(Washington D.C.) - This morning, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., the Department of Veterans Affairs welcomed more than 100 industry stakeholders and governments officials to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the GI Bill. Since being signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944, the GI Bill's VA Home Loan Guaranty Program has given millions of American service members the chance to own a home through this centralized, affordable and accessible resource. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson delivered the event's keynote address.
"The GI Bill has positively impacted millions of men and women through education, medical funding and home loans," Secretary Carson said. "It is through this area that HUD is proud to have made such a profound impact in the lives of our nation's veterans. And while the tremendous debt we owe to our brothers and sisters in arms may never be fully repaid, we can and will do everything in our power to leverage the GI Bill and HUD's programs to provide affordable housing for all Americans."
Secretary Carson also noted that veteran homelessness has recently been on the decline, with a 5.4% decrease recorded over the past year and overall figures cut in half since 2010.
As America recognizes Homeownership Month this June, National Association of Realtors President John Smaby, a second-generation Realtor from Edina, Minnesota, was on hand to highlight NAR's continued commitment to the VA Home Loan Guaranty Program. Smaby reflected on one of the first homes he sold when he began his real estate career more than 40 years ago, which was purchased by a Vietnam War veteran using the VA loan program.
"As we stand here and think about what 75 years of the VA loan means to Americans, I am reminded of that very special day," Smaby said. "It is also unbelievable what this bill does for our economy and what it means to Realtors across the country. There is no greater day for the agents in my office than when we see a veteran come through our doors after buying a home."
While celebrating its 75th anniversary, the VA loan program also backed its 24 millionth home loan in 2019. The recipient was Army Sgt. 1st Class William Kopf, an Active Guard Reserve Soldier who turned to his home loan benefit for the third time after service requirements necessitated a move from Utah to Northeastern Pennsylvania. Realtors Marilou Saar and Joni McKenna were in attendance Wednesday as the agents who helped make the 24 millionth transaction possible.
"When you're deployed, you're not thinking about your next life steps; you're not worried about a loan, you're not worried about a home. You're worried about that day's mission and the wellbeing of the troops," Sgt. Kopf said. "But when you are [back home] and you're trying to make that transition to the next part of your life, that's where the VA comes in - and that's where you need them the most. Knowing the VA has our back and that we can enjoy the American Dream is absolutely something special, and it's been a relief to my family."
Sgt. Kopf noted that the "major" benefit of VA loans is that they do not require a down payment. The program also limits closing costs and prohibits the imposition of mortgage insurance. The VA currently operates more than three million active loans, with 2,000 guaranteed through this program every day. In 2018, VA-purchased loans increased for the seventh straight year, marking an all-time high.
"The VA Home Loan Guaranty is unique. It's not simply a federal loan program. It is a promise we keep to our military members in return for their service to our nation," Smaby concluded.
The National Association of Realtors is America's largest trade association, representing more than 1.3 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.