Considering the hoops that too many borrowers have to go through to obtain mortgage modifications, the news from the Treasury Department wasn't encouraging.

In an April 24 report to Congress, the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, reported that homeowners whose mortgages had been modified under the federal Home Affordable Mortgage Program were defaulting "at an alarming rate."

Data from the Treasury Department, which oversees HAMP, showed that the longer a homeowner remained in the program, the more likely he or she was to re-default out of the program.

As of March 31, the oldest of the program's permanent modifications, dating to the third and fourth quarters of 2009, were redefaulting at rates of 46.1 percent and 39.1 percent, respectively, the report said.

Permanent HAMP modifications from 2010 also had high re-default rates, ranging from 28.9 percent to 37.6 percent.

When the inspector general asked Treasury officials the obvious question - why? - they had no answer.

Treasury does not require lenders and servicers to report reasons for default. If the department did so, the resulting data might help develop an "early warning system," as the inspector general put it, to identify potential problems and correct them.

Re-defaulted modifications "often inflict great harm on already struggling homeowners when any amounts previously modified suddenly come due," the report stated.

"When the homeowners cannot pay, they lose their home to foreclosure, which has a devastating impact on families, neighborhoods, and the economy."

What appears to bug the inspector general most about TARP is that it has done more to help the financial institutions, whose policies seemed to have contributed mightily to the collapse of the real estate market, than it has to help homeowners.

For example, PNC Financial Services Group received $7.6 billion, nearly the same amount of TARP money used to help struggling homeowners throughout the nation, the inspector general said.

As I've reported many times, the government has fallen short of the amount of help it promised to give homeowners when HAMP and its sister Home Affordable Refinance Program debuted in spring 2009.

The inspector general's report shows how short:

Treasury promised "affordable and sustainable relief" for up to 4 million at-risk homeowners to help them avert foreclosure through permanent mortgage modifications.

Only 862,279 homeowners are in active permanent HAMP modifications, about half of those funded through TARP. Trends indicate the number will fall further, as many homeowners are re-defaulting.

As of March 31, more than 312,000 homeowners had re-defaulted.

"For these homeowners, the HAMP permanent mortgage modification they received was not sustainable," the inspector general said.