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Bill Would Boost Access to VA Loan Program for Surviving Military Spouses

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Thousands of surviving spouses currently ineligible for VA home loan benefits would gain access to the program if a U.S. House bill passed Wednesday becomes law.

The VA Loan Guaranty program has helped more than 18 million service members become homeowners since 1944. The program provides no-down payment, government-backed mortgages and features less stringent credit and underwriting guidelines than other loan programs.

But in its present form, the loan program is only open to surviving spouses of veterans whose death is linked to a service-connected disability. The bill, the Disabled Veterans' Surviving Spouses Home Loans Act, would eliminate that stipulation and grant eligibility to all surviving spouses of permanently disabled veterans.

The bill passed by a 418-6 vote as part of the wide-ranging Veterans Opportunity to Work Act.

"As we approach Veterans Day, we should ask ourselves if this Congress doing all that can be done for our veterans," U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., the bill's sponsor, said before the House. "This bill maintains our promise not only to the men and women that have served in the Armed Forces, but to their families as well."

A host of military organizations and veterans' groups endorsed the bill, including the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Disabled American Veterans.

A tighter lending climate has made the VA loan program increasingly popular. Loan volume has soared 135 percent since 2007.

The VA guaranteed 314,011 loans last year, including about 1,000 to surviving spouses.

Chris Birk is director of communications for the VA Mortgage Center, which specializes in VA loans for veterans and active duty service members.

This post originally appeared at VA Loans Insider.