By Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden, American Forces Press ServiceMay 15, 2009
WASHINGTON, (May 14, 2009) - Vice President Joe Biden today announced the Defense Department's plan to expand its housing assistance program with $555 million devoted to servicemembers forced to sell their homes at a loss due to the country's struggling housing market.
The financial support comes from President Barack Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to supplement the department's Homeowner's Assistance Program, Biden said aboard the USS Ronald Reagan during a visit with sailors and their families at Naval Base Coronado in San Diego.
The funds are allocated to provide benefits to military and civilian employees, according to a specific priority order, who suffered housing financial losses since 2006.
"The sacrifices military families make for our country, in terms of deployments but also moving several times in their career, are immense," he said. "They often don't get to choose when they move and may be forced to sell their homes when they don't want to."
Several times during the average military career, military members may be ordered to change duty stations to meet the mission requirements for their respective branch of service. Duty calls on servicemembers and their families to relocate and establish a new home as frequently as every two to three years. Many have moved because of base closures under the 2005 Defense Base Realignment and Closure Act.
Some families have been forced to sell their homes despite the possibility of losing thousands of dollars amid the country's struggling economy and housing market. Many military members can't afford to own a home near Fort Bragg, N.C., and rent or buy another near Scott Air Force Base, Ill., for example.
"We are in the middle of a credit and housing crises, and we recognize that military families cannot generally choose when to move," the vice president said, "so we've used the Recovery Act to dramatically expand what was once a fairly small program, assisting families forced to relocate due to base closures or normal assignment rotations."
The initiative isn't entirely new, however. The Pentagon has offered and provided similar financial assistance to military and civilian employees for more than 40 years, defense officials said. Until now, the program's primary support has focused on those who owned homes and lost money near closed or soon-to-be-closed down military installations under BRAC.
With the expansion, the Pentagon can now provide partial reimbursement for home-sale losses to other groups. The priority order for the benefits, according to Pentagon officials, are as followed:
-- Wounded servicemembers relocating for treatment or medical retirement, and for the surviving family members of those who have died while on deployment.
-- Military and Defense Department civilian employees affected by BRAC without the need to prove whether the base closure or the general housing market decline caused the loss.
-- Normal permanent change of station moves, but only on a retroactive basis that covers PCS moves between July 1, 2006, through Dec. 31, 2009.
All active and former members of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard, as well as DoD civilians who have sold a home since 2006 may visit the Homeowners Assistance Program Web site to learn specific program criteria and eligibility.