“Helping veterans and their families stay in their homes is a top priority at VA. Over the past year, we’ve been able to help more than 145,000 Veterans and their families retain their homes and avoid foreclosure,” a statement from Veterans Affairs said. “Even in the dynamic housing market of the last several years, rates of foreclosures of VA-backed mortgages are among the lowest in the country. And at the same time, we know that there are still Veterans struggling to make their payments.”
This pause comes after an investigation by NPR, published last week, found thousands of veterans who took part in a COVID forbearance program set up by Congress were at risk of losing their homes through no fault of their own.
The Veterans Assistance Partial Claim Payment program, created during the COVID-19 pandemic, let people going through financial hardship skip their mortgage payments for six or 12 months, with missed payments being moved to the end of their loan term. However, in October 2022, the VA ended the program.
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VA officials say they have a new program to replace the Partial Claim Payment program that involves the department buying defaulted VA loans from mortgage servicers, modifying them and then placing them in VA-owned portfolios as direct loans.
However, NPR wrote that it will take four to five months to implement that program, which is too late for the 6,000 people with COVID forbearances who are already in the foreclosure process and the 34,000 who are delinquent.
In a statement to NewsNation Monday, Veterans Affairs confirmed it is calling on mortgage servicers to pause foreclosures of VA-guaranteed loans through May 31, 2024.
A spokesperson for the VA said in a statement the agency will work with servicers on workable home retention solutions for veterans during this time. The VA is also extending the COVID-19 Refund Modification program through May 31, 2024. This program allows veterans to get a zero-interest, deferred-payment loan from Veterans Affairs that will cover missed payments and modify their existing loans so they can afford monthly payments.
Responding to NPR’s initial reporting, U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Jon Tester, D-Mont.; Jack Reed, D-R.I.; and Tim Kaine, D-Va., wrote a letter urging VA Secretary Denis McDonough to protect the home loan guarantee.
“With each additional day that passes, risks mount for borrowers who are facing foreclosure while they wait for a solution from VA,” they said.
“I’m encouraged to see VA answering my call to quickly address this crisis facing our men and women who risked their lives serving this country and were facing foreclosure through no fault of their own,” Tester said. “This pause will help ensure our veterans, service members, and their families can remain in their homes and get their payments back on track while the VA works on a long-term solution.”
Veterans having trouble making loan payments can go to www.va.gov/housing-assistance or call 877-827-3702.