[caption id=“attachment_3908” align=“aligncenter” width=“500” caption=“U.S. Soldiers of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, listen to Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth Preston speak during a visit to Joint Security Station Loyalty, eastern Baghdad, Iraq, March 22, 2009. Preston discussed issues of interest to the enlisted Soldier, such as changes to the Army noncommissioned officer education system, Army force structure, and the Army's stop-loss policy. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. James Selesnick/Released)”][/caption]

By Lernes Hebert:

First, I’d like to thank the USO for helping us to get the word out on Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay.  The USO is well known for its support and commitment to our military.

Last year Congress authorized Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay of $500 per month to Service members, veterans, and beneficiaries of Service members who were stop-lossed between Sept. 11, 2001 and Sept. 30, 2009.  By law, claims must be submitted by Oct. 21, 2010.

For the past nine months the services have been working hard to reach the 145,000 Service members and veterans who are eligible for this pay.  I’m proud of their efforts, which include direct mail, posters at VA health clinics and recruiting stations across the country, and outreach to radio, TV, newspapers and social media outlets.

I’m thankful to the many veteran and military service organizations and bloggers who have helped spread the message, urging vets to apply before the deadline.

Today, 55,000 claims have been paid, so there are many out there who have yet to apply.  My office and each of the services will continue to remind those eligible of the opportunity and encourage them to submit claims before the deadline.

You can help veterans and Service members get the money that is waiting for them.  If you or someone you know was stop-lossed, please take a few minutes to submit your claim or share this with someone you know.

For about a 30-minute investment of time spent submitting the claim, the average benefit totals $3,800.  Claims take only a few weeks from application to payment.

Over the course of the last decade, much has been asked of all our Service members.  Separation from loved ones, voluntarily entering into harm’s way, and long and strenuous deployments have been commonplace for the one percent of our nation that dons a military uniform.  Congress enacted this benefit to compensate members who had to put their lives on hold, at a time of our nation’s greatest need.

If you are a service member whose service was extended under Stop Loss, I thank you for your service and unflinching commitment, and urge you to apply for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay before October 21.  I also ask that you take a moment to tell other members of our extended military family of this important and well-deserved opportunity.

For additional information and to apply, please go to www.defense.gov/stoploss.

Lernes “Bear” Hebert is the acting director, Officer & Enlisted Personnel Management at the Department of Defense. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of Lernes Hebert and do not necessarily reflect those of the USO.