Financial Assistance, Discounts and More Can Help Military Families Manage Frequent Relocations
Donna Boyle Schwartz | Salute Magazine | Nov. 18, 2022
Military families are no strangers to frequent moving, with the average family moving about every three years. In the process of uprooting home and households, service members and their families may confront many unexpected – and stressful – situations, but fortunately, they are not alone: the Army Emergency Relief (AER) program is there to provide assistance.
AER is the Army’s official nonprofit organization and provides financial assistance to soldiers and their families through grants, scholarships, and zero-interest loans. The program provides financial help for more than 30 different types of expenses before, during and after a PCS, including help with auto repairs, rent deposits, temporary lodging, appliance repairs, childcare assistance, disaster preparation and evacuation, funeral expenses, spouse relicensing, and even pet transportation. The assistance does not cover everything in a move but offers a bridge for soldiers and their families to reduce their financial burden and get them on the right track in their new locations.
(For a complete list of AER assistance, visit this website: https://www.armyemergencyrelief.org/assistance/.)
“AER was founded in 1942 by Secretary of War Henry Stimson and Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Marshall to help relieve undue financial stress facing members of the Army and their families,” explains Colonel Sean Ryan (Ret.), AER director of marketing and communications. “Soldiers preparing to fight in World War II were faced with unforeseen financial burdens dealing with their pay, family, taxes, land ownership and other areas. AER’s immediate purpose was to strengthen the morale of the soldiers during the war knowing their finances were being taken care so they could concentrate on the mission, a task we continue to uphold.
“Since then, AER has provided $2 billion to nearly 4 million soldiers,” he continues. “We’ve expanded our financial assistance programs, providing $1 billion since 9/11 through zero-interest loans, grants and scholarships. AER helped more than 25,000 soldiers and families last year alone. “AER has helped almost 14,500 soldiers with grants and zero-interest loans with $27 million in assistance thus far in 2022, including another 2,300 Army spouses and children with scholarships at more than $10 million,” he adds. “AER currently has no cap and all assistance is based on needs of the soldier and family.”
According to Ryan, the program has become increasingly important during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in nationwide delays and cancellations caused by moving contractor labor shortages. “AER is committed to helping make that relocation and life change a little easier with our PCS financial assistance program,” he points out. “The smoother the transition in the home, the easier it is for soldiers to do their jobs outside of the home.”
Staff Sgt. Kurtis Brown has used the program twice. “The first time I got an AER loan in 2013 it was kind of embarrassing, because I was going to get help. As a man, it’s a sense of pride…you feel like you should already have this stuff taken care of,” he recalls. “The second time I went, I was glad that the help was there because I didn’t want to go get a loan off post which would give me a high interest rate to pay back. The second time I used the AER program; I went straight to an AER loan officer and acquired a grant, which I did not have to pay back. That’s the good thing about getting an AER loan in the military — it is zero interest.”
Ryan notes that many families turn to AER for assistance in moving their furry friends. “The Army doesn’t pay the costs for families to relocate with their pets; AER offers zero-interest loans to help pay for pet transportation costs, so every member of the family makes it to the new home.”
The program also helps family members achieve their goals. “AER scholarships have benefited my entire family more than words could say,” relates Army spouse Cher Romuell, who received an AER scholarship, as did her three daughters; one daughter is now an active-duty Army first lieutenant. “Pursuing my education as a military spouse and a Department of Defense employee was challenging, but even more so while raising three young daughters and moving from the installations in the U.S. and abroad. This allowed me the opportunity to show my children that there are resources for military Families that are available yet go untapped and they merely need try and apply.”
AER recently received its seventh consecutive four-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator. “This designation proves our commitment to supporting the U.S. Army’s number one priority: its people,” Ryan states. “It also proves to our donors — many of whom are soldiers — we value their efforts, and we are good stewards of their donated money.
“AER is all about ‘Soldiers Helping Soldiers’ and our goal is to make life a little easier for those serving our country,” he elaborates. “As many on AER’s staff are former soldiers ourselves, we know what matters most to service members and their families and we work hard so those who serve in the Army can concentrate on their missions and be at their best when our country needs them the most.”
Similar programs, like the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, provide comparable services to other branches of the U.S. military.
A Helping Hand
Active-duty troops and military families are not alone when it comes to planning and executing frequent relocations: Some companies are there to offer advice, options, special pricing, and discounts to help make the moving process a little less stressful.
“Numerous studies have found that moving is one of the most stressful moments in a person’s life,” points out Ryan Charles, general manager of moving services for HireAHelper. com, an online moving services booking platform. “Keeping that in mind, military families move far more often than civilian families – on average, 10 times more. The fact is, just because you move every few years, does not mean that the stress lessens through experience. In fact, these stressors may take a toll on a person’s life, potentially making it harder each time.”
To help take some of the anxiety and hassle out of frequent military moves, HireAHelper.com developed a special moving guide for military families (https://blog.hireahelper.com/hhg-or-ppm-how-to-save-money-on-your-pcs-militarymove/.) “Our hope with the guide and services on our website is that we alleviate some of the physical, emotional, and financial stress that comes out of moving,” Charles notes. “The military moving guide is designed to inform military families how they can save, and even make money on their PCS move. We were able to work with a woman named Katie, who not only is a writer, but also a military family member. Having gone through four different military moves herself, she was able to share her wisdom through the authorship of this guide.”
Although it has no formal connection to the military, HireAHelper.com helps military personnel and families navigate the complexities of moving. “In addition to booking moving services, we provide online resources to help our customers understand the smartest way to move,” Charles states. “We have a lot of goals with these guides, but the main themes include: easing the stress of moving day, helping customers save money, and spreading the wisdom of smart packing and planning.” The company also offers a 5% military family discount that can either be immediately applied if you book through us via phone, or, applied after you book online.
“Military families and other consumers may compare labor-only moving company reviews and prices all over the country, and book directly through our platform,” Charles points out. “We also provide phone booking services for those who may need additional assistance, or just prefer the customer service that a phone call provides. We partner with smaller, mom-and-pop labor-only moving businesses around the country to give them a web platform to list their services, helping them provide the best moving services available to their customers, while we focus on connecting them to those customers.”
Another online company is offering a guide to the best moving options for veterans: House Method, an online research and review firm, is offering a guide to moving firms that offer discounts to veterans. (https://housemethod.com/moving/moving-companies-that-offer-discounts-to-veterans/.) The guide is compiled of the best options for veterans and explains qualifications and discount details. The company also offers expert guides, news and reviews on home warranty companies, pest control companies, and lawn service companies.
From HireAHelper.com: we don’t have specific military-themed images, we do have original, moving-themed images we produced that might be helpful. You may check them here: https://flickr.com/photos/hireahelper/albums