Recently we have seen a lot of articles and news stories discussing the abysmal lack of effort by our government to support the men and women of our armed services. Our veterans who are making incredible sacrifices all over the world to serve our country have been getting the short end of the stick for far too long. Well, it appears Congress is finally making an effort to provide some relief for veterans. Several Bills are currently being sponsored to help improve VA medical benefits, improve educational benefits and to provide some financial relief during these tough economic times. Two of the bills currently under consideration: HR 4884 – Helping Veterans Keep Their Homes Act of 2008 and HR 6081 – Heroes Earning Assistance and Tax Relief Act (HEART Act) look to relieve some of the financial burdens placed on veterans today.
The mortgage crisis has not hit veterans as hard as it has hit the rest of the nation. The foreclosure rate on VA loans continues to fall below the national average. In fact, delinquencies for VA guaranteed loans have declined while the delinquency rates for the sub-prime, FHA, and prime loan markets continue to climb. Unfortunately, not all veterans have taken advantage of the VA loan programs, often because of loan limits or their inability to meet all the requirements. A lot of these veterans, and even many of those that have taken advantage of the programs, are still in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure. The Helping Veterans Keep Their Homes Act of 2008 is designed to provide some relief to veterans and make it easier to obtain a loan by changing some of the guidelines and removing some of the requirements for a VA refinance loan. Some of the key changes include increasing the refinance loan cap to $729,750 from $144,000, dropping the 10% equity requirement for refinancing a loan, and changing the funding fee to a flat 1%. Additionally, the current VA loan limit of $417,000 would be increased to $730,000. HR 4884 is currently in committee review.
While HR 4884 addresses some of the mortgage crisis issues, the HEART Act is designed to help military personnel called to active duty. The House and the Senate have both passed the $1.3 billion tax relief bill and it was presented to President Bush on June 6, 2008. The Heroes Earning Assistance and Tax Relief Act is should reduce the tax burden for military families facing the hardships of extended military deployments by providing greater access to Earned Income Tax Credits, providing tax incentives to small businesses willing to continue to pay their employees called to active duty in the National Guard or Reserves, allowing penalty free 401(k) distributions, and allowing individuals to tap the unused balance in their flexible spending health-care plans. President Bush is expected to sign HR 6081 into law.
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