By Jason B. Cutshaw, USASMDC/ARSTRAT Public AffairsJune 6, 2014
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- During the 2014 Army Emergency Relief Campaign, members of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command raised $17,380 for AER.
AER is a private, non-profit organization dedicated to providing financial assistance to Soldiers, active and retired, and their families. Since its incorporation in 1942, AER has provided more than $1.5 billion to more than 3.5 million Soldiers, families and retirees.
AER provides no-interest loans and grants for emergency travel, initial rent deposits and vehicle repairs for service members and families. It also assists with financial needs such as household and appliance repair, dependent dental care, as well as initial home furnishings.
"AER is the Army's emergency financial assistance organization and is dedicated to 'Helping the Army Take Care of Its Own,'" said USASMDC/ARSTRAT Command Sgt. Maj. James N. Ross. "AER provides commanders a valuable asset in accomplishing their basic command responsibility for the morale and welfare of Soldiers. AER funds are made available to commanders having AER sections to provide emergency financial assistance to Soldiers -- active and retired -- and their dependents when there is a valid need.
"AER funds made available to commanders are not limited and are constrained only by the requirement of valid need," he added. "For these reasons, the AER assistance program is conducted within the Army structure by major commanders and their installation or organization commanders through AER sections and other related organizations."
Ross encourages Soldiers to go to AER when an issue arises instead of trying to handle it either by themselves or going to an off-post institution.
"It is ok to ask for help," Ross said. "Many situations faced by Soldiers, family members and retirees are unexpected and they don't know where to go for help. Whether it's an unexpected bill, death in the family or other reason, the local AER office stands ready to assist. People should support AER because every contribution supports Soldiers, families or retirees."
AER announced that as of Jan. 1, all officers, warrant officer and non-commissioned officers are authorized to submit requests for Army Emergency Relief financial assistance directly through the installation AER office.
"Based on feedback we received from senior Army leaders, including the sergeant major of the Army, we decided that this is the right thing to do," said retired Lt. Gen. Robert F. Foley, AER director. "Over the last decade, these leaders have been entrusted with increasing levels of responsibility and have demonstrated the required trust and confidence to warrant this change."
Lower ranking Soldiers, private thru specialist, are still required to complete the AER application and submit it to the unit company commander or first sergeant for their recommendation.
A member of Redstone Arsenal's Army Community Service family talked about the importance of AER and how it serves service members and their families.
"The importance of AER is to identify, improve and solve emergency financial problems for Soldiers and their family members, retirees and widows," said Kathleen Riester, Redstone Arsenal AER officer.
She said eligibility for financial assistance includes active duty Soldiers and their dependents and Army National Guard and U.S. Army Reservists on active duty orders for more than 30 consecutive days and their dependents
"Soldiers may experience an emergency, which arises suddenly, unforeseen or urgently, that requires immediate attention," Riester added. "Assistance is normally in a loan, however grants are made in some situations. AER serves to reduce stress on already taxed families due to military lifestyle."
She also spoke of how AER helps widows and what they need to know.
"Widows must be dependents of the Soldier or retiree at the time of the service member's death," Riester said. "Eligible family members must have a current dependent ID card and complete the AER application. The AER officer is always available to assist the widow with the application process. It is best to schedule an appointment but walk-ins are accepted as well."
She also said the assistance for retirees and their families is the same for active duty, although their financial emergency may be different.
Reister said active duty Soldiers need to know about AER programs and that they are funded by Soldiers for Soldiers, interest free. She emphasized that all requests must adhere to the Army Regulation 930-4.
She pointed out that Redstone Arsenal's AER provides emergency assistance to Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard personnel when the following apply: aid facilities of the applicant's own military branch is not available; referral to the American Red Cross is not feasible; an emergency financial situation exists that warrants assistance; and authority has been obtained from the appropriate aid society headquarters.
"We want to encourage Soldiers, retirees and their families to seek out AER first," Reister said. "If they are eligible and the emergency as defined in the AR is supported with documentation, we will do everything to assist them during their emergency crisis. If we can't assist them financially, we will provide other resources that may apply to their particular situation."
AER is located at Building 3443 Aerobee Road on Redstone Arsenal.
For more information about AER, call (256) 876-5397 or visit the website for application forms and financial worksheets at www.aerhq.org.