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WASHINGTON — Stop-lossed troops kept on active duty could begin receiving their $500 monthly bonus soon, and Congress is considering retroactive payments to others who have already left the service.

In October, Congress authorized up to a $500 monthly bonus for all troops currently being held on past their scheduled separation date. However, military officials are still finalizing when that money will be paid out and how much troops will actually receive, according to Army spokesman Lt. Col. George Wright.

Those decisions will be finalized "in the near future," Wright said.

Under current rules, military officials can stop-loss troops — keep them in the ranks after their enlistment contract is complete — if they fill a critical need or are deployed within 90 days of their expected separation date.

About 12,000 active-duty troops were on stop-loss orders at the start of the summer, according to the Defense Department.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., said he expects to add millions in the next war supplemental bill for retroactive payouts of stop-lossed servicemembers who have already left the military.

Defense department officials estimate 185,000 troops have been stop-lossed since the start of combat operations in 2001.

When Congress passed the $500 bonus in October, it also considered the retroactive payments but decided to wait on them until the Defense Department finalized its numbers on troops affected by the policy.

Lawmakers set aside $72 million in fiscal 2009 for the active-duty stop-loss bonuses. Murtha’s staff could not provide an estimate of how much additional funding would be necessary to cover the retroactive payments.

Murtha, speaking at a Center for American Progress event on military spending Wednesday, warned that despite his push for the extra funds in the next supplemental, he expects major cuts in defense spending in light of a drawdown in Iraq and the worsening American economy.

Those cuts could include both major weapons systems and possible trims in enlistment bonuses, he added.

"You can’t expect to increase personnel and increase procurement in a defense budget that is under pressure," he said.

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