the master list.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” he said on Friday. “I kind of expected it. I knew anything in the Army takes its sweet time.”
Still, he had hoped to use the money to get an apartment for him and his wife, who is five months pregnant. Now they are reassessing whether or not they can move.
“It’s not a step forward, it’s a step backwards,” he said.
Cordova has not been able to find a point person within the Army to take his complaint or let him know the status of his application.
“I just want to be reassured they’re not as [messed] up as the VA is with the GI Bill,” Cordova said.
Chris Krussell, too, is frustrated by the lack of information, what he calls the most frustrating part of the application process.
Krussell said he was held under stop-loss for 17 months beginning in November 2003, but the Army recently told him they don’t agree with how long he claims he was stop-lossed.
“The e-mail I got says your dates don’t match up; it’s going to be given to a case manager. It doesn’t give a time line,” he said.
Whitley said similar problems are popping up with as many as 80 percent of the applications that have been filed.
But Krussell had already factored the money into his budget.
“Once the president signs it into law that you are going to get paid $500 for every month you were held under stop-loss and you know you were stop-lossed — in my case for 17 months — that becomes real, and as much as you try not to budget that money, it becomes part of the money coming in,” he said.
For him, going from the prospect of civilian life to the war zone was jarring.
He was at the very end of out-processing in Germany, expecting to go back to the States and spend more time with his son, when he got word that he would deploy with his unit to Iraq.
“Its difficult to call up say, ‘Hey I’ll be on a plane in a week,’ and then call him up on Monday and say, ‘I can’t tell you why but I’m probably not going to see you for another year, year and a half,’ Krussell said.
On top of that, he had already lined up a job and a place to live.
“Being stop-lossed is a life-changing experience,” he said.