Noncommissioned officers seeking help from Army Emergency Relief can now go directly to the support agency without a command recommendation.
The change went into effect Jan. 1, and cuts down on the number of steps between financial support and NCOs, said Karen Bradshaw, Fort Hood’s financial readiness manager and AER officer.
Previously, staff sergeants and below were required to have the recommendation of their company commander or first sergeant before requesting AER assistance.
Bradshaw said she thinks the change will enable some people to apply for assistance who might not have under the past regulation.
“Only because there’s always going to be a small fraction of soldiers who don’t feel comfortable — mainly because of pride — of going through the chain of command for things,” she said.
“It’s not that the command is not supportive. I can say the commanders and first sergeants have been very supportive of the program.”
Fort Hood is actually the largest supporter of the commander’s referral program, Bradshaw said.
AER’s director, retired Lt. Gen. Robert F. Foley, said the change came from feedback from senior leaders, including the sergeant major of the Army.
“Over the last decade, these leaders have been entrusted with increasing levels of responsibility and have demonstrated the required trust and confidence to warrant this change,” he told Army News Service.
Soldiers E-1 thru E-4 are still required to complete the AER application and submit it to their company commander or first sergeant for a recommendation.
AER provides no-interest loans and grants for emergency travel, initial rent deposits and vehicle repairs. Other financial needs it supports include household and appliance repair, dependent dental care and initial home furnishings.
“The biggest thing is we hope this will encourage more soldiers to come forward to AER instead of payday lending institutions,” Bradshaw said. “For whatever reason, they choose lending institutions, I don’t know. But that would be the silver lining to it. I don’t think it has anything to do with chain of command lack of support.”
Army Emergency Relief is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing financial assistance to soldiers, active and retired, and their families. Since its incorporation in 1942, AER has provided more than $1.5 billion to more than 3.5 million soldiers, families and retirees.
Army News Service contributed to this report.