Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that by a vote of 372 to 0 the House passed S. 1235, the Veterans’ Housing Opportunity and Benefits Improvement Act of 2006 and included his provision for non-Samoan veterans married to Samoans to qualify for VA Home Loans.
“As we approach Memorial Day to remember and honor our military men and women who have died while serving our nation during a time of war, it is especially fitting that the House and Senate have passed the Veterans’ Housing Opportunity and Benefits Improvement Act of 2006 in tribute to those who are still with us,” Faleomavaega said.
“America is what she is today because of the sacrifices made by our military men and women and their families. This is why I am pleased that the US Congress is recognizing their service by passing S. 1235. After years of hard work, I am also pleased to announce that once the President signs this legislation into law, non-Samoan veterans married to Samoans will finally be able to qualify for VA home loans.”
“For too long, Native American veterans, including Samoans, were not able to participate in the VA Home Loan program because our land is communally rather than privately held. For the same reason, traditional lending institutions also would not make home loans to Native Americans because in case of default the bank would not be able to repossess the land or the home due to factors associated with communal ownership.”
“However, in 1992, with the support of the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, were able to establish a pilot program making it possible for Native Americans, including Samoans, to qualify for VA home loans. Even though this was groundbreaking and very helpful to many of our veterans, the program was still problematic because it excluded the spouses of non-native Americans from qualifying for a VA home loan and for us this meant that non-Samoan military spouses married to native Samoans were also unable to qualify.”
“But thanks to the successful passage of today’s legislation, our non-Samoan veterans married to Samoans will now able to qualify for VA home loans and I couldn’t be happier that their dreams of home ownership can now come true. At this time, 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 and Mary Ellen McCarthy, Democratic Staff Director for Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, for their support and tireless efforts in making this possible. I also thank Senator Larry Craig and Senator Daniel Akaka, Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, for their leadership.”
“Finally, I want to thank the VA for assisting the Veterans’ Affair Committee and my office in drafting language that has been included in section 104 of S. 1235 which now makes home ownership a reality for non-Samoan veterans married to Samoans. As a result of this language, it is our understanding that a non-Samoan military member or veteran may now 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.”
“Again, I believe S. 1235 is a fitting tribute to our veterans and I am especially pleased that this legislation provides American Samoa’s veterans with the housing opportunities and other benefits they deserve. For this reason, I again thank my colleagues for including my provision in this important legislation and for supporting the Veterans’ Housing Opportunity and Benefits Act of 2006,” the Congressman concluded.