By Sgt. Chun, Taek-JunMarch 13, 2017
We all have plans for the future, but sometimes life hits you hard and gives you unforeseen accidents. You may have planned for these, but you also may not have prepared enough. You may lose hope because of financial problem but there is help available. It is called Army Emergency Relief.
"AER takes care of its own by giving back to its Soldiers, family members and retirees when unforeseen circumstances happen," said United States Army Garrison Daegu Command Sgt. Maj. Juan Abreu. "There are two goals for AER. The number one goal is to letting everybody know their opportunities and contributes. Then our second goal is monetary goal of $45,000 this year."
"AER is a private non-profit organization founded on 1942," said Philip Chang, army emergency relief officer. "Its purpose is to relieve financial distress of Soldiers and Family members."
According to Chang, AER program has three categories of help, which are loan, grant, and scholarship.
"When a Soldier or Family member needs help when they are going to school, the scholarship program helps them once or twice a year," said Chang. "But mostly, AER's help comes by loans or grants. If you get a grant, you don't have to pay back the money. If you get the loan, you need to pay the loan back but it does not have an interest. Usually you have 12 months to pay back but that could be extended to 24 months."
"Last year, USAG Daegu's AER assisted 151 cases of $226,000," said Chang. Last year, AER raised up to $41,000 as a donation. This year, we would like to raise up to $45,000," said Chang. If you have Defense Finance and Accounting Services account, you can contribute by allotment. Just fill out the AER form including how much you would like to contribute and they will collect it from your DFAS account. Or, you can give cash or checks to your unit key members and they will deliver it to AER. "I can't accept it directly because of conflict of interest. Give it to your key member in your unit, and after collecting, the key member will give it to AER coordinator and finally to the officer."
Even if you don't have a DFAS account, you can still contribute. "You can pay through Civilian Personal Advisory Center, cash or check, or by the AER homepage www.aerhq.org. You can pay with your debt card or credit card on the website and select the region you would like your donation to go," explained Chang.
"That shows you that AER takes care of its own by giving back to its Soldiers, family members and retirees when unforeseen circumstances happen/ that they plan to have money to take care of their needs," said Abreu.
"So people have a lot of questions for the grants like 'Can I get a grant?' Grant is not given to anyone. It is only given when the Soldier could not repay the loan due to financial situations discretionally. If a Soldier was already repaying the AER loan but he has no financial issues, he will get a second loan, not a grant from AER," said Chang.
"A loan is given to people who needs financial help due to unforeseen circumstances but has regular income and can pay the loan back. For example, a specialist had to go back to America because his mother-in-law passed away. But he could not afford the plane ticket. But still he is a Soldier, so he has regular income, so he can pay back. That is when AER loans money," Chang explained.
Chang added, "AER campaign is not only for raising funds. It is also for increasing the AER program's awareness among people. When junior Soldiers need money, they usually do not know about AER and go to private banks and get a loan with high interests when they can get AER help. So I hope AER program is more acknowledged by people by the AER campaign."