What Is the Army Emergency Relief (AER) Fund?
The Army Emergency Relief (AER) fund offers interest-free loans and grants to active-duty and retired U.S. Army soldiers and their eligible family members facing financial hardship. It is one of a number of ways in which the government helps military families.
- The Army Emergency Relief (AER) fund provides emergency financial assistance to active-duty and retired U.S. Army soldiers and their eligible family members.
- Interest-free loans and grants are only available to pay for expenses deemed essential and urgent for which the applicant is not at fault.
- The fund mainly gets its money from voluntary contributions from donors.
- AER also provides educational scholarships and helps former soldiers find jobs.
- Applications can be made by talking to your chain of command, visiting a local AER office, or contacting the American Red Cross.
Understanding the AER Fund
AER is a private nonprofit organization that was created in February 1942 by Secretary of War Henry Stimson and Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Marshall to help soldiers and their dependents in a tough spot financially. Money is raised from voluntary contributions from donors and investments made by the AER investment program and allocated to eligible applicants facing hardship through no fault of their own.
Loans and Grants for Financial Emergencies
The AER fund exists primarily for financial emergencies. Interest-free loans and grants can be rewarded to cover various types of expenses, including mortgage, rent, and house deposit payments, vehicle repairs, emergency travel, funeral costs, utilities, healthcare not covered by TRICARE, dental care, child car seats, and childcare.
AER will often list on its website new categories of aid available. For example, in March 2022, it began distributing $600 grants to eligible individuals impacted by the Florida Panhandle wildfires, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, it offered to help parents cover virtual schooling and childcare expenses.
What Doesn’t the AER Fund Cover?
The fund presents itself as being flexible and willing to consider any type of request. However, it generally will dismiss any type of expense deemed nonessential or for which the applicant is at fault. Examples of things that the fund doesn’t cover include fines and legal costs, home improvements, liquidating debts, abortions, divorces, and marriages.
Other Help Available
Beyond its core financial emergency program, funds have been made available for education scholarships, helping spouses and children of active-duty or retired soldiers to get an undergraduate degree or professional certification.
There’s also a program to assist with military-to-civilian transition. The Career Skills Program offers skills training, including apprenticeships, to boost the employment prospects of soldiers set to leave the Army.
The amount AER provided in loans and grants to nearly 26,000 soldiers and families in 2021.
AER Fund Requirements
To gain access to the AER fund, you must meet the eligibility criteria, contact the appropriate person, and then fill out forms and supply required documentation.
Who Qualifies for the AER Fund?
The AER fund is accessible to the following people:
- Soldiers on active duty and their eligible dependents
- Army Reserve and National Guard soldiers activated on Title 10 orders for more than 30 days and their eligible dependents
- Soldiers retired for medical reasons, age, or after a satisfactory number of years in service and their eligible dependents
- Surviving spouses who have not remarried and children of soldiers who died on active duty or died after reaching retirement eligibility
The Application Process
There are three ways to apply for help: talk to your chain of command, visit a local AER office, or, if neither of those options is available, call the American Red Cross.
Eligible applicants who don’t live near a base can call the American Red Cross, which is authorized to provide financial assistance on behalf of AER.
AER loans are different from regular bank loans, as no interest charges or late fees are applied. However, you will be expected to pay the money back.
Repayment terms are determined by AER officers. You’ll be presented with a number of options for how to pay off the debt, including via your Army paycheck, online, or through a check or money order. Once you have an outstanding loan, you can keep tabs on it on AER’s website.
Who can use Army Emergency Relief (AER)?
AER is generally accessible to active-duty and retired soldiers and their dependents, as well as widows and orphans of soldiers who died on active duty or after retirement.
How do I apply for AER?
The quickest, most effective way to apply for financial aid from the Army is by talking to your chain of command. Alternatively, you can visit an AER office or call the American Red Cross.
What is the most that the AER fund pays out?
AER says each request is unique and merits different action and that there are no upper limits on how much support it can give. However, it also says that some categories of assistance have dollar limits and that its most common aid comes in the form of a 15-month, $1,500 loan.
The Bottom Line
Active-duty and retired U.S. Army soldiers and their eligible dependents, including widows and orphans, can apply for a variety of types of relief through the Army Emergency Relief (AER) fund. The best way to do it is through your chain of command. An AER office or the American Red Cross can also help you file an application. Loans have to be repaid, but no interest or late fees are charged.