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VA Loan Requirements: Eligibility, Getting Your COE And More

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Published on February 9, 2024
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Trying to determine if you qualify for a VA loan? Your VA loan eligibility is based on your military service history, ability to qualify for a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) and whether you meet your lender’s requirements for VA mortgage approval. Reviewing requirements put forth by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) can help you determine if a VA loan is an option for you. If you’re eligible, you can benefit from VA loan perks such as a competitive interest rate on your mortgage and not making a down payment or paying private mortgage insurance. 

Let’s walk through some of the requirements that the VA places on active-duty service members, veterans and surviving spouses. We’ll also examine the documentation you may need to qualify, then take a quick look at possible lender requirements.

VA Loan Requirements: Who Qualifies For A VA Loan?

If you’re an active-duty service member or a veteran, you might wonder if you’re eligible for a VA loan or refinance. Whether you qualify may be determined by the length of time you served, the type of service you completed or, in some cases, the type of discharge you received.

Trying to figure out if you’re eligible for the first time? Get some additional details next.

Active-Duty Service Members And Veterans

For those currently in the military, the minimum active-duty service requirement is serving 90 days in a row. If you’re a veteran, your minimum active-duty service requirement will depend on when exactly you served.

To check your eligibility based on particular dates of service and other factors, visit the official VA website or talk with your mortgage lender. Those who’ve served in the National Guard or U.S. Army Reserve may also be VA loan-eligible. You can learn more about this, as well, by going to the VA website or consulting your lender.

Discharged Or Disabled Service Members And Veterans

If you didn’t complete the regular service requirements, you might still be eligible for a VA loan based on the circumstances surrounding your discharge. If one of the following conditions applies to you, you might be able to get VA loan-approved:

  • You were discharged for certain medical conditions or a service-related disability.
  • You were discharged due to hardship, a reduction in force or for the convenience of the government.
  • You were discharged on an early out and served at least 21 months of a 2-year enlistment.

Qualifying surviving spouses may also be eligible for a VA loan. We’ll cover that in a separate section below.

Qualifying For A VA loan: Getting Your Certificate Of Eligibility (COE)

Once you’ve determined you’re eligible for VA loan, you’ll need to prove you meet the VA’s requirements. To do this, you must provide a Certificate of Eligibility (COE).

If you qualify, your lender may be able to help you apply for your COE in a streamlined manner. However, it never hurts to have your documents close by.

Let’s take a look at some of the documents most commonly needed to get a COE.

Qualifying Service

Required document(s)

Veteran

Separation or discharge papers (DD214)

Active-duty service member

Signed statement of service

Current nonactivated National Guard

Signed statement of service

Current or former activated National Guard

One of the following:

●      Separation or discharge papers (DD214)

●      Your annual points statement

●      A copy of your orders and your DD220 form

●      A qualifying DD214 form under title 32

Discharged or retired nonactivated National Guard

All of the following:

●      All your reports of separation and your record of service (NGB Form 22)

●      A retirement points statement (NGB Form 23)

●      Proof of character of service

 

Current or former activated reserve member

One of the following:

●      Your DD214 form

●      Other qualifying discharge papers

Nonactivated discharged reserve member

Both of the following:

●      Your most recent annual retirement points statement

●      Proof of honorable service

If you don’t have access to your documentation, you can request your military service records through the VA’s online portal. You can also apply for your COE directly from the VA via mail.

VA Loan Eligibility For Surviving Spouses

In some cases, you can qualify for a VA loan as the spouse of a service member who’s passed away. A surviving spouse may meet the requirements for a VA home loan if:

  • They’re not remarried and the veteran died in service or of a service-related disability
  • They’re the spouse of a veteran who was missing in action or a prisoner of war for at least 90 days
  • They’re not remarried and the veteran was completely disabled from a disability unrelated to service at the time of their death

VA loan eligibility for surviving spouses can vary by certain factors such as the date of your marriage, when you apply, marital status, age, and the disability in question. If you aren’t sure whether you qualify, you can check with the Department of Veterans Affairs to determine if you can apply for a VA mortgage.

Next, we’ll look at the documents you may need to use to apply for your COE as a surviving spouse.

Guide to VA Loans

Discover a more affordable loan option for United States Veterans, Service Members and spouses.

Read the Guide to VA Loans

COE Documentation For Surviving Spouses

If you’re an eligible spouse, you’ll still need to apply for a Certificate of Eligibility. The documentation you need to apply for a VA loan can change a bit depending on whether you receive VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (VA DIC).

Here’s a closer look at the documents you might need to apply for your COE.

Circumstances

Required documents

You’re receiving VA DIC

●      VA Form 26-1817 (Request for Determination of Loan Guaranty Eligibility – Unmarried Surviving Spouses)

●      The Veteran’s DD214 or other separation or discharge papers

 

You’re not receiving VA DIC

●      A complete application for VA DIC (VA Form 21P-534EZ)

●      The Veteran’s DD214 or other separation or discharge papers

●      Your marriage license

●      The veteran’s death certificate

In some cases, your lender can help you submit the documents to get your COE. However, you may need to contact your local VA pension program. This might be the case if you aren’t currently receiving VA DIC.

If you have more questions about applying for a COE as a surviving spouse, visit the VA’s website.

Qualifying For A VA Loan: What Lenders Look For

The VA sets qualifications for who can apply for a VA loan, but individual lenders have their own loan eligibility requirements in addition to those of the VA. Lenders will still review your finances and loan application before approving your home loan. So, what does this mean from the lender’s perspective?

No matter the type of VA loan you seek, lenders will consider a few key factors on your mortgage loan application. We’ll break down the most common ones next.

Credit Score

Your credit score is a big part of any home loan application. It can affect your ability to get approved and your interest rate if you are approved. Although the VA doesn’t set a minimum credit score, lenders usually look for a score of 580 or higher. The VA guarantee on home loans lets lenders be more flexible with some of their criteria and could help you qualify with less-than-perfect credit.

Credit History

Your lender will also take a deep dive into your credit history to see your payment history and any past issues, such as previous foreclosures or missed payments. This is part of the approval and underwriting process that lenders undertake before signing off on any home loan.

Debt-To-Income Ratio (DTI)

Your debt-to-income ratio is another indicator of your financial health that lenders consider. Expressed as a percentage, your DTI represents how much money you make each month in gross income compared to your monthly debt payments. In the case of VA loans, lenders like to see a DTI of 41% or less. If your DTI is more than 41%, you could still be approved for a VA loan, though, depending on other factors related to your finances.

Income

Your income will impact how much house you can afford. More income can mean getting approved for a larger loan amount. Income isn’t the only factor for approval, but some lenders have stricter income requirements than others. Generally, lenders want to see that you can cover your monthly mortgage payment and all your living expenses.

You Meet The VA Loan Requirements, So What’s Next?

Once you’ve determined you’re eligible for a VA loan, you’ll need to take the next steps toward buying a home. Here are a few of them worth considering:

  • Contact your preferred lender. If you’re ready to start looking at homes, reach out to your lender to secure your COE, get preapproved and start your journey to homeownership. Having a preapproval letter in hand will show sellers you’re a serious buyer who has the financial backing to move forward on a home purchase.
  • Find a real estate agent. A real estate agent can help you find a home that works for you and your situation. Using an agent who’s familiar with VA loans can be an asset. They can advise you on matters such as VA loan appraisals and other VA-specific processes.
  • Request your COE. If you’re planning to shop around a bit, you can always get your COE without a lender. You can apply online by way of the VA’s portal or request a DOE by mail.

The Bottom Line

A VA loan can be an excellent mortgage option for those who are eligible and qualify for this type of financing. Once you know you’re going to apply for a VA loan, you can get your COE through your lender or directly from the VA.

Meeting VA loan requirements is a major step toward homeownership if you’re hoping to purchase a home through the VA loan program. Ready to begin shopping for homes and get started on your home-buying journey? Apply for a mortgage online today.

Guide to VA Loans

Discover a more affordable loan option for United States Veterans, Service Members and spouses.

Read the Guide to VA Loans

Miranda Crace

Miranda Crace is a Senior Section Editor for the Rocket Companies, bringing a wealth of knowledge about mortgages, personal finance, real estate, and personal loans for over 10 years. Miranda is dedicated to advancing financial literacy and empowering individuals to achieve their financial and homeownership goals. She graduated from Wayne State University where she studied PR Writing, Film Production, and Film Editing. Her creative talents shine through her contributions to the popular video series "Home Lore" and "The Red Desk," which were nominated for the prestigious Shorty Awards. In her spare time, Miranda enjoys traveling, actively engages in the entrepreneurial community, and savors a perfectly brewed cup of coffee.