WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 7, 2010) -- The 2010 Army Emergency Relief annual campaign, "Help and Maintain Army Strong," kicked off March 1 and runs through May 15.

Retired Lt. Gen. Robert Foley, director of AER, said the campaign is run by the Army and all money donated to AER goes directly back to Soldiers and families. AER supplies financial assistance in the form of grants and loans to Soldiers and their families.

"The primary reason for conducting an annual campaign is to provide every opportunity for a Soldier to give to their fellow Soldiers," Foley said.

Foley said the campaign can also be viewed as preventive maintenance, as it creates awareness, allowing Soldiers to see AER as an avenue to assistance.

"The Soldiers can come to AER, get the financial aid they need quickly and accomplish their mission without a distraction," said Foley. "By doing those things, we're allowing the Soldier to better focus on his or her mission."

Since Sept. 11, 2001, AER has given $400 million to more than 433,000 Soldiers and families. Of that, 92 percent was interest-free loans and eight percent was grants. To provide financial assistance, the garrison command looks at family income and the type of financial need requested. Based on their judgment, the Soldier and family receive either a grant or an interest-free loan.

"We tailor it to meet the specific financial need of the Soldier," Foley said. "Every case is different and we have to look at all aspects of it and make the right judgment."

Foley said no limit is placed on the amount requested or the number of times a Soldier requests aid.

"We have tremendous flexibility," Foley said. "We want to make sure the Soldiers receive financial assistance and are able to get on with their lives."

Any type of financial request is considered, including vehicle repairs, medical expenses, rent and utilities. Following Army Regulation 930-4, AER does not loan money in cases such as buying a new car, paying property taxes and fines. However, Foley said exceptions have been made in the past, as every case is different and must be examined individually.

"If it's in the best interest of the Soldier and the best interest of the United States Army and it doesn't fit the policy, we're going to provide the financial assistance anyway," said Foley.

Considered a commander's program at the installation level, garrison commanders and command sergeants major have the authority to grant up to $3,500. Foley said he believes this allows leaders to create a greater awareness of the program. By bringing the program to a familiar level to Soldiers, leaders can share stories of beneficiaries and explain the policies and programs.

"Leaders are empowered with the authority to make the decisions and they are given the authority to distribute their funds," said Foley.

Additionally, AER started a command referral program in 2006, which allows company commanders and first sergeants to provide up to $1,000 in interest-free loans to the Soldiers in their unit.

"The beauty of this program is that it helps expedite the process," said Foley. "Secondly, it gets the chain of command directly involved in caring for their Soldiers."

Foley said more than 30 percent of the interest-free loans are attributed to the command referral program.

For Soldiers and families living far from an Army post, Foley said through reciprocal agreements, they are able to go to any military installation or American Red Cross and apply for AER financial assistance. He added this can be especially helpful to Army Reserve and National Guard Soldiers, recruiters or ROTC instructors.

For any Soldier medically evacuated from a combat zone, AER provides a $200 grant. Foley said when a Soldier is evacuated, many times the personal effects are left behind and this amount serves as pocket money. Representatives from AER meet the Soldiers at Andrews Air Force Base, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany or other Army medical centers such as Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.

In addition to loans and grants, AER provides scholarship funds, which include tuition, boarding and books. These funds are available to active-duty and retired Soldiers, as well as their families.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16