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AER Is There For Financial Emergencies during the Holidays

By Guy Shields, Colonel, US Army, Retired, Chief, Communications and Public Affairs Army Emergency Relief

The Holiday Season is here! As we rapidly move through what has become the “shopping season,” just a couple of things to remember. Think before you pull out that plastic…and not everybody is feeling the cheer.

Unforeseen things do happen to good Soldiers, active and retired. These events can be exasperated during the holidays, when budgets are already stretched thin. If you find yourself in the middle of a financial emergency, come to AER first. As a Retired Soldier, you are eligible for AER assistance, just as if you were still on active duty.

AER is continually striving to streamline the assistance process and anticipate Soldier and Family needs. Over the last four years AER has added multiple categories of assistance, as well as made assistance directly available for all ranks last September!

As we implemented this new “direct access” program, we received some pushback from some folks who felt that the chain of command needed to be involved. Just three points to make on that. First, the chain of command is involved in cases that will require more than a “one-time” assist. Second, does the chain of command know if a Soldier or Family member goes to a pay-day lender or title loan company? NO! Third, for a few years, the risk reduction regulation used “Soldiers obtaining AER assistance” as a metric to identify a unit as high risk. This quickly created a negative stigma for Soldiers needing financial assistance, causing assistance to active duty Soldiers to decline. The regulation was changed, but the damage was already done.

Current categories eligible for assistance include: rent/mortgage, auto repair, emergency travel expenses, utilities, funeral expenses, food, non-receipt of pay, re-location travel, dependant dental, medical expenses, repair/replacement of HVAC, replacement vehicle, loss of funds, replacement/initial furniture, rental vehicles, repair/replacement of appliances, cranial helmets and car seats. Items not listed can still be approved as an exception to policy on a “case-by-case” basis.

If you are no longer near an Army installation, you can still apply for assistance at a local Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Air Force Aid Society, Coast Guard Mutual Assistance through reciprocal agreements that AER has with the other service aid societies, or via the American Red Cross military assistance line at 1-877-272-7337.

One additional thought. Please consider making a “holiday donation” to AER to help us take care of Soldiers, active and retired, during this joyful, yet potentially stressful time of year! Just go to our website and click the “donate now” button.

In 2014, more than 9,000 Retired Soldiers received more than $15 million in assistance from AER. Your donations will allow us to continue helping Soldiers, both active and retired, and their families.

For more information, and to find your nearest AER office, check out the AER website at: www.aerhq.org and to receive regular personal financial tips and updates, check us out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AERHQ .