- The Washington Times - Monday, April 28, 2008

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I just had a telemarketer call me with an offer to replace my windows. [The telemarketer] stated that I could receive $8,000 from the VA to help pay for it. What do you know about this supposed “new” VA energy program? I have not received anything in the mail or ever heard of such a thing.

Thanks for your help.

Steve O.

Chief, U.S. Navy Reserve

Dear Steve:

I received this from VA in response to your inquiry:

The Department of Veterans Affairs does not employ telemarketers for solicitation purposes. I would strongly encourage you to submit a complaint about this telemarketing company to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or your state’s attorney general’s office.

However, your question raises awareness of a little-known VA program that does provide an opportunity for veterans to obtain energy efficient improvements, such as replacement windows, when they purchase existing homes.

Energy Efficient Mortgages refer to loans for the acquisition of an existing dwelling and the cost of making energy efficiency improvements to the dwelling [or refinancing an existing VA loan with an Interest Rate Reduction Refinancing Loan (IRRRL)] or for energy efficiency improvements to a dwelling owned and occupied by a veteran.

The mortgage amount may be increased as a result of making energy efficiency improvements such as solar or conventional heating/cooling systems, water heaters, insulation, weather-stripping/caulking, and storm windows/doors. Other energy related improvements may also be considered. The mortgage may be increased by:

1. Up to $3,000 based solely on the documented costs; or

2. Up to $6,000 provided the increase in monthly mortgage payment does not exceed the likely reduction in monthly utility costs; or,

3. More than $6,000 subject to a value determination by VA.

Energy-efficient improvements can also be included when a veteran obtains an IRRRL. Under the IRRRL program, veterans generally cannot receive cash back. But, there is one exception. Up to $6,000 of IRRRL loan proceeds may be used to reimburse a veteran for the cost of energy efficiency improvements completed within the 90 days immediately preceding the date of the loan.

For more information about VA’s Energy Efficient Mortgages (EEMs), check the following VA Web site: https://www.homeloans.va.gov/ rlcweb.htm.

Shaft notes

• Kudos to Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, Hawaii Democrat and chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, who recently introduced the Training and Rehabilitation for Disabled Veterans Enhancement Act of 2008. If enacted, this bill will improve the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Independent Living program, which serves veterans whose disabilities render them unable to work, by removing a cap on the number of enrollees in the program and making an official objective of the program to improve veterans’ quality of life.

“These small but important changes will enable VA to provide rehabilitative services to more veterans who are severely disabled, and clarify that improving a veteran’s quality of life is an important objective of rehabilitation,” Mr. Akaka said.

• The Sarge is looking forward to joining other members of the National Press Club and their guests at luncheon featuring Veterans Affairs Secretary James B. Peake.

Mr. Peake was nominated by President Bush to be veterans affairs secretary and was sworn into office on Dec. 20.

Mr. Peake is the principal advocate for veterans in the U.S. government and directs the nation’s second largest Cabinet department, responsible for a nationwide system of health care services, benefits programs, and national cemeteries for American veterans and their dependents.

The luncheon will be at noon on May 20. For additional information, contact Pat Nelson at 202/662-7500.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax to 301/622-3330; call 202/257-5446; or e-mail sgtshaft@bavf.org.

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