Some Soldiers who need Army Emergency Relief assistance will no longer need a commander’s signature to obtain funds. AER provides no-interest loans and grants to Soldiers and their Family members who experience hardships due to unforeseen emergencies.

According to the AER website, a policy change that went into effect Sept. 9, allows some Soldiers to have direct access to AER. The exceptions to the policy change are Soldiers in Basic Training, Advanced Individual Training and Soldiers with less than a year in service. Also included in the exception to the policy are Soldiers who have identifiable high-risk behaviors such as having previously filed for bankruptcy or having sought more than two AER loans in a 12-month period, said Darla Cureton, Fort Bragg’s AER officer.

The policy change came out of an AER headquarters survey assessment done with Soldiers, commanders, AER staff and Financial Readiness Program staff at major installations in an effort to get funds directly to Soldiers, Cureton said.

The assessment showed that Soldiers felt that seeking a commander’s signature would be held against them or would interfere with their promotion potential.

The change was also implemented as a means of keeping Soldiers from conducting business with predatory lenders, said Lynn Olavarria, Fort Bragg’s Financial Readiness Program manager.

With the policy change, Soldiers who meet the criteria can now sign their own applications. However, verification of the “emergency” is still necessary.

For instance, if a Soldier needs transmission repairs, then the company that repairs the transmission must be contacted to verify the cost of the repairs, Cureton said. Also, a budget review is required to ensure that the Soldier can afford the loan.

What has not changed is that AER assistance will continue to be available under the Commander’s Referral Program, which gives commanders and first sergeants the authority to approve loans up to $1,500.

Commanders can talk to their Soldier and determine if the loan is necessary. If it is, the budget and verification process are dispensed with Cureton explained.

“If for any reason, we think that there is some type of high-risk behavior, whether they’ve gotten assistance or not, we will still direct them back to the commander,” she said. “We’ve left an area for the command to actually make referrals on who they think is high risk.”

The difference between direct access and the CRP is that direct access processing can take two to three days while CRP can be achieved in as little as 30 minutes.

Regardless, AER is dedicated to providing financial assistance to active-duty and retired military, and their Family members. Since its inception in 1942, the non-profit organization has provided more than $1.7 billion to more than 3.7 million Soldiers, Families and retirees using funds obtained from Soldier contributions, repayment of AER loans and investment income.

AER at Fort Bragg is located on the third floor of Soldier Support Center (Building 4-2843 Normandy Drive). For more information, call 396-2507 or visit http://bragg.armymwr.com/us/bragg/programs/aer/.