By Debbie Gregory.
Army Emergency Relief (AER) is the Army’s emergency financial assistance organization, dedicated to “Helping the Army Take Care of Its Own.”
AER is a private nonprofit organization that helps Soldiers and their families. In a step to further assist soldiers get financial relief, the Army has recently dropped a requirement that forced soldiers to inform their command of financial hardships.
In the past, command signatures were required for soldiers and their families to receive loans and grants. But this change has dropped that requirement for nearly all soldiers, regardless of rank.
Many soldiers were reluctant to request financial assistance due to what they believed to be a time consuming and intimidating review process, involving the company/battery level chain of command. They opted, instead, to use the services of pay day lenders, many of whom were unscrupulous, but all who charged high interest rates.
In announcing the change, officials urged soldiers to seek help through the private nonprofit organization that has provided financial assistance to soldiers, retirees and their families since 1942, awarding more than $1.7 billion in loans and grants to more than 3.7 million people.
“The Army realizes it needs to eliminate the undue negative stigma associated with seeking assistance through (Army Emergency Relief),” officials said. “This stigma has contributed to soldiers going to lenders charging high interest rates. Army Emergency Relief should be soldiers’ first choice when they are in financial difficulty.”
The only soldiers who are the exceptions to the new policy are those in basic training, Advanced Individual Training, and those with less than one year in service. Stipulations also apply to soldiers who have been assisted twice in one year, or those with a history of “high risk” financial readiness.
AER financial assistance is conducted within the Army structure by mission commanders and garrison commanders through the 81 AER Sections located at U.S. Army installations worldwide.
Through reciprocal agreements between AER and the other Military Aid Societies, Soldiers and their dependents have access to emergency financial assistance from AER through representatives from the Air Force Aid Society, Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society and the American Red Cross at 908 locations around the world.