If it's done nothing else, the Oregon War Veterans' Fund has helped thousands of Oregonians become homeowners since its inception in 1944. Times have changed since then, however, and now the constitutional provision that created the fund needs updating. Lawmakers have done their part with a referral on the November ballot. Voters can do theirs by approving it.
As things stand now, a veteran must have served on active duty for 210 consecutive days to be eligible for the low-interest loans the fund provides. Moreover, application must be made within 30 years of discharge from active duty, a requirement that shuts out many Vietnam-era veterans. All must be able to repay the money they borrow.
In addition to helping Vietnam-era vets, the referral, ballot Measure 70, recognizes the new reality of military service in a post-9/11 world.
As Americans have seen since 9/11, the men and women of the National Guard have taken on a far bigger role in fighting wars than their predecessors ever have. Yet even with stints in Iraq and Afghanistan, many do not meet the requirement of 210 consecutive days of service and thus are ineligible for the loans. Measure 70 would change that. It would make veterans, including members of the National Guard, eligible for loans if they had served 178 consecutive days or if they had seen combat during their service. In both cases they would have to have been honorably discharged, as is now the case.
The loan program is just the latest to be proposed for tweaking since 9/11. The use of National Guard troops overseas has led legislators to change laws regarding government job preference for veterans and education benefits for veterans, among others. Lawmakers felt, rightly, that National Guard troops whose service now often goes far beyond weekend warriorhood deserve equal treatment with their regular armed forces peers.
Oregon voters should approve the changes proposed in Measure 70. It's the right thing to do for those who have put themselves in danger at the request of their country. Meanwhile, the fund has, over the years, given a boost to the housing and construction industries by making loans to men and women who might not otherwise qualify. In the current housing slump, that cannot be bad.
andndash; Wescom News Service (The Bend Bulletin)