Monday, February 23, 2009

AER - We are watching

The Associated Press has found some interesting news – AER – Army Emergency Relief is a well know charity to most soldiers. They are the biggest charity inside the US Military and apparently they have been taking in more than they disburse.

Associated Press - February 22, 2009 1:15 PM ET An Associated Press investigation shows that between 2003 and 2007, the Army Emergency Relief grew into a $345 million behemoth. During those years, the charity packed away $117 million into its own reserves while spending just $64 million on direct aid.

That's at a time when many military families were struggling with long war deployments and increased numbers of home foreclosures.

The news is a little disturbing…so I went to AER’s site to see what they had to say about this large growth…

AER is the Army's own emergency financial assistance organization and is dedicated to "Helping the Army Take Care of Its Own". AER provides commanders a valuable asset in accomplishing their basic command responsibility for the morale and welfare of soldiers. AER funds are made available to commanders having AER Sections to provide emergency financial assistance to soldiers - active & retired - and their dependents when there is a valid need.

AER funds made available to commanders are not limited and are constrained only by the requirement of valid need. For these reasons, the AER assistance program is conducted within the Army structure by major commanders and their installation/organization commanders through AER sections and other related organizations.

OK – Hmmm wonder what commander retired applicants go through…so I looked at eligibility – seems to definitely favor active duty – Reserve soldiers are not normally eligible for AER unless they are on active duty… Retired Reservists are not eligible until they are age 60……OK so I guess Reserve soldiers are not really soldiers eligible for relief if they just do their normal weekend a month, 2 weeks during the summer.

Again I have to pull out the soapbox… Why would this agency treat 50% of the force with such disparity…perhaps to assist the gathering of 345 million dollars…much of it contributed by soldiers active and reserve?

AER’s mission - To collect and hold funds and to relieve distress of personnel of the Army of the United States and their dependents” - Certificate of Incorporation, 3 March 1942 … Could this count Reserve Soldiers? Should it?

Keep in mind that most of the assistance is Interest Free loans … Money that returns to AER so the AP figures don’t reflect that much of the money allocated in 2008 (70.9M) will be paid back. Loan repayments comprise 73% of income from year to year.

I don’t want to see AER’s mission stop…its needed…but hey - consider the Reserve Component a little more seriously.

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