military has been stockpiling tens of millions of dollars meant to help put returning fighters back on their feet, an Associated Press investigation shows.
Promotions can be delayed or canceled if loans are not repaid.
Army charity hoards millions
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.
Most charity watchdogs view 1 to 3 years of reserves as prudent, with Nike Sneaker Black And White
Neither the Army nor Sgt. Major of the Army Kenneth Preston, an AER board member, responded to repeated requests for comment on the military's relationship with AER.
National administrators say they've tried to loosen the purse strings. The most recent yearly figures do show a tilt by AER toward increased giving.
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.
The AP findings include:
"Look at the stock market," said retired Col. Dennis Spiegel, AER's deputy director for administration. Without the large reserve, he added, "We'd be in very serious trouble."
includes grants, scholarships and loans not repaid. The Navy charity put $32 million into reserves and gave out $49 million in total aid.
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 Nike Womens Shoes 2017
AER's treasurer, Ret. Col. Andrew Cohen, acknowledged in an interview that "the Army runs the program in the field." Army officers dominate its corporate board too.
"If you have an outstanding bill, you're warned about paying that off just to finish your tour of duty . because it will be brought to your leadership and it will be dealt with," says Jon Nakaishi, of Tracy, Calif., an Army National Guard veteran of the Iraq war who took out a $900 AER loan to help feed his wife and children between paychecks.
AER executives defend their operation, insisting they need to keep sizable reserves to be ready for future catastrophes.
Founded in 1942, AER eases cash emergencies of active duty soldiers and retirees and provides college scholarships for their families. Its emergency aid covers mortgage payments and food, car repairs, medical bills, travel to family funerals, and the like.
says AER holds enough reserves to last about 12 years at its current level of aid.
more than that considered hoarding. Yet the American Institute of Philanthropy Nike Shoes No Laces
Daniel Borochoff, president of the American Institute of Philanthropy, said that AER collects money "very efficiently. What the shame is, is they're not doing more with it."
The Army sometimes offers rewards for contributions, though incentives are banned by program rules. It sometimes excuses contributors from physical training another clear violation.
"If I ask a private for something . chances are everyone's going to do it. Why? Because I'm a lieutenant," says Iraq war veteran Tom Tarantino, otherwise an AER backer. "It can almost be construed as mandatory."
Tax exempt and legally separate from the military, AER projects a facade of independence but really operates under close Army control. The massive nonprofit funded predominantly by troops allows superiors to squeeze soldiers for contributions; forces struggling soldiers to repay loans sometimes delaying transfers and promotions; and too often violates its own rules by rewarding donors, such as giving free passes from physical training, the AP found.
Still, Borochoff's organization, which grades charities, gives the Nike Shoes Blue And Neon Green Army charity an "F" because of the hoarding.
AER pays just 21 staffers, all working at its headquarters at Army Human Resources Command in Alexandria, Va. AER's other 300 or so employees at 90 Army sites worldwide are civilians paid by the Army. Also, the Army gives AER office space for free.
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.
But smaller civilian charities for service members and veterans say they are swamped by the desperate needs of recent years, with requests far outstripping ability to respond. Army.
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?"
Charities linked to other services operate along more traditional nonprofit lines. The Air Force Aid Society sprinkles its board with members from outside the military to foster broad views. The Navy Marine Corps Relief Society pays 225 employees and, instead of relying on Navy personnel for other chores, deploys a corps of about 3,400 volunteers, including some from outside the military.
However, he said, problems sometimes arise when their missions diverge. "There's a bit of a tension when a government organization is operating closely with a charity," he said.
That's not illegal per se. Eric Smith, a spokesman for the Internal Revenue Service, said the agency can't offer an opinion on a particular charity's activities. But Marcus Owens, former head of IRS charity oversight, said charities like AER can legally partner closely with a government agency.
Instead of giving money away, though, the Army charity lent out 91 percent of its emergency aid during the period 2003 2007. For accounting purposes, the loans, dispensed interest free, are counted as expenses only when they are not paid back.
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