Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that by a voice vote the House passed H.R. 3665, the Veterans Housing and Employment Improvement Act of 2005 and included Faleomavaega’s provision for American Samoa’s veterans.
“I especially want to thank Chairman Steve Buyer and Ranking Member Lane Evans of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and also Chairman John Boozman and Ranking Member Stephanie Herseth of the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity for their leadership in making it possible for Native Americans to participate in the veterans’ housing loan program,” Congressman Faleomavaega said.
“I am especially thankful that American Samoa’s veterans have also been able to participate in this very successful program and I thank my colleagues for working with me to address the concerns of American Samoans without adversely affecting the rights of other tribes. Many Samoans have served in the military and they are allowed to obtain home loans under current law. Other Samoans are married to non-Samoan veterans. Non-native military spouses married to native Samoans have not been able to qualify for the VA home loan program. In part, this is because the Native American Home Loan program excludes the spouses of non-native Americans from qualifying for a VA home loan.”
“This has been problematic in American Samoa because most land in American Samoa is communal and the VA has only made it possible for Samoans of Tutuila, Manu’s, Aunu’u, or Swain Islands to qualify for home loans offered by traditional lending institutions because only they can make claim to native land. As a result, non-native spouses of veterans or persons serving in the US Armed Forces who are married to a Samoan have not been able to qualify for a VA home loan. However, the VA has been helpful in assisting the Veterans’ Affair Committee and my office in drafting language to rectify this problem and I am pleased that this language has now been included in HR 3665.”
“As we have agreed, it is our understanding that this language now makes it possible for a non-Samoan military member or veteran to qualify for a VA loan if the non-Samoan military member has a ‘meaningful interest’ in the housing a Samoan spouse has been granted permission to build on communal land. It is also our understanding that ‘meaningful interest’ means that the veteran has the right to reside in the home under tribal laws.”
“This is good news for our veterans and their spouses. For this reason, I again thank my colleagues for including my provision in this important legislation. I also thank the VA for its assistance and my good friend Ranking Member Lane Evans of the VA Committee for his tireless efforts and support,” the Congressman concluded.