August 01, 2008
WASHINGTON - Troops forced to stay past their separation or retirement dates because of "stop-loss" may be getting an extra $500 a month "special pay" for their trouble.
The retroactive bonus would go to about 160,000 troops who since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were required to stay in the military beyond the time they enlisted for. An estimated 12,000 troops in that situation now also would qualify. Most of those affected by the so-called stop loss policy were or are in war zones.
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The measure, costing about $600 million, was approved Wednesday by a House subcommittee as part of a military spending bill that Congress will consider when it returns in September from a recess and the presidential nominating conventions.
Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., chairman of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, said the cost is justified because some affected troops weren't able to start jobs or attend college as they had planned.
"It's unfair. These people's lives are completely disrupted," said Murtha. "They can't get out. It's a back door draft."
Military leaders have said it is necessary to keep troops with critical skills and to maintain the continuity of a unit. Critics say the policy violates the spirit of a volunteer military.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and Rep. Betty Sutton, D-Ohio, initially proposed giving $1,500 a month to troops who qualified.
About 120,000 Army Soldiers, 3,900 Marines and 39,000 Airmen would qualify for the compensation, Murtha said. He said the average time Soldiers were kept in the military past their enlistment is six months.