The VA’s uncommon initiative for Native American veterans

The top-flight lending initiative from the VA for Native American veterans generated about 89 loans between 2012 and 2021 in the U.S.

A governmental custodian has discovered that the lending initiative introduced by the Department of Veterans Affairs lending initiative for Native American veterans is underutilized.

A report that was released this week by the Government Accountability Office indicated that the Native American Direct Loan initiative =from the VA only generated about 89 loans that came from the U.S. between 2012 and 2021. This is just 1% of the entire 70,000 veterans that are potentially eligible, stated the agency custodian.

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According to the GAO, the VA does not have the required manpower to carry out the lending initiative and did not inform the communities of its existence. The federal law mandates the VA to introduce the initiative in collaboration with organizations in localities to enable Native American veterans to become informed about the initiative.

An investigation carried out by the GAO also discovered that the important information isn’t usually collected by the VA concerning the promotion of the initiative, processing of loans, and talks with the participation agreements with Indian tribes recognized by the federal government.

The statement provided by the VA’s spokesperson revealed that between 2018 and 2020, more than 100 committed national outreaches were carried out by the agency which exceeds the usual criteria for annual outreach programs.

A report from GAO indicated that between 2012 and 2021, about 91 loans were collected in Hawaii through the program. 180 loans were collected throughout the nation between 2012 and 2021 through the program.

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An investigation was carried out by GAO after advocacy agencies, members of Congress and other stakeholders stat=ted questioning the efficacy of the promotional campaign launched for the program.

The VA launched the initiative in 1992 to assist qualified Native American veterans acquire, develop, and improve houses in native areas that are usually restricted, according to the report. The United States Department of Agriculture and Department of Housing and Urban Development is having the same program.

However, the success of the program implemented by the USDA and HUD is much more than that of the VA, with more approvals in Indian tribes that are federally recognized, as being part of the initiative. By July 2021, the program launched by the USDA and HUD had approved more than 100 qualified tribal bodies than that of the VA.

While the VA responded to the investigation by the GAO by stating that absence of instances of other lending initiatives, having participation outcomes experienced more success than that of the VA. The GAO responded that the collection of data is not consistent in other programs if the borrower is a veteran, and apart from this, this distinction between the programs has restricted the benefit of the comparison.

The GAO also argued that another problem with the VA’s initiative is the strict procedure. There is an extra step before tribal bodies can be approved, which mandates the tribe to sign a memorandum of understanding. The memorandum permits the tribe to become a trustee, which will safeguard the financial interests of the VA in a situation of collateral resale and foreclosure.

The custodian stated that this has made the process ambiguous and the extended process has reduced the number of Indian tribes that want to take part. According to the report, 70% of Indian tribes known federally in the country lack this memorandum of understanding as of September 2021, and this step isn’t required by the USDA and HUD.

Another challenge discovered by the GAO is that the VA does not have a dedicated staff that will carry out the Native American Direct Loan initiative until last year. Rather, staff in the regional loan facility of the VA are the ones working on the program only when required.

By September 2021, a team of seven members was created by the VA to oversee the initiative. However, the report stated that there is no concise plan that describes the goals, priorities, and mission of the program or the departments.

Consequently, the custodian suggested that the VA extensively evaluates the requirements and manages the program campaign, and discussions about the memorandum of understanding. The custodian stated that the recent data system of the department does not have specific information like the negotiation status, which generates untimely and inaccurate information.

Also, the GAO suggests that the VA introduce focus groups to generate feedbacks that can be used for improvement from Native American veterans. The company also suggests that the VA creates and carries out procedures that are regularly reviewed by the program’s documents to guarantee accuracy.

The GAO wrote that implementing these changes will put the VA in a better position to offer its primary objective and understand the work of its new staffing framework. It will also help to identify and effect change in order to create opportunities that would meet the needs of the Native American veterans in need of housing.

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