The Defense Financing and Accounting Service sent out the first checks to soldiers and honorably discharged veterans who were affected by stop-loss shortly before Christmas.
The Army is continuing to hunt for possibly as many as 120,000 to 160,000 others who were stop lossed on active duty from Sept. 11, 2001, to Sept. 30, 2008.
Maj. Roy Whitley, program manager for the retroactive stop-loss payment effort, said Congress set aside $534 million for the program that sends out checks of $500 for each month the soldier or veteran was in stop-loss status.
They have until Oct. 21 to apply through a special Web site. Payments on claims will be made after Oct. 21 and are made in a lump sum.
“We are asking organizations like AUSA [The Association of the United States Army] to spread the word to its members and out into the community” to help find these veterans, he said.
Adding, “We would expect most of them to be out of the service now and possibly out for four, five years. A lot of this will be word of mouth” to a veteran or his or her family.
Family members of deceased soldiers or those severely injured should contact the Army for assistance in filing their claim. Whitely said the survivor’s claims and those from the severely injured receive the highest priority for processing. He told bloggers, “We just take them offline, and we take care of the claim.
AUSA NEWS first reported on the program in the December 2009 issue (click on the 'Useful Links' grahic at the top of the page to see AUSA News December 2009 issue).
Whitely added that military blogs have also been helpful.
“This money can be a big difference for these folks,” particularly in tough economic times, he said.
“We expect the average to be about nine months” in that status “and it is a mix of all components and was not any particular MOS.” The overwhelming majority would be former enlisted.
Adding, “We’re hiring more people to pay people more quickly.”
The soldiers and veterans must show that they were individually and not unit stop lossed, Whitley said. “All units were stabilized. That’s a force management tool.”
Among the items the case managers were looking for in the applications were special codes and/ or estimated time of separation in 2031. “The records ended up with a lot of ambiguity” particularly in cases where soldiers re-enlisted after being put in stop-loss status. “There were large bonuses being offered to get people out of stop loss.”
Whitley said that he wants to see the claims pool grow and also the time spent processing claims to decrease. As 2010 was about to begin about 2,800 claims had been submitted for payment to DFAS. “We have put all the Federal Reserve bank routing numbers in the data base” to speed payment.
The average time for payment once the claim is approved is 36 days. Claims approval has taken about 90 days.
He said improved case management software will allow the office to process 1,000 claims per week
“We haven’t denied any claims yet,” and his office has to reports its progress to the Department of Defense, which, in turn, reports to Congress on progress.
But not every soldier or veteran is going to receive all that they claim in stop-loss pay.” This is emotional. We’re hitting them in their pocketbooks” on something they expected to receive.
At the same time, there were 22,000 submitted claims but those include duplicate filings. “We are looking for fraud, but most of the duplicates are not appearing to be that.”
He added that some of the duplication may be caused by confusion over whether the claim was being disputed when the reality was simply an acknowledgement by the office that the claim had been received.
Whitley told bloggers in December that in a manual review of 1,000 cases his office agreed with 60 percent of what the soldier or veteran was claiming.
Whitley said his office is looking for DD-214 discharge papers, hard copies of records such as assignment orders and enlistment contracts and in electrons for one page to 57 pages showing that soldier’s service.
For officers document would include an approved separation date based on an unqualified resignation or release from active duty for guardsmen and reservists and/or an approved request for transfer to the Individual Ready Reserve.
Time served in a combat zone in stop-loss status would be tax free.
“If they find us, that feels like the claim begins.” You have to remember a lot of people do not have e-mail or didn’t have a phone. We’re looking for ways to help make the claims better.”
Whitley added, “We’re in the payment business, and there’s a lot more road in front of us than behind us.”
The Web site is https://www.stoplosspay.army.mil
The e-mail address is >>RetroStopLossPay@CONUS.Army.Mil.