FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Army Emergency Relief recently earned its fifth consecutive 4-Star rating from Charity Navigator, billed as the nation's largest and most-utilized evaluator of charities.

Only 5 percent of the charities the organization rates have received at least five consecutive 4-Star evaluations, according to Charity Navigator officials.

This rating reflects AER's sound fiscal management and program efficiency in providing financial assistance. In 2009, 89 cents of every dollar spent by AER was for the program costs involved in taking care of Soldiers and their Families.

AER is the Army's own military aid society, founded in 1942 in response to the needs of Soldiers and their Families who were experiencing financial emergencies in World War II. Since its founding, AER has provided over $1.3 billion of financial assistance.

AER provides financial assistance for such needs as emergency travel, housing, car repair, food and utilities. With assistance provided in the form of a no-interest loans and grants, AER provides the Army a valuable resource in helping take care of Soldiers and their Families.

AER assistance is available to Soldiers and their Families wherever they are located and the amount of assistance approved is only limited by a valid need. Soldiers and their Family members requiring AER assistance should work through their chain of command or contact their local AER office.

Under AER's Command Referral Program, company commanders and first sergeants have the authority to approve AER loans up to $1,000 to eligible Soldiers. Based on reciprocal agreements, Soldiers and Families not near an Army installation AER office can seek assistance from the Air Force Aid Society, Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Coast Guard Mutual Assistance or a local chapter of the American Red Cross.

AER also provides scholarship programs for spouse and dependent children of active duty, retired and fallen Soldiers. AER's Education Program is a secondary mission to help Army Families with the costs of education. Applications for the 2011-2012 school year will be available beginning Dec. 1 and will be accepted until April 1.

Forms and detailed information on the AER Stateside Spouse Education Assistance Program and the Maj. Gen. James Ursano Scholarship Program can be obtained by visiting

The program designed to help Soldiers help Soldiers is supported primarily by voluntary contributions from Soldiers (active and retired) solicited during the Army's annual AER fund campaign.

This year's campaign raised $142,418 for AER from the Fort Rucker community. Contributions can be accepted at any time, though, from Soldiers, civilians or organizations.

For more information on AER, call 255-2341, visit the Fort Rucker AER office in the Soldier Service Center, Bldg. 5700 Rm. 390 or visit the Web site at