FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — The 2021 Army Emergency Relief fundraising campaign ends June 15, and Fort Leonard Wood is currently ranked No. 1 in U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command for the percentage of trainee donations.
According to Fort Leonard Wood AER Officer Chuck Matthews, the community here has so far donated $136,085 of this year’s $150,000 goal, which includes $30,832 donated by retirees in the area. A key element of the annual campaign, he said, is ensuring every Soldier is aware of AER and the services available. To accomplish this, AER team members 1st Lt. Rom Pollack and Sgt. 1st Class Steven Hooper have made it their mission to brief every training company here since March.
“When Soldiers learn about the AER program, and all the ways it can help them and their battle buddies, most want to help,” Pollack said. “So, letting every member of the Fort Leonard Wood community know about AER — and that the campaign is going on — is really the most important part.”
Active-duty Soldiers, retirees and survivors are eligible for AER assistance, including Guard and Reserve on Title 10 orders. In the past three years — 2018 to 2020 — AER staff here provided $1,851,413 in loans and grants to 1,356 local Soldiers, retirees and survivors, Matthews said.
Through AER, assistance is available for financial situations such as travel costs for emergency or convalescent leave, mortgage or rent payment assistance, utility, food and fuel, personal vehicle payments or emergency repairs, travel costs for permanent changes of station, minor home repairs for heating, cooling, electrical and plumbing, child cranial helmets, dependent dental care assistance, and appliance repair or replacement.
In addition, the AER Education Scholarship Program in the same three-year period provided 314 scholarships worth $437,978 to local dependent spouses and children. Scholarships are awarded based on financial need and are given annually for up to four academic years to attend post-secondary school full time as undergraduate level students. Funds assist with academic expenses and are disbursed equally between the fall and spring semesters or quarters to assist with tuition, books, fees and supplies. Students must maintain a grade-point average of at least 2.0 on a 4.0 grading scale. Applications can be completed at https://www.armyemergencyrelief.org.
Matthews said some of the newest policies and changes include the following:
— Emergency leave costs for active-duty Soldiers on verified emergency leave travel, are eligible for 50 percent of necessary travel costs as a grant if for an immediate family member. Depending on the relationship of the family member and financial ability, this may be up to a 100-percent grant for travel costs.
— Special medical equipment for Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System dependents not covered by Tricare or insurance are eligible for a grant for certain costs.
— Cranial helmets and molding helmets medically necessary for a dependent child are eligible for a grant to cover the service member’s payment portion.
— Dependent spouses or children may now apply for up to $15,000 in loans to cover funeral costs.
— Dependent spouses and children may now receive up to $5,000 to cover dental costs.
— Active-duty Soldiers recently married to a foreign-born spouse may be eligible for a grant to cover certain costs related to immigration and naturalization fees.
Matthews said all assistance has specific guidelines and restrictions and encouraged anyone with specific questions to contact their local AER office for more information.
“AER serves the whole Army community for financial and emergency needs with a wide variety of assistance,” Matthews said.
Donations can be made by payroll deduction, allotment, cash, or via credit card, debit card, eCheck or PayPal at the donation website, https://www.armyemergencyrelief.org/FTLEONARDWOOD.
“AER is a non-profit charity agency,” Matthews said. “It’s not funded by the Army or the government and needs your tax-deductible donation.”
For more information on how to donate to AER, call 573.596.2595. To request assistance, call 573.596.0212.