By Guy Shields
Army Emergency Relief
WASHINGTON (1/5/12) - New categories of assistance and new scholarship opportunities are now available through Army Emergency Relief.
Included among the new categories of assistance to Soldiers are family member dental care, basic furniture needs, rental vehicles and replacement vehicles.
"We have been seeing increased numbers of these types of requests," said retired Sgt. Maj. Dennis Scott, chief of Army Emergency Relief, AER's assistance division. "Previously, we've processed some cases with mitigating circumstances as an exception to policy. With this change we'll be able to assist additional Soldiers and their families much more efficiently."
AER provides no-interest loans or grants to Soldiers, depending on the need and individual case.
Family dental care is not available on post for families located in the United States. This can put a significant financial burden on Soldiers, AER officials said.
Dental care eligible for AER assistance includes diagnosis, fillings, crowns, root canals, extractions, sealants and emergency care to alleviate pain. Assistance will be limited to no more than $4,000 per case.
Basic furniture needs include beds, cribs, sofas, chairs and tables. The intent is to assist those Soldiers and families establishing a household when the quarters have no furniture. Additionally, this category would be eligible to Soldiers who lost their furniture as a result of a natural disaster.
Assistance will be limited to no more than $4,000.
Assistance for a rental vehicle is intended to help those Soldiers on emergency leave, or waiting for the repair of a primary vehicle. The rental period would normally be seven to ten days.
Assistance for a replacement vehicle is intended to help Soldiers when the cost to repair their current vehicle is greater than the vehicle's value. Assistance will be limited to not more than $4,000.
"We believe that by adding these additional categories, AER can take a more proactive role in caring for Soldiers and their families during a critical time in their lives," added Scott. In the past two years, AER has implemented a total of nine new categories in an effort to be more responsive to the changing needs of today's Soldiers.
Also changing within AER is the consolidation of its spouse scholarship programs. Previously, there were separate programs for spouses depending on whether they were located in the United States or overseas.
"The consolidation of the two spouse scholarship programs will simplify the application process, as well as allow all spouses to qualify for 'part-time' scholarships," said Diann Evans, manager for AER's scholarship programs. "This change will allow us to provide better service for all the applicants."
Prior to consolidation, only overseas spouses could get scholarships for "part time" attendance. However, overseas spouses had to apply five times per year. This consolidation will allow them to apply once a year to align with the domestic spouses who will now be able to get assistance while only going to school part-time.
"One of the comments that we regularly received from the spouses located in the States was that it was very difficult to find the time to go to school full-time while maintaining a household with a deployed spouse," said Evans. "We recognized the need and changed the policy to accommodate the current reality."
There are no changes to the Maj. Gen. James Ursano Scholarship Program, which is AER's scholarship program for dependent children.
Information about AER, including scholarship specifics and application forms, are available on AER's website at www.aerhq.org.
Army Emergency Relief is a private non-profit organization dedicated to providing financial assistance to Soldiers, active and retired, and their families. Since its incorporation in 1942, AER has provided more than $1.3 billion to more than 3.3 million Soldiers, families and retirees.