On Monday, November 7, 2016, Commissioner George P. Bush congratulated the Texas Veterans Land Board (VLB) on 70 years of service to Texas Veterans. The 70th anniversary was celebrated with a VLB Inception Day ceremony. VLB Senior Deputy Director Col. (ret.) Matt Elledge and more than 100 employees and guests marked this special day by commemorating the history of the VLB and enjoying refreshments.
“One of the great privileges of serving as Texas Land Commissioner is chairing the Veterans Land Board,” Commissioner Bush states. “The men and women of the VLB – many of whom are Veterans themselves – continue to serve their fellow Veterans through their work. Whether they are manning the statewide Veterans Call Service Center, caring for an elderly Veteran in one of our homes, planning an unaccompanied Veteran burial or helping a Veteran finance his or her first land purchase, these men and women continue to honor the sacrifices of those who have served our country. Today we celebrate 70 years of serving Veterans and look forward to the next 70.”
Since the days of the Republic, Texas has always supported her Veterans in return for their military service. In the early days, it was in the form of land given by the state for military service in the Texas Revolution. In 1946, this tradition was formally recognized with the creation of the Texas Veterans Land Board to administer benefits exclusively for Texas Veterans returning from World War II. Since then, more than 200,000 VLB loans have been funded for Veterans and military members in Texas.
Over the years the VLB has evolved to include seven programs that provide benefits and services for Texas Veterans, military members and their families. These programs include: low-interest land, home, and home improvement loans; skilled nursing care in eight Texas State Veterans Homes—with a ninth home planned for Houston; burial services in four Texas State Veterans Cemeteries; the Voices of Veterans oral history program; and Veterans benefit information and assistance services through the statewide Veterans Call Service Center, a collaboration between the VLB and the Texas Veterans Commission.
“In 1946, the citizens of Texas chose to honor our Veterans for the defense of the freedoms we enjoy here in the United States of America,” said Matt Elledge. “We are proud to be a part of the State of Texas tradition that recognizes our Veterans and military members for their service. As the VLB moves into the future we hope to inform and educate more Veterans about the many benefits they earned while serving our great nation.”
The mission of the VLB is to ensure that we offer the very best package of Veterans benefits in the country, and those of us who work for the VLB strive to meet those goals every day. For 70 years we have had the honor to serve Veterans, military members and their families in Texas, and we look forward to keeping that promise in the years to come.
Texas Veterans Land Board Timeline
1946: VLB established by constitutional amendment.
1949: First VLB board appointed. Consisted of Governor, Attorney General and Commissioner of the General Land Office. The amendment authorized the legislature to empower the board to issue $25 million in bonds, the proceeds of which were to be used by the board for buying land to resell to Texas Veterans of World War II. Originally the Veteran could purchase a minimum of twenty acres of land, but no loan could exceed $7,500.
1951: An amendment in 1951 increased the amount of bonds that could be issued to $100 million and authorized the legislature to extend the benefits of the act to Texas Veterans with service subsequent to 1945. Benefits of the program were also made available to Veterans of the Korean War.
1956: Another constitutional amendment changed the composition of the board to the commissioner of the General Land Office and two gubernatorial appointees, one of whom must be well-versed in Veteran affairs and one experienced in finance.
1967: Amendment extended these benefits to Veterans of the Vietnam War. In 1967 the maximum land loan allowed was $10,000.
1973: The minimum amount of land that could be purchased was reduced to ten acres. At that time the Veteran was required to make a 5% down payment on the selling price, the balance payable at an interest rate of 5.5% over a forty-year period.
1975: The maximum land loan was increased to $15,000.
1983: The Texas Veterans Housing Assistance Program (VHAP) began. This program provided low-interest loans of up to $45,000, used in conjunction with a mortgage loan from a private lending institution, to purchase new or existing homes.
1986: The Texas Veterans Home Improvement Program (VHIP) was instituted. Loans were made for home repairs or improvements eligible under the United States Housing and Urban Development Title I Program with a maximum loan of $17,500.
1991: Housing assistance limit set at $60,000.
1993: The minimum land purchase was lowered to five acres, with the maximum loan at $20,000, and the maximum length of time for repayment was thirty years. The VHIP program offered Texas Veterans up to $25,000 with the same interest rates as the VHAP program.
1997: Legislation passed for the construction of Texas State Veterans Homes.
1999: VHAP is set at $150,000. Legislation allowed concurrent participation in all three loan programs.
2000: Texas State Veterans Homes opened in Floresville and Temple.
2001: Texas State Veterans Homes opened Big Spring and Bonham.
2002: VHAP set at $200,000.
2003: VHAP set at $240,000 and minimum acreage for the land loan program set at 1 acre.
2005: Texas State Veterans Homes open in McAllen and El Paso. Central Texas State Cemetery opens in Killeen.
2006: VHAP set at $325,000 and Rio Grande Valley State Veterans Cemetery opens in Mission.
2007: Texas State Veterans Home opens in Amarillo.
2009: Texas State Veterans Cemetery opens in Abilene.
2011: Land loan rate for Veterans was reduced from 7.25% to 6.75%. Coastal Bend Texas State Veterans Cemetery opens in Corpus Christi.
2012: Texas State Veterans Home opens in Tyler.
2012: VHAP amount was raised to $417,000.
2015: The maximum land loan is raised to $125,000 on a 30-year note at 6.75%.
2016: The maximum loan amount for VHIP is set at $50,000.
For more information about the benefits and services available to Veterans in Texas, visit www.TexasVeterans.com or call 1-800-252-VETS (8387) or listen to The Dog Tag, a podcast for Veterans by Veterans. If you would like to read more stories about the Texas Veterans Land Board visit the Texas Veterans Blog.