U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin this week introduced his first bill as a congressman, a call to eliminate a limit on the amounts of U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs home loans for veterans.
“This is an issue that many veterans have called my office concerned about,” Mr. Zeldin said in a statement. “I introduced this bill because after serving our country, our veterans have earned the support of a grateful nation. This legislation will address that issue by providing the VA with the flexibility to determine the appropriate limit for all veterans’ loans.”
The process can be complicated for a veteran: The VA limits the liability it will assume on a home loan, which can limit the amount an institution will lend. Without a down payment, a veteran can generally receive a basic VA entitlement of up to $144,000.
Brian Carabine, the quartermaster of the Everett Albert Herter VFW Post 550 in East Hampton, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1965 to 1993, said any help in dealing with Veterans Affairs is welcome.
“It’s an issue anytime you deal with the VA,” he said on Friday. “It’s an issue, because they make you go around the barn four times. If Zeldin is doing anything to make it simpler, it’s great. I know in the past, anyone whose dealt with the VA … it often gives them agita, because they have to go through hoops. But I think the bill is a good thing, based on the fact that Zeldin is a vet, so I assume it’s written fairly and, hopefully, implemented well if passed and the VA starts using it.”
Mr. Zeldin, who was on active duty for four years with the U.S. Army and served in different capacities, including as a military intelligence officer, federal prosecutor and military magistrate, has been an advocate for veterans during his time as New York State senator. During his time in Albany, he created the PFC Joseph Dwyer Peer-to-Peer Support Program for those with post traumatic stress disorder and also wrote a law to protect military families from protests at military burials.
Mr. Zeldin has been appointed to the House Veterans Affairs Committee, and two Veterans Affairs subcommittees: the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, and the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity.
His bill is co-sponsored by U.S. representatives Mark Takano and Zoe Lofgren, both Democrats from California, but Mr. Zeldin said he had the 1st Congressional District—and the high price of homes—in mind when drafting the bill.
“One of my main priorities in Congress is improving the quality of life and care for our veterans,” Mr. Zeldin said on Friday. “By providing the VA with the flexibility they need to determine the appropriate limit for all veterans’ loans—which they had from 2009 to 2014, when the loan limit was increased under the 2009 stimulus plan—this bill will ensure the VA has that flexibility for years to come.”
Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley, who served in the U.S. Navy for nine years, said the bill, if adopted as a law, would go a long way to help veterans.
“When somebody goes out and serves their country, we should be doing everything we can to help them out,” Mr. Epley said. “From the homeownership standpoint, there were caps the VA had on loans that were very restrictive and made it difficult to buy a home, especially on Long Island. The average cost of a home is so high, so I think the bill is a great idea.”
According to the Suffolk County Veterans Service Agency, the county is home to the largest population of veterans in New York State, and has one of the largest veterans’ populations of any county in the United States. The cost of living in Suffolk County is also higher than the national average.
“This bill is very helpful for veterans living in areas with a high cost of living, such as Long Island,” Mr. Zeldin said. “It’s important that after laying their lives on the line, our veterans receive access to resources to improve their quality of life following their military service. There is so much more we can do to improve life for our veterans, and I will continue this important fight in Congress.”