Veterans Affairs leaders are calling for an immediate halt on all foreclosures on homes financed through department loans and extending a pandemic support program in an effort to help veterans struggling with housing payments.
The moves, announced Friday, came in response to an NPR report earlier this month which found thousands of veterans in danger of losing their homes because of the end of the Veterans Assistance Partial Claim Payment program in late 2022.
The program, established by Congress, allowed individuals to skip some mortgage payments during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the promise of making up those payments later. But when it was canceled, some mortgage companies demanded all of the back payments be paid quickly, leading to financial problems for those families.
NPR reported that about 6,000 individuals with VA home loans have already entered the foreclosure process as a result of the problems. It is unclear whether Friday’s actions will bring any relief to them.
In a statement, VA Press Secretary Terrence Hayes said the department will push all mortgage companies to pause foreclosures on VA-guaranteed loans through May 31, 2023. Department leaders will also extend the COVID-19 Refund Modification program through that date.
The modification program “will allow veterans to obtain a zero-interest, deferred-payment loan from VA to cover missed payments and modify their existing VA-guaranteed loan to achieve affordable monthly payments for the duration of this extension,” Hayes said. It was set to expire at the end of the year.
VA leaders are also launching a new VA Servicing Purchase program in coming months, designed to allow the department to purchase defaulted VA loans from mortgage servicers. That will allow federal officials to modify the loans and directly manage them, with the goal of finding ways to keep veterans from losing their homes.
Last week, a group of Democratic senators praised the new program as an important step in helping veterans, but warned that implementing the program will take time that many financially struggling veterans do not have.
“Tens of thousands of veterans and service members are left with no viable options to get back on track with payments and save their homes,” the senators wrote in a letter to VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “Stories from across the country show that this is already having severe consequences for veterans and their families.”
Hayes said department assistance efforts have helped about 145,000 veterans avoid foreclosure in the last year. The department typically guarantees more than 1 million home loans annually.
Veterans in need of housing assistance can visit the department’s website for more information.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.