The Army Emergency Relief program has announced several new categories to its operations to better serve Soldiers.

The additions cover numerous topics such as TRICARE, travel funds and the repair of heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.

Headquarters Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Dwayne Bowyer said the updated program will also help commanders assist Soldiers in their times of need more efficiently.

AER is a private nonprofit organization incorporated in 1942 by the Secretary of War and the Army Chief of Staff.

The program's mission is to provide emergency financial assistance to Soldiers and their Families.

Eligible personnel are active duty Soldiers, Army National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers on continuous active-duty for more than 30 days, Soldiers retired from active duty for longevity or physical disability, Army National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers who retired at age 60 and Family members of each of these groups.

Surviving spouses and orphans of Soldiers who died while on active duty or after they retired are also eligible.

AER historically helps servicemembers by providing interest free loans and grants to help pay for food, rent, medical and college expenses among other possible financial burdens.

Soldiers must utilize their chain of command to receive AER assistance.

Bowyer said the program is very useful in helping servicemembers experiencing monetary hardships, especially on this particular post.

"Here on Fort Belvoir, the AER program is probably the best I've ever seen and the most giving," Bowyer said.

Financial assistance for cranial helmets, which help in the treatment of moderate to severe head deformities, is one of the several additions to the AER program.

AER assistance is authorized when a helmet has been prescribed by appropriate medical authority but has not been authorized by TRICARE.

Vonnie Blanken, AER Officer, believes this one of the most important additions because in the past the program's reach didn't extend into this area even though she's had many clients requesting the assistance.

Servicemembers will now also be able to apply for AER Funds to help cover permanent change of station expenses and the program will also help Soldiers with purchasing and repairing a stove or refrigerator.

Bowyer believes the most important factor in the additions is the increased flexibility given to commanders.

He said the monetary threshold amount for helping servicemembers has increased, which will allow commanders to approve money for Soldiers faster.

Bowyer said this will allow officers to be better prepared to respond to emergency situations.

"It benefits the Soldiers who are truly in need," Bowyer said.

Blanken added that many of the Belvoir servicemembers are on compassionate assignments, so quicker and more expanded aid will help Soldiers focus on more pertinent Family matters.

Soldiers and supervisors should contact the AER office in the Army Community Service facility for more information on the categories.

Page last updated Thu December 1st, 2011 at 16:49