The Pentagon is reminding an estimated 100,000 retired military men and women that they are owed back pay and should claim it.
Congress last year approved a $500 retroactive bonus to soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines for every month they were forced to stay in the military beyond their enlistment term -- a controversial practice known as "stop-loss."
Troops kept involuntarily in the services from the September 2001 terrorist attacks until 2009 were given until this fall to apply for the money. But the Oct. 21 deadline is approaching, and only 30,000 claims have been paid out so far.'
The average payout is $3,000 to $4,000.
"If there's any question if you're eligible -- go ahead and apply," the Defense Department's acting director of officer and enlisted personnel management, Lernes J. Hebert, said at a DOD Live bloggers roundtable last week. "Most of the individuals who have gone through the process say [the form] takes about a half hour to complete."
Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez said officials have posted reminders on blogs, social networks and at veterans hospitals, and that more information on the program is at www.defense.gov/stoploss.