Akwesasne Mohawk Veteran Signs First On-Territory VA Housing Loan
Seated left to right: Ms. Retha M. Herne (AHA Executive Director), Ms. Barbara Lazore (AHA Commissioner), Mr. Norman Tarbell (AHA Commissioner), Mr. Dennis Phillips (USMC), Ms. Sheila Loran (AHA Commissioner), and Mrs. Loveday McDonald (AHA Commissioner). Standing left to right: Mr. Arnold Gray (Post 1479 Legionnaire), Mr. Mike Cook (Commander, Legion Post 1479), Mr. Jeff Johnson (Post 1479 Legionnaire), Judge Peter J. Herne (USMC/Chief Judge SRMT), Mr. Ronald P. Cook (AHA Chairman).
Akwesasne, NY – Mr. Dennis Phillips, a Marine Corps veteran, became the first Native American veteran in Akwesasne to sign for a home loan through the US Department of Veterans Affairs Native American Direct Loan (NADL) Program on Tuesday, June 24, 2014 at the Akwesasne Housing Authority administration building. Mr. Phillips remarked, "It feels pretty good," as he penned his signature on the home loan agreement that will begin the process of financing the construction of his single family home. He will build his home on his family's property within the territory of Akwesasne as soon as his agreement is submitted back to the VA.
This loan, made possible through a Memorandum of Understanding between the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe and the US Department of Veterans Affairs, was signed on December 7, 2013 at an official signing ceremony held at the American Legion Post 1479. Personnel from the VA, the Akwesasne Housing Authority, Legionnaire Officers, and the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, with several community members, came together to celebrate the signing and invited veterans to apply for a housing loan through their NADL Program. A follow-up informational session was held to bring specific NADL program information to interested Mohawk veterans. Retha Herne, Executive Director of the AHA stated, "Since the MOU signing, the AHA has received several inquiries and assisted tribal veterans with their applications, and will continue to encourage Mohawk veterans to seek this specialized housing financing."
Mr. Phillips began his loan application with the VA after having begun a loan application through HUD's Section 184 Home Guarantee Loan Program, but thought he may receive a more competitive interest rate with the VA. Indeed, he qualified, and the rate he received saved him 1.5%, plus there is no down payment requirement. With the AHA's assistance, Mr. Phillips submitted his paperwork to the VA's Tribal Affairs office in Cleveland, Ohio. Within six months, he received his final approval, and is well on his way to securing his modular home purchase with Plattsburgh Housing, and will hire the firm to complete the setting of his home on his property. Closing is slated for early Fall.
When asked if he was at all concerned that this program may not fit the housing needs of his family, Dennis replied, "No, because I believe in the benefits I am entitled to as part of my service [in the military]." Dennis also expressed that the process was not difficult "as long as you follow the step-by-step procedures". Dennis stated that the hardest thing about applying for this loan was to track down his DD214, but he received assistance through the Franklin County Office of Veterans Affairs, Ms. Bonnie Stewart, who helped him receive his complete DD214 (Certificate of Release/Discharge) and his COE (Certificate of Eligibility), which are absolute requirements by the VA to apply for a direct loan. His advice to other would-be applicants for the NADL Program was to ask questions of those who can help. He worked closely with Mr. Mark Jamison, from the Regional VA Office in Cleveland, who was available to him any time he called.
Mr. Dennis Phillips and family will move into their new home in early Fall. After the signing of his agreement, he received many handshakes and a loud round of applause. The AHA is thrilled to have assisted Mr. Phillips with his VA loan. Congratulations to him and his family!
Other Akwesasne Veterans can make inquiries to the AHA to start the process and receive assistance in applying for their loan. Retha Herne stated, "We are hopeful that more Akwesasne Veterans take advantage of this program that is finally available here in Akwesasne". Akwesasne Veterans wishing to look into the program can check out the website of the Veterans Affairs: http://www.homeloans.va.gov. Copies of the SRMT/VA MOU are also available, and AHA can assist most Akwesasne Veterans with this process. Contact AHA staff at 518-358-9020.