The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is denying veterans their home loan benefit if they work in the cannabis industry.
On May 23, Representative Katherine Clark (D-Mass) and 20 other members of Congress wrote a letter to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie seeking answers as to why. According to the letter, veterans are being rejected for VA home loans when they state that their income sources come from working in the cannabis industry in states where it is legal.
According to Military.com, Clark was made aware that there is an unpublished VA policy that states that working in the cannabis industry is not considered “stable and reliable” employment to be considered home loan-qualifying income.
According to Clark, it’s time for the VA to “recognize the growing role of the cannabis economy that employs over 200,000 Americans.”
“Our veterans should not be penalized or denied the benefits they have earned because they are working in a budding industry,” she stated.
Medical marijuana programs are now active in 34 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Furthermore, around a dozen other states allow low tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) cannabidiol for medicinal purposes.
Veterans who are eligible under the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 (more commonly called the GI Bill) can apply for VA home loans that usually offer lower interest rates than those available on the market.
Though marijuana is still considered illegal under federal law, presidential candidate and Senator Elizabeth Warren introduced legislation in April that would prevent the federal government from interfering with state legal cannabis laws. The Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act is a bipartisan bill supported by members of both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. The bill would amend the Controlled Substances Act to protect people who are complying with state legal cannabis laws from federal prosecution.
President Trump supported a previous version of the legislation introduced last year.
“A substantial number of veterans earn their livelihoods in [the cannabis industry] and, in coming years, that number is likely to further rise,” the letter to the VA states. “The VA must acknowledge this reality and ensure veterans who work in this sector are able to clearly understand and can equitably access the benefits they’ve earned.”
Alaska Representative Don Young is the only Republican to have signed the letter. According to his press secretary Zack Brown, Young “wants details and clarification from the VA on how they plan to move forward.”
“No veteran should be denied the benefits they’ve earned solely based on their participation in their state’s legal cannabis programs,” Brown said.
The legislators have given the VA a 30-day response deadline, with the response due June 22.
Jenn Bentley is a freelance journalist and editor whose work has been featured in publications such as The High Tech Society, FansShare, Yahoo News, Examiner.com, and others. Follow her on Twitter: @JennBentley_