Spouses of vets may get more aid

Foxx-sponsored bill would extend home-loan benefits

By Sarah Morayati-JOURNAL REPORTER
Published: August 9, 2010

More surviving spouses of veterans will be available for Veteran’s Affairs home loans under a bill now making its way through Congress.

The Disabled Veterans’ Surviving Spouses Home Loans Act, was introduced by Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., to fix what she describes as a loophole in veterans’ benefits.

VA loans are intended to help veterans or active-duty personnel buy and maintain homes. They can currently be granted to surviving spouses only if the service member’s death is determined to be directly connected to service disability.

But Foxx said service-related disabilities can often be factors contributing to deaths, even if doctors don’t directly attribute them as the cause.

“I’ve always said that we will have no problems with having a volunteer military as long as we treat our veterans right,” Foxx said. “Surviving spouses of veterans whose deaths are not attributed to their service-related disability are eligible for everything but this VA home loan guarantee.”

Foxx learned of the issue from a constituent who contacted her on behalf of Elnita Simmons, 50, of Raeford.

Simmons’ husband, Herbert, died in 2008 at age 49. A soldier in the U.S. Army, Herbert was in a practice field when a grenade exploded in his eye in an accident. He became blind in that eye and was no longer eligible to serve.

Simmons said she applied for a VA loan last year, but her application was rejected because Herbert’s death was not said to be a direct result of his disability.

She applied again after talking with someone at VA, but was again turned down.

She said her house, where she has lived for more than 10 years, needs significant work; there are several leaks and the floor in her bedroom closet is starting to give. But on her substitute-teacher’s salary, she said, her bills are mounting too much to get them fixed on her own.

“Everything just needs to be repaired,” Simmons said.

Foxx’s bill has been endorsed by the Disabled American Veterans and American Legion, among other groups. Foxx said the bill has not run into significant opposition in the legislature.

“The only real concern is time. That’s always a problem,” she said.

The House has until September for bills to be heard. If the bill is not passed this year, Foxx said she planned to re-introduce it.

Simmons said that the new bill would help a lot of military widows like her.

“It’s hard for us. We’re trying to get things done,” Simmons said. “I’m just happy that someone wants to change the law to help us.”

smorayati@wsjournal.com

http://www2.journalnow.com/content/2010/aug/09/spouses-of-vets-may-get-more-aid/

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