Everyone celebrated when the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act passed Congress last year and was signed into law by President Donald Trump.
The bill provided benefits to Navy veterans exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. But hidden in the small print was a detail many legislators overlooked when voting for the bill: It was funded by hiking fees on mortgages backed by the Veterans Administration.
“These are all worthwhile benefits, and we want to see veterans get the care they deserve, but why is Congress choosing to pay for these benefits on the backs of military families?” Chris Birk, director of education for Veterans United, the largest VA lender, said to HousingWire at the time.
Now, another attempt to have active-duty military and veterans pay for benefits for other current or former members of the armed services has been derailed – at least in part – because of an amendment by Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) to HR 3504, a bill approved by Congress on Monday that provides funds to adapt housing for disabled vets.
The fee hike in last year’s Blue Water Navy bill temporarily increased the VA mortgage funding fee from 2.15% to 2.3% for first-time buyers and from 3.3% to 3.6% for subsequent buyers through Jan. 1, 2022. Most vets roll the fee into their loans, meaning they’re paying off their fee with interest for the time they own their property.
The original version of the bill passed this week was paid for by extending those Blue Water fee hikes through Oct. 2, 2027. That extra five years and 10 months would have resulted in VA borrowers paying an additional $529 million in fees – not counting the interest they might pay for up to 30 years to finance the higher fees.
Moran’s amendment reduced some of the spending in the bill and cut the extension of the higher fees to an extra one year and four months – through April 7, 2023.
That will cost VA borrowers an extra $118 million, versus the $529 million in the original version of the bill, saving VA loan borrowers $411 million in fees.
“For 75 years, the VA home loan has been an economic lifeline for veterans and military families,” Veterans United CEO Nate Long said after the bill passed. “We are appreciative that Sen. Moran recognized that continuing to raise the cost of using this benefit is detrimental to those who serve and defend our country.”