$500 stop-loss pay will begin April 1
ARLINGTON, Va. — Soldiers currently stop-lossed can expect an extra $500 on April 1, a top Army official said late Wednesday.
Additionally, soldiers who have been stop-lossed at any time since Oct. 1 can expect to get compensated for those months by June, said Lt. Gen. Michael Rochelle, Army deputy chief of staff for personnel.
“For the month of March, you can expect that [payment] on the first of April,” Rochelle said. “Anything prior to March, you will expect that in May or June, in a lump sum.”
“As with any pay, the Department of Defense's preferred method of delivery is via direct deposit,” said Col. Larry Lock. “With respect to paying retroactively back to 1 October 2008, we may in fact encounter instances where former members have closed bank accounts. Therefore, the Defense and Accounting Service is prepared to mail checks to the last known address.”
The combat zone tax exclusion applies for months soldiers spent deployed while stop-lossed, said Lock, division chief for compensation and entitlements.
The reason soldiers stop-lossed since October will only be compensated for one month in April is the Defense Department Office of the General Counsel only recently determined that the pay could be awarded retroactively, Rochelle said.
“So we were not prepared, and have not prepared, to execute that portion that goes back prior to March pay,” he said.
Rochelle could not estimate how many soldiers have been stop-lossed since October, but as of Jan. 31, there were 13,217 soldiers on stop loss, an Army spokesman said Wednesday.
“Frankly because these individuals, who — some of whom have separated, so it’s an amorphous number right now, but in the next several days we can get our arms around that pretty accurately,” he said.
Stop loss allows the Defense Department to keep servicemembers beyond their separation date so they can deploy with their units to Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait or elsewhere.
All of the military services used stop loss in the run-up to the Iraq war, but the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force stopped using it in 2003.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates called for minimizing the use of stop loss in January 2007, shortly after taking office.
On Wednesday, Gates announced the Army would stop using stop loss in all but extreme cases by March 2011.
The Army Reserve will begin deploying without using stop loss in August, followed by the Army National Guard in September and the active-duty Army in January, Gates said.
The Defense Department will retain the ability to use stop loss in emergency situations, he said.
In lieu of stop loss, the Army plans to offer monetary incentives that would allow soldiers to extend their time in the service to complete upcoming deployments with their units, said Maj. Gen. Gina Farrisee, director, military personnel management.
The policy for those incentives has not yet been written, but more information on it should be available in the next week to 10 days, Farrisee said.
Democratic lawmaker John Murtha, head of a House subcommittee that funds the military, has vowed that Congress and the Defense Department will work to extend compensation to all servicemembers who have been stop-lossed since Sept. 11, 2001.
For right now, the law allows soldiers to be compensated for service since Oct. 1, “not earlier than that,” Rochelle said.
Last month, USA Today reported that the DOD had not yet submitted a plan for paying stop-lossed soldiers more than four months after Congress had made money available.
Asked why it has taken since October to implement the extra pay program, Rochelle said the issue is “very complex.”
“It was incumbent upon us to make sure that we did our level best to identify second- and potential third-order effects of any application of policy to eliminate stop loss that we might conceive of … Effects on the soldiers, effects on readiness, effects on the next to deploy, and effects on families,” he said.