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House members to Pelosi: Stop hiking VA loan fees to fund benefits

Seven House members from both parties take a stand against fee hikes for VA mortgages

When Congress passed the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act and President Donald Trump signed it on June 25, it was applauded as overdue help for retired military exposed to Agent Orange. Little notice was given to how it was being funded: a two-year hike in VA loan fees.

In other words, rather than have the U.S. government pay for the health costs for Vietnam veterans, the bill was being footed by younger soldiers and sailors buying homes with mortgages backed by the Veterans Administration. Most of those buyers were rolling that fee into their loan, meaning they’ll be paying the fee hike off for 30 years, with interest.

A month later, the House of Representatives passed another bill to help veterans, this time funded with an extension to the temporary Blue Water hike in mortgage fees. This bill, H.R. 3504, would pay for adapting homes for disabled veterans and provide educational benefits to military spouses and children. It passed the House in July and is pending in the Senate.

Now, seven members of Congress have written to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to ask that future bills not be paid for by increasing VA loan fees. Seven members of the House signed the Dec. 9 letter, from both major political parties: Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX), Lee Zeldin (R-NY), Filemon Vela (D-TX), Steve Stivers (R-OH), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) and Denver Riggleman (R-VA).

“While we stand behind our support for both bills, we recommend that spending on future veterans’ benefits should be shared by the broadest base of Americans or paid for through the direct appropriation of funds, rather than through offsets that fall squarely on veterans,” the letter said. “We must ensure our veterans receive the benefits and services they have earned in a way that does not reduce the value of other earned benefits and services that are central to their financial and social well-being.”

The number of VA loans increased 2.3% in the 12 months through September, led by a 14% gain in mortgages for Millennial-generation veterans and active-duty military, HousingWire reported in October.

Mortgages backed by the VA allow borrowers to purchase homes without down payments. Even without an equity stake in their properties, the delinquency rate for VA borrowers is lower than mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration.

The VA delinquency rate was 4.24% in the second quarter, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. That compares with 9.22% for borrowers with FHA-backed loans, the MBA data showed.

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