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By Carol Church

In a perfect world, all military service members would be able to consistently pay all their bills and meet their financial needs with ease. However, in real life, financial emergencies do occur. They could be the result of an excess of debt, medical problems, or family situations beyond the member’s control. Sometimes a delay in receiving military pay or disability payments creates an emergency. Whatever the cause, sometimes service members need help—and fast. So, what options exist for a service member who needs this kind of emergency aid? Here are some programs that can help. These organizations typically offer services to active duty or retired members, survivors, veterans, and qualified family members. Most will help to pay bills, such as rent, car and mortgage payments, and medical and/or dental expenses. They may also help with food, emergency travel, or funeral expenses. Some only give grants, while others give grants and small, interest-free loans. Several are specially intended for those injured during service. Some offer financial counseling to help make sure that these situations do not recur.

Official Charities for Every Branch

Air Force Aid Society—The AFAS provides emergency loans and grants to members of the Air Force and their families. They can help with needs like shelter, food, medical bills, moving costs, child care, and more. Members can apply online or in person at a base. The Falcon Loan program is of particular interest.

Army Emergency Relief—The AER can help with a wide variety of needs, including food, health care, home repairs, housing, emergency travel, and more. They will not charge interest or fees, and you can apply online or in person. The AER has a dedicated Wounded Warrior program especially for those seriously injured in action.

Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society—Offers financial counseling, grants, and loans of $500 or less. Can help with food, medical bills, car payment, moving costs, emergency travel, and more. This organization also offers free financial counseling and education on a variety of topics.

Coast Guard Mutual Assistance—The CGMA offers help with the typical range of emergencies, as well as more general needs like insurance and childcare. They also offer financial counseling.

Other Private Organizations Offering Assistance

American Military Family—While this assistance is limited to Colorado residents, the program can provide help with rent, utilities, and other basic needs. It is limited to those with a VA diagnosis of PTSD or TBI.

American Red Cross–The Red Cross can provide money for travel, food and shelter, burial, and various other needs to military service members and families, including widowed spouses and military retirees. You will need to submit qualifying information. The Red Cross can also help connect service members and families with organizations that help in their area.

America Serves—This network of interconnected agencies and service providers provides many benefits to veterans and service members, including direct financial assistance.

Operation Homefront—This is a nongovernmental charity that helps with a variety of needs, including car expenses, childcare, moving costs, medical bills, and more. They also have programs providing mortgage-free homes to service members and retired members who qualify, and provide safe, comfortable transitional housing to wounded members and their families who are in need.

Semper Fi Fund—This organization provides financial assistance to post-9/11 wounded, ill, or injured service members and their families. They offer grants that can help with mortgage payments and with travel, lodging, and everyday expenses incurred while a service member receives medical assistance.

USA Cares—This organization does not provide money or loans directly to members, but instead makes payments for them (to banks, utilities, etc.). Their grants are focused on post-9/11 veterans whose financial hardship relates to their military service. They specialize in rapid assistance, working to respond to requests within 48 hours. (Mortgage assistance requests will take longer.) Apply online.

These groups and organizations offer a vital service by extending a helping hand to those who are in immediate need of funds or loans. However, it’s also important to address the underlying issues that created the emergency. There are abundant resources here at OneOp to help; one key strategy is to build an emergency fund.