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thedrifter
03-19-09, 08:00 AM
Defense Secretary Robert Gates puts stop to Army's stop-loss policy

BY Stephanie Gaskell
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

Wednesday, March 18th 2009, 10:55 PM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is stopping the Army's unpopular "stop-loss" policy that forces soldiers to redeploy - even though their military contract is up.

The Pentagon made clear, however, that it still reserves the right to use it under "extraordinary circumstances."

Gates acknowledged that what some critics called a "backdoor draft" was overused.

"I felt, particularly in these numbers, that it was breaking faith," Gates told reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday.

"It wasn't a violation of the enlistment contract, but I believe that when somebody's end date of service comes up, to hold them against their will, if you will, is just not the right thing to do."

Beginning in August, the Army Reserve will no longer mobilize units using the stop-loss policy. In September, the Army National Guard will end the practice, and in January, the active Army will follow suit, he said. There are about 13,000 soldiers serving under stop-loss orders. The military said about 120,000 soldiers have been held over since 2001.

The policy has mostly affected the Army. The Marines, Air Force and Navy implemented it early on in Iraq and Afghanistan, but ceased by 2003.

There was other good news for soldiers yesterday

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) introduced a bill that would eliminate rules that make it arduous for injured soldiers to prove they have post-traumatic stress disorder.

Also, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that President Obama backed away from a proposal to charge veterans' private health care plans for treatment related to combat injuries.

sgaskell@nydailynews.com

Ellie