FORT LEE, Va. – The numbers are substantial and telling: $65 million in loans, grants and scholarships to 31,000 Soldiers and their families in 2022.
Moving forward, Army Emergency Relief – the nonprofit created to help Soldiers and Family members who experience financial emergencies – can stand on those figures as assurance it will be there for Soldiers facing financial difficulties.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville said the numbers represent AER’s understated value to the community it was designed to support.
“There are over 30 categories of assistance to help our Soldiers through unexpected life events and more than 70 offices worldwide ready to help,” he said. “Our Soldiers and families do not need to face these hardships alone.”
Soldiers can apply for AER assistance to cover hardships such as home repair; PCS travel; appliance costs; special needs medical equipment; and spouse re-licensing and certification, according to www.armyemergencyrelief.org.
Other categories of assistance include emergency travel; natural disaster preparation and evacuation; food; vehicle costs; funeral expenses; and utilities.
All assistance requests are considered on an individual basis, according to the website.
Patsy Piggott, Fort Lee AER specialist, said more request categories have been added over the years to help broaden access for Soldiers. Transition assistance is one of the latest.
“For those who are transitioning out of the Army, whether they’re retiring or otherwise, there is a special granted program specifically to help with internships and the purchases of tools; uniforms; hotels and food for travel; basic utilities – lights, cell phones – all the things needed to make their transitions smooth.”
The program is fully granted and part of a partnership with the Army Transition Assistance Program, Piggott added.
AER, which has been around since 1942, has dramatically evolved over the years to expand its reach, Piggott said.
“There are no rank restrictions,” she said. “What that means that it does not matter whether you’re a private or brigadier general, if you have a need, AER is there to assist and address that need.”
This year’s AER campaign kicks off March 1. A proclamation event hosted by Col. James Hoyman, garrison commander, is scheduled for 11 a.m., March 8 at the Lee Theater. Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Lisa Clark is the scheduled guest speaker. Clark is a former CSM, 23rd Quartermaster Brigade.
“We just want everyone to be aware of the various services,” Piggott said of the signing. “Senior Leaders will sign the document to show their commitment to Fort Lee Soldiers and to Army Emergency Relief.”
One of the least known benefits of AER is its support for dependent children of those who died while on active duty, Piggott said. AER can assist with basic living expenses and educational needs that are fully paid for. Basic living expenses include rent, mortgage, food and auto and insurance payments.
AER educational scholarships are another benefit eluding many, Piggott added. The Maj. Gen. James Ursano Scholarship Program for Military Children can provide substantial grants for those eligible. The Mrs. Patty Shinseki Spouse Scholarship Program assists those “pursuing an undergraduate degree or professional certification,” according to the AER website.
Active duty Soldiers, retirees, widows, dependent children, National Guardsmen and reservists are eligible for assistance. Soldiers interested in donating to AER can give any amount by contacting their unit representative.
Donations also can be made by allotment via the AER website, although only active duty and retired Soldiers are eligible.
For more information about AER, call Piggott 804-734-7952 or visit the AER website at www.armyemergencyrelief.org.