Last month, as storms caused devastating damage in cities across Texas and Oklahoma, VA’s Home Loan Program identified and reached out to 3,811 specially adapted housing grantees and 2,631 VA-guaranteed home loan beneficiaries in the affected flood areas for both states. Now, as a new storm makes its way from the Gulf of Mexico to the Midwest, program director Michael Frueh wants Veterans to know VA is looking out for them.
“Depending on the severity of the damage, we’ll issue guidance to all servicers in a particular affected area to say, ‘please work with our Veteran borrowers in this community … VA is on their side to help,'” Frueh said.
Buying a home is a positive experience for many Veterans, and while the potential for natural disasters shouldn’t keep Veterans from taking advantage of their benefits, Frueh believes planning for the worst is essential. He points out that, in addition to making sure their families are safe and reaching out to FEMA, Veterans should call 1-877-827-3702 to talk with a VA loan specialist in the case of a natural disaster.
“We are here to help you through the process,” he added.
Here are the 5 steps Veteran home owners should take when a natural disaster strikes:
1. Contact FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency)
Begin the disaster application process online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 800‐621‐3362. In order to receive the maximum assistance, you must register with FEMA before their deadline expires. Do not pay your loan in full before checking with the Small Business Administration (SBA) regarding a loan for the uninsured portion of your loss. Additional support, including low‐interest loans, cash grants, and housing assistance may be available from agencies associated with the disaster recovery effort. For more information, go to www.fema.gov.
2. Contact your mortgage company
You are responsible for making regular monthly loan payments, even if your home is not habitable, so contact your lender as soon as possible regarding your loss. If you are unable to make payments on time, we encourage you to discuss forbearance or a loan modification. Also have your lender explain procedures for insurance loss checks, repairs to your property, payments to contractors, etc. You may also contact 877‐827‐3702 to speak with a VA loan specialist about your options.
If your home was adapted through VA’s Specially Adapted Housing program, please call 1-877-827-3702 because you may have remaining grant funds to help with repairs.
3. Contact your insurance company
File an insurance claim as soon as possible; however, do not make a hasty settlement on insurance. When the property is damaged but repairable, attempt to get your local building engineer’s office to inspect your home for structural damage. If possible, get at least two estimates from licensed contractors for the cost of repairs or rebuilding. Insurance checks for personal property and living expenses should be payable to you only. Checks for damage to your home should be payable to both you and your mortgage company.
4. Change your mailing address
If you will not be able to receive mail at your regular address, notify your local post office and VA Regional Office of your change of address. For information on other VA benefits, call 800‐827‐1000.
5. Check others sources for assistance
Contact local offices of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans (DAV) or other Veterans’ organizations to see if special assistance may be available, even to non‐members of the organization.