The Army Emergency Relief Program: 10 Things You Should Know

The Army Emergency Relief program is a benefit association devoted to giving financial help to Soldiers and their families.

AER’s motivation is to gather and hold assets to be utilized by Soldiers and their qualified relatives should a substantial budgetary crisis occurs. The emergencies are conditions that emerge abruptly, are unexpected, critical, and result in help needed.

Travel costs, food, and housing in view of a passing or genuine sickness in the Soldier’s or spouse’s family are only a couple of illustrations. Officer’s decisions in regards to budgetary help must be inside the arrangements and rules built up by the AER.

AER typically does not give help when a Soldier’s compensation is being docked for child support, relinquishment’s of pay and fines because of bad behavior (UCMJ), routine doctor’s visit expenses, and rental autos, etc….

army emergency relief program

The Army Emergency Relief Program

Here are 10 cool facts and good to know things about the Army Emergency Relief program. 

# 1: What Types of Emergencies Does it Cover?

The AER Program covers a wide range of emergencies. Here’s what I found online:

AER helps with the following emergency financial needs:

  • Food
  • Rent Utilities
  • Emergency transportation & vehicle repair
  • Funeral expenses
  • Medical/dental expenses
  • Personal needs when pay is delayed or stolen
  • Other emergency financial needs.

Source: U.S. Army website

# 2: Who is Eligible?

Who is eligible for assistance?

  • Regular Army soldiers, single or married, and their eligible dependents.
  • Army National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers on continuous active duty for more than 30 consecutive days and their eligible family members.
  • Soldiers retired from the regular Army for longevity or physical disability, and their eligible dependents.
  • Army National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers who retired and are receiving Defense Finance and Accounting System-issued retired pay, and their eligible family members.
  • Surviving spouses and orphans of soldiers who died while on active duty or after they retired.

Source: AUSA

# 3: How & When it Was Founded

The AER has a proud history, dating back to 1942.

79 years ago, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson and U.S. Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall made plans for what would become Army Emergency Relief (AER), the U.S. Army’s own nonprofit emergency relief organization dedicated to helping the Army take care of its own. In 1942, less than one year into America’s involvement in World War II, Secretary Stimson and General Marshall understood that the best way of assuring a Soldier could focus on their mission abroad was to ensure their personal lives back home were taken care of. ~ Fort Benning MWR

# 4: Educational Scholarships

One neat thing about the Army Emergency Relief program is that they also provide educational scholarships, not just educational support.

Did you know that the Army Emergency Relief program provides over $8 million in educational scholarships for service member families every year?  Spouses and children of active and retired service members may be eligible and must reapply every year.

Scholarships are for recipients pursuing their first undergraduate degree (some exceptions for spouse applicants). The college, university, or trade school must be listed in the US Department of Education’s accreditation database.

The scholarship amounts vary depending on number of applicants and budget. The award amounts are paid directly to the academic program listed on the application. The funds may be used for tuition, books, supplies, and fees. For scholarships awarded to children of servicemembers, the funds may also go toward room and board costs. Most scholarship funds are tax-free, except those used to pay for room and board. ~ Low Income Relief

# 5: How it is Funded

The Army Emergency Relief program is founded through donations. Each year, the Army does an annual AER campaign. This is 100% voluntary. Soldiers can donate if they choose too. People can also visit the official AER website and make charitable donations.

# 6: AER Assists Soldiers in Additional Circumstances

When outrageous costs arise because of unforeseen events for military personnel or their families, the Army Emergency Relief Program may be able to help. It is a case-by-case basis.

# 7: Lost or Stolen Funds

There are a variety of circumstances that can arise…

  • a mistake in pay disbursement

  • or possibly a theft of money

  • etc…

Again, it is a case-by-case basis. But, if you had a loss of money you can apply for financial assistance from the AER.

# 8: Required Paperwork

When you visit the AER office for your scheduled appointment, make sure you are prepared ahead of time. Don’t forget your required paperwork.

Bring the following documents to your appointment:

  • Military ID card
  • Most recent end of month Leave and Earning Statement
  • Proof of other household income
  • Substantiating documents (emergency leave form, military orders, car repair estimate, utility bill, lease, etc.)
  • Power of Attorney (required for Spouses)

Source: Fort Gordon MWR

# 9: Approval Process

There are two ways to be approved. Soldiers can go directly to the AER Office or they can submit a request through their chain of command.

All Soldiers, who have graduated from AIT, have more than one year in the Army, have not received AER assistance more than twice in one year and have not demonstrated “high risk” behavior, can go directly to the AER office without going through the Chain of Command. However, the fastest way to obtain assistance is through the Commander’s Referral Program. Under that program, the Company Commander or First Sergeant is the approval authority for a no-interest loan of up to $2,000. ~ My Army Benefits

# 10: How Much Does it Give Back?

AER is very generous. In 2021 alone, it helped support approximately 26,000 Soldiers and their families.

AER provided $44.8 million in loans and grants to almost 26,000 Soldiers and families in 2021. This incredible amount of assistance was possible due to the support of our generous donors. Since our founding in 1942, this organization has relied on the camaraderie and generosity that exists between our men and women in uniform. ~ Official AER website

Final Thoughts

As you can see, the Army Emergency Relief program does a lot of good to help Soldiers in need. It’s by no means perfect, but it has made a big difference for distressed Soldiers.

What are your thoughts? Have you ever been helped by the Army Emergency Relief program? If so, leave a comment below to share your story. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you.

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chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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