Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Home foreclosures soar in military towns, affecting disabled vets

Air Force wife Kathleen VerSteegh, right, is eight weeks
into chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer
and faces losing her home in Des Moines.

"In the midst of the worst surge in mortgage defaults in seven decades, foreclosures in U.S. towns where soldiers live are increasing at a pace almost four times the national average," a Bloomberg exclusive report finds. "Foreclosure filings in the 10 towns and cities within 10 miles of military facilities, including Norfolk, Va., home of the Navy's largest base, rose by an average 217 percent from January through April from a year earlier. Nationally, the rate was 59 percent in the same period, according to RealtyTrac, which tallies bank seizures, auctions and default notices."

"We've never faced a situation like this, not in the Vietnam War, World War II, or the Korean War, where so many military are in danger of losing their homes,'' said Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, a Washington-based advocacy group started in 2002 by Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans. "No one asked them for their credit score when we asked them to fight for us.''

The largest rise in foreclosures was in Columbia, S. C., home to Fort Jackson, where the Army trains the military before they are sent to Afghanistan and Iraq. Properties in some stage of foreclosure rose 492 percent from a year earlier, RealtyTrac said.

"The second-biggest increase was 414 percent in Woodbridge, Virginia, next to the Marine Corps Base Quantico," Bloomberg reports. "Foreclosure filings tripled in the cities surrounding Norfolk Naval Base and the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base near Oceanside, Calif., RealtyTrac said. Havelock, N. C., site of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, saw foreclosures more than double."

Monique Kelly, a disabled Iraq War veteran, said in the story that she is close to foreclosure on her home in Maryland.

"The former Army staff sergeant in the First Armored Division paid her May mortgage bill halfway through the month and said she won't be able to make June's payment for her house in Owings Mills, Md," Bloomberg says. "Kelly, designated disabled by the VA because of post- traumatic stress disorder, said she bought the property in January for $305,000 and had to spend $10,000 fixing structural problems that were not disclosed to her. "

"We fought for our country, and now we have to fight to save our homes,'' said Kelly. "After living with the stench of death in Iraq, it seems like we shouldn't have to face problems like this when we come back.''