By Rob McIlvaineOctober 27, 2011
ARLINGTON, Va. (Army News Service, Oct. 27, 2011) -- Army Emergency Relief has increased the amount of its grants to wounded warriors evacuated from theater.
In the past, Soldiers medically evacuated from Iraq or Afghanistan were eligible for a $200 grant from AER to help them with incidentals at the new treatment location. In August, that amount was increased to $500.
Just $200 didn't go a long way when a Soldier arrived at a hospital with no personal items and wanted to buy clothing and other items, said retired Col. Guy Shields of AER.
The AER grant program began in August 2003 for Soldiers downrange evacuated for medical treatment.
"So far, we've distributed more than $2,281,000 to more than 13,440 Soldiers," Shields said.
Army Emergency Relief -- a private non-profit organization incorporated in 1942 by the secretary of war and the Army chief of staff -- exists to help Soldiers and their dependents.
As the Army's own emergency financial assistance organization, its motto is "Helping the Army Take Care of Its Own."
Sgt. Maj. Debra Johnson suffered a non-combat injury in Iraq and was medically evacuated to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany where she was told she had to continue on to Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, for surgery.
"I don't know why I received the $500 grant from Army Emergency Relief because I was out of it when I arrived at BAMC," Johnson said.
An infection was found in her lungs and two-thirds of her lung had to be removed. But her husband who was stationed with her as part of the 77th Theater Aviation Brigade from Arkansas, served as her escort and received the grant.
The grant was a good thing, she said, "especially since I didn't have anything with me when I got out of the hospital and began living in guest housing for outpatients at BAMC," referring to items needed for hygiene and other items.
"When folks are MEDEVAC'd out of theater they come with nothing, so this money is for whatever they need. And because of the feedback we had been getting, it was decided to increase the grant to $500 because the $200 just wasn't enough to meet the needs of the Soldier," Shields said.
Even though most people in the Army have heard of AER, they don't know a lot of facts about it, Shields said.
When retired Lt. Gen. Robert Foley, director of Army Emergency Relief, was out making site visits, he found that some commanders didn't realize the $500 grant was available.
"We know there is more need out there, so that's why we're working to get the word out," Shields said.
AER, notes its website, provides commanders a valuable asset in accomplishing their basic command responsibility for the morale and welfare of Soldiers.
To apply for the benefit and other benefits that AER provides, either through no-interest loans or outright grants, a Soldier or his or her spouse need to bring the following:
-- A DA Form 700, Application for AER Financial Assistance, signed by unit commander or first sergeant. This form is available through a unit's Orderly Room or downloadable here: http://www.aerhq.org/download/Forms/Form700.pdf
-- Military ID card
-- Be prepared to provide copies of any bills that you are having difficulty paying.
-- Reserve-component Soldiers need to bring the current set of orders that place them on active duty for greater than 30 consecutive days.
-- The spouse must be able to present a Power of Attorney if requesting assistance in the Soldier's absence. If there is no POA, Soldier contact and concurrence for assistance can be obtained through the American Red Cross.
For more information about Army Emergency Relief, visit the website at http://www.aerhq.org/index.asp, or call them toll free at: (866) 878-6378.