Army Emergency Relief is a private non-profit organization providing financial assistance to soldiers, both active and retired, and their families. (AER graphic)
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Starting Jan. 1 noncomissioned officers will not have to involve their chain of command if they need financial help from Army Emergency Relief. AER, a nonprofit agency that provides loans or grants to soldiers in urgent financial need, previously required E-6s and below to get approval from their chain of command before asking AER for help, but now NCOs can go straight to AER.
The change comes after AER did an assessment at 22 Army installations and feedback showed soldiers wanted to go directly to AER for help, said Eldon Mullis, AER’s deputy director for administration.
“We saw, after 10 (plus) years of war, that our NCOs are responsible individuals,” Mullis said. He said NCOs have been trusted with the lives of their soldiers and Army equipment in the last decade, so they should also be trusted to be responsible with their financial needs.
AER gives grants or loans to soldiers in dire financial need, Mullis said. Typically E-6s and below would have to fill out an application for help, and have either their company commander or first sergeant sign their application. Now E-6s and E-5s can take the application directly to the AER office on their post without the signature of their chain. Earlier this year, AER changed the policy so E-7s would not need the signature of their commanding officer or first sergeant, and officers and warrant officers are not required to get their chain to sign off on their application, either.
Mullis said that even under the new policy, if the AER officer determines the soldier has significant financial issues the command should know about, they might notify the soldier’s command.
Soldiers in ranks E-1 through E-4 will still have to get their chain of command involved if they need emergency financial help. Soldiers can get an application form, which has to be signed by their commander or first sergeant, from their installation AER or online at http://www.aerhq.org by clicking on the “Financial Assistance” tab on the left side of the AER homepage.
Once a soldier takes the AER form into the installation office, the AER officer assigned to the case will figure out a budget with the soldier. The process, which includes viewing support paperwork that shows the emergency financial need, will determine if the soldier will get a grant, which they won’t have to pay back, or a loan. The loans, which are interest-free, normally must be paid back within a year, Mullis said. He said if needed, soldiers can get an extension to pay off the loan.
AER will help soldiers who need money urgently because they have fallen behind on rent or utility payments, need to go on emergency leave, have unexpected car repairs or even for dental expenses for their dependents, Mullis said. AER will not give grants or loans for soldiers who want money to go on normal leave or vacation, for veterinary costs, to help in a divorce, for legal fees or for debt consolidation. For more information on which cases AER will assist, visit your post AER office or go online at http://www.aerhq.org.
For instant loans, soldiers can use AER’s Commander’s Referral program. Soldiers will have to get approval from their commander or first sergeant by submitting an AER Form 600. The loan is approved by the first sergeant or CO, not the AER officer, and the soldier takes the approved loan form to AER.
The benefit of Commander’s Referral is that the commander can ask a soldier to see as much or as little paperwork as he thinks he needs to see, Mullis said. If the commander or first sergeant approves it, a soldier can walk directly into an AER office and get the money, up to $1,500, without the additional paperwork and time typically required for AER financial help.