Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and Jeff Barnes, Director of the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency have launched the Michigan Veterans Homeowners Assistance Program (MiVHAP), which will provide financial assistance to Michigan military service members, veterans and their families who have struggled with the consequences of the mortgage foreclosure crisis. Schuette and Barnes were joined at the announcement by Anne Marie Dutcher, Administrator of the Michigan Veterans Trust Fund, the state entity charged with administering the new program.
"Our veterans and their families make sacrifices to protect the freedoms we hold dear, and they should never be forced out of their homes illegally," said Schuette. "Veterans have special protections from foreclosure under the law, but in many cases those protections were ignored by lenders, who pursued improper foreclosures. This new assistance is an important step toward restoring the lives of Great Lakes State veterans who may have struggled to keep their homes during the foreclosure crisis."
"This is an important collaboration with the Attorney General. The complex challenges of deployment including the tempo of operation and the difficulty with establishing communications during normal business hours with lenders, makes it almost impossible for soldiers to remedy a pending foreclosure from the field," said Barnes. "Further, the ramifications of foreclosure may result in the soldier losing their security clearance, creating a problem with their military job and can render them ineligible for re-deployment. Foreclosure for military service members continues to create additional problems for years by creating barriers to civilian employment and future home ownership."
Federal regulators and court settlements have documented approximately 900 service members nationwide who were foreclosed upon in violation of the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. At least 6,000 more were overcharged during the crisis by JP Morgan. The case of Sgt. James B. Hurley, a disabled veteran who lost his Hartford, Michigan home to foreclosure while serving his country in Iraq vividly illustrated the problem of lenders illegally foreclosing upon veterans. Sgt. Hurley was forced to pursue private litigation for nearly four years before settling with Deutsche Bank in 2011.
MiVHAP will provide financial grant assistance to military service members: Active, Reserve, Air and Army National Guard, and honorably discharged Veterans living or having lived in a home in Michigan for hardship related to the foreclosure crisis since 2006. Surviving spouses of Michigan military service members whose death occurred in combat since 2006 and currently face foreclosure challenges may also be eligible for financial assistance.
"The mortgage crisis affected many veterans and service members and lasted so long that many lost or are losing their homes to foreclosure," said Anne Dutcher, director of the Michigan Veterans Trust Fund, which administers MiVHAP. "This program is broadly designed to reach as many veterans and military service members as possible, to help them save their homes and get back on track to secure home ownership."
Michigan has approximately 700,000 veterans and 12,000 troops active in the Michigan National Guard. More than 22,000 Michigan National Guard members have deployed since September 11, 2001, with 300 currently deployed. The average deployment period is one year, following a two month mobilization and training period. The Michigan Guard has some of the most actively deployed combat units in the country, with the average Michigan soldier deploying four to five times throughout their military career.
MiVHAP is a separate program from the Michigan Veterans Trust Fund, but the new program will be administered by the Michigan Veterans Trust Fund state office staff. Grants will be awarded on a first-come, first served basis and will be made until the money runs out. Grants that are awarded will be sent directly to vendors, including lenders or government entities owed back taxes. Each grant will be based on individual circumstances of an application, but priority will be given to requests seeking to avoid mortgage defaults, foreclosure and property tax foreclosure.