Spouses of deployed Fort Bragg soldiers can seek financial help through Army Emergency Relief
By STEVE DEVANE | The Fayetteville Observer | Published: January 27, 2020
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (Tribune News Service) — Spouses of deployed soldiers who find themselves in financial difficulty should contact Army Emergency Relief, the head of the agency said.
Retired Lt. Gen. Raymond Mason, director of AER, said the spouse can come to the organization if the soldier is not available. The spouse should have a power of attorney, but the organization will work with the spouse if that isn't the case, he said.
"They are authorized and encouraged to come to AER," Mason said.
AER workers at Fort Bragg started getting ready to work with spouses as soon as the deployment started, Mason said.
"They have their hand on the pulse of what's going on," he said.
The amount of help given to the families of the deployed soldiers is not available, but in 2019 AER provided at least $5 million in aid to about 3,200 soldiers and their families, Mason said. Most of the money was in no-interest loans, but about $700,000 was in grants that don't have to be paid back, he said.
Mason said AER works with their soldiers and their families on payments for the loans.
"We're trying to put the least amount of impact on the soldiers," he said.
AER also provided about $400,000 in educational scholarships to the spouses of Fort Bragg soldiers last year, Mason said.
AER is a nonprofit group that seeks to provide emergency financial help to soldiers, retired soldiers and their families in times of distress. The organization, which is funded through donations, provides money for basic living expenses, personal transportation, emergency travel and other issues.
The organization wants to relieve financial stress on soldiers. If distracted by such issues, soldiers could be a danger to themselves and others, Mason said.
"What we're really about is combat readiness," he said. "We want soldiers to go into combat laser-focused on their mission."
AER, which was founded in 1942, has provided about $2 billion in assistance to about four million soldiers. Last year, the group provided about $70 million in assistance to about 40,000 soldiers, which included $50 million in loans, $10 million in grants and $10 million in scholarships.
Mason, who served in the Army for 35 years, said the assistance is provided based on financial need. He said circumstances in life can lead to financial issues for soldiers.
"I tell them asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness," he said.