Breaking the stigma about AER

By Jordyn McCulley, Garrison Public Affairs Specialist,August 11, 2023

Spc. Joseph Leverette with 4th Engineer Battalion, asks Raymond Mason, Army Emergency Relief director, a question about scholarships July 18, 2023, during an AER focus group for lower enlisted Soldiers. (Photo by Jordyn McCulley, Garrison Public Affairs Specialist)
Spc. Joseph Leverette with 4th Engineer Battalion, asks Raymond Mason, Army Emergency Relief director, a question about scholarships July 18, 2023, during an AER focus group for lower enlisted Soldiers. (Photo by Jordyn McCulley, Garrison Public Affairs Specialist) (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT CARSON, Colo. — The Army Emergency Relief program has a stigma around it, claiming it’s for emergencies only. The truth is AER’s mission is to help Soldiers and their Families by relieving financial distress in their lives.

AER has been helping Soldiers since 1942 with grants, interest-free loans and scholarships. AER is the official non-profit of the Army that holds an annual three-month campaign to bring awareness to the program and the perks that benefit Soldiers and their Families.

“In 2022, Fort Carson Soldiers were granted almost $2 million in interest-free loans, over $250,000 in grants and $570,000 in scholarships,” said Raymond V. Mason, AER director.

AER has over 30 different services to assist Soldiers and their Families.

The top five categories of AER assistance at Fort Carson last year were housing, privately owned vehicle repairs, emergency travel, Career Skills Program and utilities.

Whether a Soldier serves three years or 30 years, AER will assist with the Career Skills program within the last 180 days a Soldier serves in the Army. The chain of command can send a Soldier on a permissive temporary duty assignment locally or to another installation with a Career Skills Program and AER can help with travel expenses, career skill equipment and other accommodation costs.

“In 2022, over 200 Fort Carson Soldiers took advantage of those benefits,” said Mason.

Another important program AER offers is the Quick Assist Program, which allows company commanders and first sergeants to approve an interest-free loan up to $2,000 with just a signature to help their Soldier in financial need.

“This is not a handout, this is a help up,” said Mason. “We don’t throw money at a problem or go looking for them. We are here to help Soldiers and their Families.”

Active-duty Soldiers and their Families are not the only ones who can benefit from AER. Retired Soldiers, medically retired Soldiers, Active Guard and Reserve, survivors, wounded warriors and Reserve and National Guard members when brought on active duty can also receive AER assistance.

Another benefit from AER is scholarships for education. Spouses and dependents can apply for undergraduate scholarships and grants as long as they go toward a credited organization, for online or in-person study. Spouses can apply for a scholarship year-round and dependents can apply for scholarships from January to April. Family members must re-apply for scholarships each year. Dependents must also submit their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as part of the application process.

Spouses can also go to AER for re-licensing and re-certification costs for their profession when moving states.

“You have to invest in your Soldiers,” said Mason. “Our motto at AER is ‘Soldiers helping other Soldiers.’”

He noted, Soldiers shouldn’t be asking for help when it’s too late, but rather when they know it’s a problem; Asking for help isn’t a weakness but a strength.

Soldiers can help other Soldiers who may be struggling by donating to AER online at https://give.armyemergencyrelief.org/FTCARSON.