Monday, February 23, 2009
An investigative report by Associated Press finds that Army Emergency Relief, a separate tax-exempt nonprofit founded in 1942 to ease cash emergencies of active-duty soldiers and retirees and provide college scholarships for their families, is hoarding cash and cutting services. AER's cash hoarding earned it an "F" rating from the American Institute of Philanthropy. In addition to hoarding cash, the AP found several questionable practices stemming from AER's relationship with the army, including
• Superior officers come calling when AER loans aren't repaid on time. Soldiers can be fined or demoted for missing loan payments. They must clear their loans before transferring or leaving the service.
• Promotions can be delayed or canceled if loans are not repaid.
• Despite strict rules against coercion, the Army uses pushy tactics to extract supposedly voluntary contributions, with superiors using language like: "How much can we count on from you?"
• The Army sometimes offers rewards for contributions, though incentives are banned by program rules. It sometimes excuses contributors from physical training — another clear violation.
• AER screens every request for aid, peering into the personal finances of its troops, essentially making the Army a soldier's boss and loan officer.