WASHINGTON – Defense Department officials want to ensure that anyone whose military enlistment was involuntarily extended under the so-called “stop loss” provision applies to receive a stipend by the Oct. 21 deadline.

An estimated 145,000 servicemembers are eligible to receive $500 for each full or partial month served in stop loss status.

During a recent “DoD Live” bloggers roundtable, Lernes J. Hebert, the department’s acting director of officer and enlisted personnel management, said tens of thousands of applications have been processed, but the department is far from having received claims from every eligible servicemember. As a result, he said, officials are trying to get the word out so eligible people can apply by the deadline.

One concern, Hebert said, is that some current or former servicemembers assume they’re ineligible, or that they don’t want to spend time applying for what may turn out to be no return at all. But turnaround is quick and the form takes very little time to complete for what could turn out to be a significant payoff, he added.

“If there’s any question if you’re eligible – go ahead and apply,” Hebert said. “Most of the individuals who have gone through the process say (the form) takes about a half hour to complete. The average pay out is between $3,000 and $4,000, so that’s a pretty good return on your investment.”

All servicemembers, veterans and beneficiaries of servicemembers whose service was involuntarily extended between Sept. 11, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2009, are eligible for the special pay.

“This is to get the word out, so that nobody is left wondering come Oct. 22,” Hebert said. “It’s a full-court press.”

Army Maj. Roy Whitley, the Army’s project manager for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay, also participated in the roundtable. Whitley said the Army has processed about 44,000 claims, adding that he believes there are more troops out there who don’t know to apply for their stop loss special pay. But without that application on hand, he added, the Army can’t do anything for the Soldier.

“We can always pay you,” Whitley said. “We have plenty of time to look at claims. We just need to get you in.”

Hebert said the Defense Department’s stop loss Web site at www.defense.gov/stoploss has all the information about the special pay and includes the application form. He emphasized that servicemembers who aren’t certain about eligibility may qualify despite their memory or knowledge of the situation.

“Whether you think you’re eligible or not, submit the application,” Hebert said.