Only one in four Americans trusts the federal government — no wonder soldiers who were “stop-lossed” into staying in uniform longer than their official enlistment period aren’t rushing to pocket the thousands of dollars they’re owed. So the government is rolling out the commander-in-chief to warn the troops the deadline for claiming their retroactive bonuses is rapidly approaching.
“Some veterans think this is some sort of gimmick or scam, or it’s some way for the government to call you back to service,” President Obama said in a video message released Wednesday. “Nothing could be further from the truth. As your commander in chief, I am here to tell you that this is no gimmick or trick. You worked hard; you earned this money.” The use of what was often called a “back-door draft” angered many soldiers who — counting on the end of their enlistment to begin school or get married — found their plans derailed.
Fewer than half the troops eligible for the bonus bucks — $500 for every month a soldier’s enlistment was involuntarily extended, largely to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq — have applied for them. Despite using everything from veterans groups to bloggers and direct mailings, only about 58,000 of the 145,000 people eligible have applied as the Oct. 21 deadline looms. So only about $219 million of the $534 million set aside for the stop-loss bonuses has been paid out. Most former troops are pocketing about $4,000 — not small change in the middle of a recession.
For the thousands of Swampland readers who have yet to apply, you can do so here.