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Secretary Gates urges servicemembers to claim Stop-Loss pay

WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates urged servicemembers whose military service was involuntarily extended between 2001 and 2009 under the "Stop Loss" program to claim their special pay before the Dec. 3 deadline.

More than 145,000 people are eligible for the special pay, but fewer than half have submitted claims, defense officials said. Servicemembers and veterans are entitled to $500 for each month, or partial month, they served in Stop Loss status.

"As secretary of defense, one of my responsibilities is to make sure members of the armed forces receive the benefits they have earned," Secretary Gates said.

Secretary Gates' message is the department's latest attempt to reach eligible servicemembers, veterans and beneficiaries. Since October 2009, when officials with the War Supplemental Appropriations Act established the retroactive special pay, the services have used direct mail, veteran service organizations, the media and the Internet to reach those who are eligible.

On Sept. 15, President Barack Obama recorded a video message that is posted on the White House blog page, and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, posted a blog entry on the topic on the Defense Department's website.

"If you were affected by Stop Loss, ... I would encourage you to go to www.defense.gov/stoploss to learn more," Secretary Gates said. "The average payment has been about $3,800, but don't wait too long. The deadline to submit a claim is Dec. 3, 2010."