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WASHINGTON — Stop-lossed troops could begin receiving an extra $500 in their paychecks starting next month if Congress can put the finishing touches on its budget plans this weekend.

But plans to make the payouts retroactive to 2001 are on hold despite previous support from lawmakers.

A proposal in the 2009 defense appropriations bill, passed this week by the House as part of a massive omnibus budget measure, provides $72 million to compensate servicemembers kept on active duty past their expected separation date.

The legislation calls for detailed information from the Defense Department on the use of the stop-loss policy, noting that it "remains a concern as it may undermine the morale of the nation’s servicemembers and the voluntary nature of the Armed Forces."

Under current rules military officials can keep servicemembers 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.

Pentagon officials estimated more than 120,000 troops have been kept on active duty under the stop-loss policy since 2002. That includes about 12,000 on active duty at the start of the summer. Currently those troops are paid the same as their peers serving out their normal contracts.

The stop-loss study is due to Congress by April. Matt Mazonkey, spokesman for Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., said lawmakers will debate then the possibility of making the $500 monthly payouts retroactive to 2001.

Members of the House Appropriations Committee in August had backed legislative language to make the retroactive payments but dropped that requirement before approving the budget package on Wednesday.

The Senate must approve the measure before it can head to the White House to be signed into law. Senators are expected to vote on the measure this weekend before starting a legislative break until after the November elections.


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