According to this article from the AP it seems the non-profit "charity," Army Emergency Relief has been stingy with money that is supposed to be used to help our men and women in uniform get through tough times. Not only are they unwilling to part with an acceptable percentage of their "charity" dollars during a time of unprecedented financial crisis, but they use mob-like tactics to intimidate soldiers struggling to repay the money and to solicit donations. Soldiers can be refused transfers and promotions if the "charity" money isn't repaid in a timely manner.
FORT BLISS, Texas – As soldiers stream home from Iraq and Afghanistan, the biggest charity inside the U.S. military has been stockpiling tens of millions of dollars meant to help put returning fighters back on their feet, an Associated Press investigation shows.
Between 2003 and 2007 — as many military families dealt with long war deployments and increased numbers of home foreclosures — Army Emergency Relief grew into a $345 million behemoth. During those years, the charity packed away $117 million into its own reserves while spending just $64 million on direct aid, according to an AP analysis of its tax records.
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.
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?"
Compare the Navy and Air Force equivalent to the AER and the differences are astounding:
During that same five-year period, the smaller Navy and Air Force charities both put far more of their own resources into aid than reserves. The Air Force charity kept $24 million in reserves while dispensing $56 million in total aid, which includes grants, scholarships and loans not repaid. The Navy charity put $32 million into reserves and gave out $49 million in total aid.
The article goes on to say that the AER has helped a lot of people over the years and I won't question that, but the culture in the AER has become something barely resembling a charity, in my eyes. I imagine it comes as no surprise that this was allowed to happen during the Bush years.