Eligibility for VA Home Loans

Learning about VA home loan requirements is important before applying for a home loan from either the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or another loan servicer.

Your VA home loan eligibility is based on a number of criteria, such as your credit, income and length of service. You can become eligible if you are a veteran, are currently serving in the military or if you are the spouse of a veteran or active duty military member. However, a different set of eligibility criteria apply, depending on the group you fall into.

Once you meet VA home loan qualifications, you are eligible to buy or build a home, improve a home that you are in the process of purchasing, refinance an existing loan through the VA, make energy-efficient upgrades to your current home, buy a lot, buy a manufactured home and more. Learn everything you need to know about getting a VA home loan certificate of eligibility (COE) and meeting the other requirements for a loan in the sections below.

VA Home Loan Requirements for All Applicants

You will need to meet the same basic VA loan requirements regardless of whether you are a service member, veteran, spouse of a service member or a different type of beneficiary. At a minimum, you must have a satisfactory credit score, a sufficient amount of income and a Certificate of Eligibility (COE), which is described in more detail below.

There is no set minimum VA home loan credit score that you must have. Instead, your eligibility is determined on an individual basis, which is in your best benefit if you have a low credit score. Unlike many other loan programs, you can get approved for a VA home loan if you have poor credit. However, if you have a credit issue such as foreclosing on a VA loan, this usually means that you must pay back the amount that you owe before you can become eligible for a loan again. Overall, past credit issues will not necessarily damage your eligibility for a VA home loan. VA home loan rates and costs are also determined on a case-by-case basis.

Getting a Certificate of Eligibility for a VA Home Loan

A VA home loan COE establishes that you are eligible for a home loan. In other words, lenders will need to see your COE to verify that you are able to receive a loan from the VA. Depending on your circumstances, you will need different pieces of evidence to verify your eligibility for a loan. For example, as a veteran, a DD Form 214 and an explanation of your separation from the military will usually suffice. If you are currently in the Armed Forces, you will need to have a statement that verifies your service signed by the personnel office or your commander. If you are the spouse of a veteran or servicemember, you will need a marriage license and, if applicable, a death certificate or DD Form 1300 (report of casualty) along with other information that affirms your relationship and eligibility.

Once you have current documentation certifying your VA home loan eligibility, you may apply for a COE online through the eBenefits portal. Alternatively, you may apply directly through your lender. If you prefer, you may also use VA Form 26-1880 (Request for Certificate of Eligibility) to apply through the mail. Note that if you are a surviving spouse, you will need to submit VA Form 26-1817 and your spouse’s DD214 to your lender or to the VA through the mail.

VA Home Loan Eligibility for Veterans and Servicemembers

If you are a veteran or service member, the VA loan qualifications will vary based on when you joined and separated from the military. Furthermore, VA home loan rules, such as the minimum amount of service required, may vary based on whether you served during wartime or peacetime.

Veterans’ Eligibility for VA Loans

If you are a veteran, you must have been in the military for a minimum number of days or months before you are deemed eligible for a loan. During times of war, the requirements are as follows:

  • World War II: You must have served 90 consecutive days on active duty between September 16, 1940 and July 25, 1947.
  • Korean War: You must have served 90 consecutive active duty days between June 27, 1950 and January 31, 1955.
  • Vietnam War: You must have served 90 consecutive days on active duty between August 5, 1964 and May 7, 1975.
  • Gulf War: Between August 2, 1990 and the present day, you must have served for one of the following periods:
    • At least 90 days or the full term of your active duty service with other than dishonorable discharge.
    • At least 90 days of active duty service if you were discharged for a hardship, early out, reduction in force, at the convenience of the government or for a condition that interfered with your service.

Note: You may be eligible if you served for less than 90 days in any war if you were discharged as a result of a service-related disability.

During peacetime, you are eligible for VA home loans if you were enlisted between July 26, 1947 to June 26, 1950 as well as February 1, 1955 to August 4, 1964 regardless of your status in the military. You are also eligible if you were an enlisted service member between May 8, 1975 to September 7, 1980 or if you were separated from service after September 7, 1980. If you were an officer, you need to have served between May 8, 1975 and October 16, 1981, or have been separated after October 16, 1981.

Related Article: HUD-VASH

To meet the requirements for VA home loans, you still need to have served for a minimum number of days during peacetime. Your service must have lasted for at least 181 days, or less if you were discharged due to a service-related disability. As an exception, if you separated from service after September 7, 1980 (for enlisted service members) or October 16, 1981 (for officers), you need to have served for at least 24 months of continuous active duty. Furthermore, your discharge needs to be anything other than dishonorable.

VA Home Loan Requirements for Active Duty Servicemembers and Reservists

You will meet the VA home loan qualifications if you are a service member currently on active duty who has completed 90 continuous days of active service. Once you are discharged from service, you will need to reestablish your eligibility by meeting the requirements described above for veterans.

If you are in the reserves and do not meet the other eligibility criteria described, you will only qualify if you have served for 6 years as a National Guard member or Selected Reserve member. Furthermore, one of the following must apply:

  • You were honorably discharged.
  • You were listed as retired.
  • You transferred to the Standby Reserve or the Ready Reserve (excluding Selected Reserve) after an honorable discharge.
  • You have continued to serve as a Selected Reservist.

VA Home Loan Requirements for Spouses

You may qualify for a VA home loan if you are the spouse of a veteran or service member under a few circumstances. To meet the VA loan requirements as a spouse, one of the following conditions must apply:

  • Your spouse passed away while serving or as the result of a service-related disability and you have not remarried.
  • You are the spouse of a service member who is missing in action or a prisoner of war.
  • You are the surviving spouse of a totally and permanently disabled veteran who died from any cause (not necessarily as a result of his or her service-related disability).

If you are the surviving spouse of a service member, you may qualify for a VA home loan if you have remarried, provided that you are older than 57 years of age and were remarried after December 16, 2003.

Related Article: Adaptive Housing Grants

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