Members of the National Guard and Reserves activated for COVID-19 pandemic response, civil unrest and natural disasters could gain access to Department of Veterans Affairs home loans with the passage of a bill introduced this week.
As of July 1, more than 37,100 National Guard troops are deployed for domestic operations across the country in response to the pandemic, civil unrest, and weather-related emergencies.
The bicameral legislation, introduced by Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Thom Tillis, R.N.C., would expand VA loan benefits to Guard and Reserve troops activated by governors under Title 32 orders for all three of those mission types.
Under current policy, National Guard and Reserve troops are only eligible for VA home loans if they have 90 consecutive days of active service under Title 10 orders or if they have been a member for at least six years.
“Members of the National Guard and Reserve are always ready to support our communities when a disaster strikes and are currently working to help stop the spread of COVID-19. However, this service does not count towards eligibility for one of the most popular benefits offered by (VA), the Home Loan Guaranty benefit,” Moran, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said in a statement. “This legislation would expand home loan guaranty eligibility for members of the Reserve Component and grant them greater access to homeownership to live the American dream after service.”
Tester said it was especially important these troops receive the benefit during the pandemic "following through on our nation's commitment to those who always stand ready to serve."
More than 24 million veterans have benefited from VA's home loan program, Tillis said, but "a technicality restricts eligibility for some Guardsmen and Reservists" including those activated for pandemic response.
Reps. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., ranking member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, and Mike Bost, R-Ill., introduced a companion bill in the House.
“Thousands of men and women serving in the National Guard and Reserve have left behind their families, friends, and livelihoods over the last several months to help their communities cope with COVID-19,” Roe said in a statement. “The least we can do for them in return is to ensure that the benefits they receive following their service at home are consistent with the benefits they would receive serving elsewhere.