Scott Helps Introduce Legislation To Protect Veterans from Predatory Home Lending

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), chairman of the Banking Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation, and Urban Affairs, joined U.S. Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) to introduce the Protecting Veterans from Predatory Lending Act of 2018. This bipartisan legislation would protect veterans from targeted predatory home loan practices by requiring lenders to demonstrate a material benefit to consumers when refinancing their mortgage. Senators Dean Heller (R-NV), Jon Tester (D-MT), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Richard Burr (R-NC), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Joe Donnelly (D-IN) are all original co-sponsors of the legislation.

The Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) home loan program was designed to provide veterans and servicemembers with the opportunity to purchase their own home through a VA insured mortgage from a private lender. VA loans have lower credit score requirements than other mortgages, and often don’t require down payments. Since its inception, it has insured more than 20 million home loans to help veterans become homeowners.

However, today a small number of lenders are abusing the program by utilizing misleading advertising tactics and engaging in a practice known as “churning” – the refinancing of a home loan over and over again to generate fees and profits for lenders at the direct expense of veterans and their families, often without their knowledge.

Over a period of time from April of 2016 through August of 2017, over 1,000,000 VA home loans were made, including 50,000 loans in North Carolina alone, and almost half of those were refinanced VA loans. The vast majority of those refinanced loans are being originated by good actors, but this legislation addresses a pool of refinanced VA loans—over 40,000 nationwide and 1,000+ in North Carolina over the aforementioned time period—wherein veterans may have been subjected to abusive lending practices by some in the marketplace who engage in “churning.”

“Our service members do so much for us and it should be our responsibility to look out for their well-being whenever possible,” said Senator Scott. “It is simply unconscionable that there are people out there who are willing to take advantage of our men and women who served in uniform for their own financial gains. Many see home ownership as a central component of the American Dream, and incentives like the VA loan program afford our veterans the unique opportunity to reach that sought after goal. Any attempt to tarnish this initiative should be aggressively struck down, and I am glad to join this bipartisan group who has decided to stand up on behalf of our veterans – it is what they have both earned and deserve.”

“The VA home loan program was designed to give veterans and servicemembers the opportunity to become homeowners as they raise their families and it has proven to be a great success,” said Senator Tillis. “Unfortunately, a few bad actors are taking advantage of the program as home lenders have begun targeting veterans and servicemembers to generate profit and fees at their expense, often leading to higher loan amounts and putting families in a worse financial position than they started off. Our men and women in uniform deserve better, and I am proud to partner with Senator Warren on this bipartisan legislation that will end these predatory home lending practices. I hope Congress will consider this bill quickly so we can protect those who have sacrificed so much to protect us.”

“The government shouldn’t be backing lenders who exploit veterans just to line their own pockets. All three of my brothers served in the military and I understand the incredible sacrifices made by those who fight for our country – they deserve better,” said Senator Warren. “I’m glad to work with Senator Tillis to crack down on lenders engaging in predatory practices that hurt veterans, their families, and American taxpayers.”

“The VA home loan program has assisted countless military veterans, including those in Nevada, in their pursuit to become homeowners. Recently we’ve learned some lenders are taking advantage of this important program and using veterans in order to earn a quick profit,” said Senator Heller. “I’m proud to cosponsor this bipartisan bill to help protect veterans from predatory lenders. It is my hope that Congress will send a strong message to these bad actors by swiftly approving our bill, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to do just that.”

“This bill cracks down on predatory practices and protects veterans,” said Senator Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “I’m pleased to join this bipartisan group of Senators who are sending a clear message that we will not stand by while bad actors attempt to take advantage of veterans. This bill does right by those who have served and I look forward to a timely debate on this issue.”

“We owe a lot to our veterans and should be doing everything we can to ensure those who have selflessly served our country receive the support they need. That includes protection from those who are looking to take advantage of them,” said Senator Capito. “This bipartisan legislation will help put an end to predatory home lending practices that threaten our veterans’ financial stability and provide important home loan protections they deserve.”

“Our nation’s Veterans and their families have made unimaginable sacrifices to ensure we are able to enjoy the freedoms that we take so much pride in. It is disgraceful that a handful of predatory home lenders are exploiting our nation’s finest to make a profit. I’m proud to join a bipartisan group of Senators to prevent this abuse and better ensure our Veterans the opportunity to own a home,” said Senator Manchin.

“The VA home loan program has assisted over 18 million veterans become homeowners since its inception in 1944,” said Senator Burr. “It’s an important benefit that our service members have earned. While the program itself is largely successful, there remain unacceptable cases of predatory lending taking advantage of veterans across the nation. This bill will help prevent such abuses and ensure that those who have served our nation are further protected from misleading loan practices.”

“Lenders should not be allowed to pressure or exploit veterans into needlessly refinancing their homes just to make a profit,” said Senator Schatz. “Our bill keeps mortgage lenders honest and protects both veterans and taxpayers.”

“Ensuring our nation’s men and women in uniform are supported – not taken advantage of – when they transition back to civilian life is absolutely key in our duty and responsibility to our veterans,” said Senator Sullivan. “As a proud member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I am pleased to join this important and bipartisan cause that will push back against predatory home lenders targeting our nation’s veterans.”

“Our nation’s veterans sacrifice so much for our country – we must do everything we can to support them when they come home,” said Senator Van Hollen. “That’s why we must ensure these men and women are not taken advantage of by unethical business practices used to turn a profit by any means necessary. The Protecting Veterans from Predatory Lending Act will safeguard veterans and their families from those who would seek to defraud them. I’m proud to support this legislation and urge my colleagues to move forward on this issue immediately.”

“This common sense legislation would ensure that servicemembers and veterans can continue to obtain affordable mortgages, while putting a stop to a predatory lending practice targeting those who have served our country,” said Senator Donnelly. “I am proud to support this bill led by Senators Tillis and Warren.”

The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the US (VFW), and the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) are all supportive of efforts to address this issue.

National Commander Denise H. Rohan, The American Legion: “We appreciate the thoughtful approach that Senators Tillis and Warren have taken in addressing the abusive lending practices that are targeting our nation’s veterans. We believe that this is a measured approach, and are encouraged by the bipartisan group that the senators have fostered. We look forward to working with all parties as Congress continues to address this important issue.”

Patrick Murray, VFW: “Predatory lenders must not be afforded the opportunity to take advantage of veteran homeowners. The Veterans of Foreign Wars is committed to working with Congress to ensure reasonable protections are put in place to prohibit bad actors from preying upon veterans and thank Senator Tillis for his leadership in addressing this important issue.”