Software issue blamed for stop-loss backlog
December 11, 2009
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ARLINGTON, Va. — A software issue has led to the Army’s backlog of thousands of applications for retroactive stop-loss pay, said Maj. Roy Whitley, project manager for the compensation program.
So far, the Army has received 10,541 applications, of which only about 1,000 will have been forwarded to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service by the end of the week, Whitley said on Thursday.
A major limiting factor has been that the Army did not have case management software that could close claims electronically and send them to DFAS, Whitley explained.
“We could use parts of it, but it wasn’t fully functional, where we could actually hit a button, close a case, move data into to a DFAS report, and so on,” he said.
That software is expected to be ready by the end of the week and tested on Monday, he said. Once it’s ready, the Army can send more than 1,000 applications to DFAS per week.
In June, Congress expanded the stop-loss compensation program to include servicemembers who were stop-lossed between September 2001 and September 2008. The Army estimates about 120,000 people are eligible to receive $500 for every month they were held beyond their initial end of service.
The services have been accepting applications for retroactive stop-loss pay since Oct. 21, but funding for the program was not available until Nov. 19.
Why wasn’t the software ready by October?
“It’s a lot to do in 120 days — from June until Oct. 21,” Whitley said.
Yet the first of the estimated 39,000 eligible airmen started receiving retroactive stop-loss pay on Nov. 25.
“The Air Force, their stop-loss is not scattered over eight years, and the Army’s is scattered over eight years, so we have a lot more people,” Whitley said.
All of the services used stop-loss between 2001 and 2003 but only the Army continued to use it afterward.
The Army hopes to hire six more people to review claims for a total of 20 case managers, but it could be several weeks before those people are in place, Whitley said.
Army Secretary John McHugh told Stars and Stripes that the Army needs to “smooth out” the application process.
“We’re attempting to do the best job we can,” he said, “to develop an administrative system that is non-repetitive, that is effective and that, equally important, is understood by the claimants.”