Michael Pereira served his country with honor -- in Afghanistan. Four years ago, he looked forward to leaving the service to be with his wife and family. But he was forced to put his civilian life on hold, reports CBS News correspondent Byron Pitts.
"When I was told that our unit would be stop lossed due to our deployment to Afghanistan I really didn't know what it meant at that time," said Afghanistan veteran Michael Pereira.
Due to the need for more troops, Pereira was barred from leaving the military -- and ordered to serve five more months. He was stop lossed.
Pereira's story -- and thousands of stories like his -- were made into a movie about the Military Stop-Loss program.
Years later Uncle Sam is now saying thank you. It's called the Stop Loss Compensation Act. Those eligible get $500 for every month a service member served past their original discharge date. Pereira recently filed a claim, and is expecting a check in the mail.
For Air Force Sgt. Eric Sharman and his wife Melissa, who received their check in August, the money couldn't have come at a better time.
"We're trying to move into a larger apartment," said Melissa Sharman. "We've got a baby on the way."
"On average it's paying about $3,800, but we've had some applicants receive over $7,000," said senior Pentagon official Lerner Herbert. "That's real money."
Still, despite what the Pentagon calls its best efforts, fewer than half of those eligible have received the funds.
"The president did a PSA, secretary and the chairman have done their PSA," said Herbert. "The services has used social media to an extent that I've never used in any government program."
Since the payout program was announced last year, just 69,000 of the 145,000 eligible servicemen and women have filed and received payment. That's left close to $250 million dollars yet unclaimed.
Why is it taking so long to reach all of these service members?
"It's a new kind of approach where we reach out to our service members to make sure they get this additional compensation," said Rep. Betty Sutton, D-Ohio. "It hasn't been done before, so they're not expecting it."
This month Congress extended the filing deadline, giving America's sons and daughters who served this nation more time to apply and receive money they earned.
Copyright 2010 CBS. All rights reserved.