December 22, 2020

Hirono Bill to Help VA Home Loan Recipients Rebuild After Natural Disasters Sent to President

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Mazie K. Hirono, a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, announced she secured a provision from her Veteran Home Loan Disaster Recovery Act in the recently-passed Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe, M.D. Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act. The legislation now heads to President Trump’s desk.

The Veteran Home Loan Disaster Recovery Act was inspired by Tam Hunt, a Hawaii Island Army veteran and one of Senator Hirono’s constituents, who faced challenges financing a replacement for the home he lost in the 2018 Kilauea Volcano eruption. The eruption destroyed as many as 700 homes, including at least one home purchased using the VA Home Loan Guaranty Program. Senator Hirono’s provision would allow veterans replacing homes lost to natural disasters through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Home Loan Guaranty Program to access a lower fee rate—as if they were a first-time participant in the program.

“Veterans who are trying to rebuild their lives after a natural disaster should not be penalized when they try to rebuild their home,” Senator Hirono said. “This provision will provide a bit of relief during a stressful time and I thank Mr. Hunt for his advocacy on behalf of his fellow veterans.”

“I'm very happy to hear that this bill has been passed by the Senate and big mahalo to Senator Hirono for making this happen," Tam Hunt said. 

In 2019, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), there were over 100 Presidentially-declared disasters across almost every U.S. state and territory.

The VA Home Loan Guaranty program was established through the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act in 1944 and has since been used by generations of our nation’s veterans to purchase homes. Borrowers are required to pay an up-front “funding fee,” which functions similarly to closing costs. The amount of this fee is determined by a number of factors, including whether this is their first time participating in the program. For those who have used this program more than once, the fee is higher, regardless of the circumstances that led to them needing to purchase a home through the program, like a home being destroyed by a natural disaster. This bill amends the program to allow an exemption for homes destroyed by natural disasters.

Congressman Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.) introduced the House version of the Veteran Home Loan Disaster Recovery Act.