Senior Groups: Congresswoman’s Reverse Mortgage Statements “Unfair and Wrong”

The Coalition for Independent Seniors and RetireSafe issued a joint statement today in response to comments by Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.) made in a House hearing last week which indicated an increase in reverse mortgages has led to more bankruptcies for the 55-plus population.

In her comments, Rep. Velazquez said lenders have been targeting the equity in seniors’ homes with reverse mortgages.

“Over the last decade the number of reverse mortgages has increased more than 1,300%. Unfortunately, this prolific increase of reverse mortgages has resulted in 61% more bankruptcies by Americans over 55,” Rep. Velazquez said.

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“Rep. Velazquez is misinformed,” CIS said in a written statement. “The study she referenced dealt with bankruptcies with a reference to the connection of foreclosures to a person’s economic problems. The report did cite directly the problems of sub-prime loans among other possible causes for the age increase in bankruptcies but made no reference or inference that reverse mortgages had anything to do with the increase. Making the jump to blaming reverse mortgages for a perceived problem with the financial wellbeing of older Americans is not only incorrect but is disingenuous.”

The senior advocacy groups noted that reverse mortgages provide a benefit to older Americans and that Rep. Velazquez’s comments were unfair.

“It is unfair and wrong for Rep. Velazquez’ to use misinformation as the basis to limit the choices of this ‘greatest generation.’ Older Americans deserve the benefits of a reverse mortgage as they seek to age in place and stay in their house. Rep. Velazquez shouldn’t be misrepresenting her constituents in this way.”

Written by Elizabeth Ecker

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  • It is nice there is a written statement but it is useless unless it is picked up by the major news services.  Do not misunderstand it is important that such a statement call into the question this ridiculous attempt at tying these two unrelated facts together. 
      

  • Whoa, kinda stong language from CIS! You will never make “friends and influence people” with that kind of an attack response.

    • Ask yourself this. When was the last time you actually made friends and influenced a member of Congress? Congress could care less about you or this Industry. Velasquez likely made these statements for her own personal benefit, to boost positive perception among her senior voter pool; no other reason.

      Things are not the way they used to be, or the way we want them to be. They are what they are. 

    • Ask yourself this. When was the last time you actually made friends and influenced a member of Congress? Congress could care less about you or this Industry. Velasquez likely made these statements for her own personal benefit, to boost positive perception among her senior voter pool; no other reason.

      Things are not the way they used to be, or the way we want them to be. They are what they are. 

  • Thought I’d chime in here, I don’t think there statements were all that strong.

    The reality is that Rep. Velazquez’s statements were flat out wrong, so why not call them that?

    I sent several emails and called her office several times and they refused to answer my questions about where she got her “facts”.  She was wrong for doing it. 

    • Admin,

      If CIS represented itself as a truth squad for reverse mortgages that might be one thing but here is what it says about itself:  “CIS is focused on educating and influencing those policy, legislative and regulatory organizations and individuals who can influence the ability of seniors to remain in their homes as long as they want and in a financially independent way.”   It also claims:  “The Coalition for Independent Seniors is a non-partisan, non-political, public policy coalition dedicated to preserving the opportunity for seniors to stay in their homes and protecting their ability to live financially independent lives.”
      This means it is not a political action committee and has no political affiliations or leanings; yet it states:  “It is unfair and wrong for Rep. Velazquez’ to use misinformation as the basis to limit the choices of this ‘greatest generation.’ Older Americans deserve the benefits of a reverse mortgage as they seek to age in place and stay in their house. Rep. Velazquez shouldn’t be misrepresenting her constituents in this way.”
      How does this coalition know if the Representative is misrepresenting her constituents or not?  Has it polled the voters in her district?  Perhaps in its haste to countermand the misinformation, it is CIS which has in fact misrepresented the opinions of her district.  If CIS is right then let CIS provide the evidence upon which they make their claims as of the date they made them. 
      CIS goes on to say:  “Making the jump to blaming reverse mortgages for a perceived problem with the financial wellbeing of older Americans is not only incorrect but is DISINGENUOUS.”  That is potentially libel.  Disingenuous speaks to motive.  That takes the argument outside of the realm of facts and places into the realm of intent.  While it is not wrong to claim that expressed opinions are misinformed it is absolutely wrong to call the Representative disingenuous in simply stating misinformed conclusions unless there is evidence upon which to verify the motives of the Representative.  Her title is still the Honorable Representative Velazquez and she, not her statements, deserve the benefit of any doubt.
       
      I believe CIS is wrong and owes Representative Velazquez a sincere apology.  They would not have been wrong had their attacks remained aimed at the information and not the motivation of the politician.  But they went beyond the information and attacked her representation of her constituents apparently without knowing what their opinions actually are and went even further in attacking her motives without sufficient evidence.   
       
      If nothing else the IRS should consider stripping away the tax-exempt status of this organization.  While I do not blame individuals for their opinions I do not believe that any organization which does the same thing should be allowed to keep its tax-exempt status no matter how much I agree with their fundamental message.  What is wrong, is WRONG!!!!

      • Is it not misinformation?  She is quoting a ABA study which you can find here

        http://www.abiworld.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Home&CONTENTID=61662&TEMPLATE=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm

        It doesn’t mention anything about reverse mortgages… I asked the ABA and they didn’t say it had anything to do with it either.  

        Maybe there is a study that I don’t know about that shows there is an increase of 61% of people 55+ filing for BK that involves reverse mortgages, but I doubt it.  I asked repeatedly and received nothing from her office.

        All I’m saying is one would hope that any member of Congress wouldn’t pull out incorrect information to argue their point.

      • It truly is misinformation.  Who has any problem calling it that.  That is not a problem but declaring her intent as disingenuous is another matter.  She is clearly wrong but is she disingenuous?  That is a tightrope CIS should NOT be walking.

        Call the combination of the information inane, silly, wrong, misleading, a model of illogical conclusions but to declare that a US Representative issued this bad information for the purpose of deceit goes beyond attacking the data to attacking the Representative.  I fully disagree with that tactic unless there is clear, convincing, and tangible evidence to verify that position.

        CIS is now a polarizing entity in the eyes of this reader and one which does not deserve the respect of our industry, period.  If CIS apologizes for its clear attack that is another matter or if it shows the evidence for making its claim of deceit, then let it show that.

        How Lance Jackson, Bill Peters, or Michael Banner attack the Representative is much different than how a tax-exempt organization does the same.  One is a personal position; the other is the official position of a group which is supported by the federal government through tax exemption and one which indirectly claims to represent our industry.  Ugh.

      • I see what you’re saying, I just didn’t take it the same way.  Oh well, per usual, we will have to agree to disagree =)

      • I would have been a lot less reactive, if the group had questioned her motive instead of declaring it was disingenuous.  =)

  • Wow…I must be reading a different article. I don’t see any “strong language” or anything “polarizing” in the response from CIS.
    Once again our great industry was attacked and total misinformation was used to fuel the attack.
    The book How to Make Friends and Influence People is an incredible read but it was written in 1937. I think the rules have changes a little since then..
    How about we start defending ourselves against these attacks with just a little more zest? 

  • CIS response is direct and to the point. There is nothing wrong with calling out members of Congress who apply studies incorrectly and draw faulty conclusions. 

  • The best rebuttal to Velaszquez’s “mis-representation” (and I mean that in both senses; a distortion of facts and a dis-service to those who elected her) would perhaps not be the response from a group close to our industry but instead the statements of a fellow memeber of the House of Representatives. Re-circulation and re-publication of Rep. Barney Frank’s comments in an interview earlier this year rebutting media and consumer advocacy groups’ speculation that reverse mortgages were the new sub-prime would be the best antidote here.

  • The best rebuttal to Velaszquez’s “mis-representation” (and I mean that in both senses; a distortion of facts and a dis-service to those who elected her) would perhaps not be the response from a group close to our industry but instead the statements of a fellow memeber of the House of Representatives. Re-circulation and re-publication of Rep. Barney Frank’s comments in an interview earlier this year rebutting media and consumer advocacy groups’ speculation that reverse mortgages were the new sub-prime would be the best antidote here.

  • Just because the book was written in 1937 does not make the message and lessons any less applicable today than at that time.  Quite honestly, I think that we have lost some of our critical people skills over the years  – but that’s a debate for another time.

    I agree that the statements were incorrect and poorly researched by the Congresswoman.  However, I was told years ago by someone I respect that you never do anything to embarass someone in a position of power.  Correcting her that she is misinformed is acceptable, but calling her “disingenious” is a bit strong.
     
    The basic fact is that reverse mortgages require no monthly payment (not groundbreaking news, I understand).  That, in itself, frees the senior from typically their largest monthly debt obligation.  For someone on a fixed income, it can save a senior from filing bankruptcy – it is certainly not the cause of it.

    • Ah, for the fresh air of reason.   

      As someone once said:  “Tell those in power how you really feel and know you can be destroyed by it.”

  • The proper way to address a gaffe like this by an elected official, in my opinion, is to quietly meet with the individual and explain to them that a statement attributed to them is incorrect, misinformed and hurtful. Provide the facts and try to turn a critic into an advocate. That is exactly what NRMLA is doing in this case.

    There is an old adage that my grand-daddy taught me that I think is apropros here: You catch more flies with honey than you do with a swatter.

    Obviously, Congresswoman Velasquez was misinformed by one of her staffers, probably someone relatively junior. We can use this gaffe to create a “teachable moment” and that’s what we are doing. What’s important is that she gets properly educated for the future, not that she gets embarrassed over a misinformed statement.

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