The deadline for eligible service members, veterans and their beneficiaries to apply for retroactive Stop Loss special pay has been extended to March 4, 2011, Defense Department officials announced Dec. 23.

The deadline extension is included in the continuing resolution bill that President Barack Obama signed Dec. 21, providing funding for federal government operations through March 4.

Congress established the retroactive pay to compensate service members who served involuntary extensions or whose retirement was suspended between Sept. 30, 2009 through Sept. 11, 2001. Eligible members and their beneficiaries are required to submit a claim to their respective military service to receive the benefit of $500 for each full or partial month served in stop-loss status.

Service officials estimate 145,000 service members, veterans and beneficiaries are eligible.

Because most of those eligible had separated from the military, the services have engaged in persistent outreach efforts throughout the year. Efforts, including direct mail, engaging military and veteran service organizations, social networks and media outlets, will continue throughout the period of eligibility, Defense Department officials said.