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House passes veterans home loan program legislation

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WASHINGTON -- The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that
includes a provision from Rep. Stephanie Herseth to increase home loan
opportunities for American Indian veterans. The Department of Veterans
Affairs' Native American Home Loan program directs home loans to eligible
American Indian veterans who wish to purchase, construct or improve a home
on tribal trust lands.

Herseth's bill -- House Bill 1773 -- was included in a larger piece of
legislation affecting veterans, H.R. 3665, which passed the House Nov. 10
by unanimous consent. Herseth is a member of the Veterans' Affairs
committee and is the ranking member of its subcommittee on economic
opportunity. Last year, Herseth passed legislation to extend the pilot
program until 2008, while this year's bill makes it permanent.

Herseth said, "This program has been proven to help Native American
veterans in South Dakota and across the country in becoming home owners.
Native Americans are proud and patriotic Americans who serve their country
in high numbers, and once they return from their service, they should have
every opportunity to purchase and own a home. Now, at a time in our
nation's history when we are asking men and women in our Armed Forces for
greater sacrifices, we must make sure we keep our promises to veterans, and
honor their service."

Rep. John Boozman, chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on
Economic Opportunity and lead sponsor of the overall bill, said, "I am
grateful to the Ranking Member on Economic Opportunity, Rep. Herseth, for
her hard work on this bill and willingness to cooperate in a bipartisan
manner on behalf of Native American veterans."

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Since its inception of the pilot program in 1992, the VA has made 443
direct loans to American Indian veterans. The VA direct loans are generally
limited to either the cost of the home or $80,000, depending on which is
less.