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'Stop Loss' payments on way

Dec 14, 2009

By Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg

WASHINGTON (Dec. 11, 2009) -- After an initial delay caused by software and manpower issues, the first retroactive payments will be disbursed next week to Soldiers who were retained on active duty involuntarily under the so-called "Stop Loss" program.

Maj. Roy Whitley, program manager for the Army's Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay program, acknowledged problems over the program's first 50 days and said officials are working to reduce the current backlog for the thousands more who are expected to file their claims over the next year.

"We are going to plow through the backlog as quickly as we can," said Whitley, who spoke with bloggers and online journalists yesterday during an Army bloggers roundtable.

"We lost time [by] improving the claims end early on," he said. "For every day we spent working the claims, we knew we were losing a day on development and case management.

"We are building it out [and] improving software. [That is] the reason why you are seeing some delay."

Parts of the initial Web-based claims program, launched Oct. 21, lacked complete functionality, and many of the claims were processed manually, Whitley said. However, he added, the case-management software is expected to be finalized this week, closing at least 1,000 cases. Those cases will then be forwarded to Defense Finance and Accounting Service for payment.

"The latest enhancement gives us the ability to close the cases," Whitley said, and will allow Army claims managers to advise claimants on the status of their claims.

He added that he is working on adding more claims managers to his staff of 14. "We saw the volume coming forward," he said, "and we knew we had to make some changes both on software and personnel."

As soon as the software changes are tested and finalized, he added, his staff will be better able to ease the backlog.

"We are hoping this will knock down on the anxiety caused by our backlog and e-mails," Whitley said. "We are really working through those and trying to focus exclusively on claims clearing."

The deadline to submit Stop Loss pay claims is Oct. 21, 2010.

(Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg serves in the Defense Media Activity's emerging media directorate.)

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