WASHINGTON, Sept. 30, 2009 -- Defense Department officials announced the details for distributing $555 million available under the Homeowners Assistance Program. The program is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed in February, and it's designed to partially reimburse those whose service to the nation has required them to relocate and sell their primary residence at a loss. Those eligible include active and former servicemembers of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard. It also includes Defense Department and Coast Guard civilian employees and nonappropriated fund civilians. The money -- which also is available to surviving spouses of fallen servicemembers and civilian employees -- is for those who lost money on their homes after having to sell them in the down economy. At the top of the program's priority list are those wounded, injured or ill. Within that category, applications generally will be processed in chronological order of the wound, injury or illness, officials said. The program covers those wounded, injured of ill since Sept. 11, 2001, and who relocate for medical treatment. Next are surviving spouses moving within two years of the death of the spouse. Applications generally will be processed in chronological order of the servicemember's or employee's date of death. Next up are servicemembers and civilians affected by the 2005 base realignment and closure process. Applications generally will be processed in chronological order of the date of job elimination, officials said. Under the legislation, homeowners do not have to prove that the BRAC process caused the drop in housing price. Servicemember homeowners receiving orders dated on or after Feb. 1, 2006, through Dec. 31, 2009, for a permanent change of station move are next on the priority list. The orders must specify a reporting date on or before Feb. 28, 2010, to a new duty station or home port outside a 50-mile radius of the former duty station. These dates may be extended to Sept. 30, 2012, based on availability of funds, officials said. The Army Corps of Engineers is handling the processing. People wishing to apply or seeking more information can go to http://hap.usace.army.mil. The program has been in place since 1966, when it was used to mitigate the effect of a base closure on home prices. The current program is expanded to cover those affected by the economic downturn. The program is not designed to pay 100 percent of losses or to cover all declines in value, officials said, but it can help to protect eligible applicants from financial catastrophe due to significant losses in their home values. For more tips and advice on buying a home, visit Military.com's Home Buying channel.
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