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Veteran Eligibility Requirements

Please note that the final veteran eligibility decision is always made by VA. In all cases in which the applicant does not already have a Certificate of Eligibility (COE), the applicant, the lender, or an authorized representative acting on the applicant’s behalf, should submit a properly completed VA Form 26-1880, Request for a Certificate of Eligibility to VA, even if it appears the applicant is not eligible. 

Lenders may rely on a Certificate of Eligibility as proof that a veteran is eligible for a VA home loan. It is important to allow VA to make a formal determination and, if the applicant is ineligible, to notify the applicant of his or her appeal rights.

General Rules of Eligibility

A veteran is eligible for VA home loan benefits if he or she served on active duty in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard after September 15, 1940, and was discharged under conditions other than dishonorable after either: 

  • 90 days or more, any part of which occurred during wartime, or 
  • 181 continuous days or more (peacetime). 

2 Year Requirement: A greater length of service is required for veterans who: 

  • Enlisted (and service began) after September 7, 1980, or 
  • Entered service as an officer after October 16, 1981.

These veterans must have completed either: 

  • 24 continuous months of active duty, or  
  • The full period for which called or ordered to active duty, but not less than 90 days (any part during wartime) or 181 continuous days (peacetime).

Note: Cases involving other than honorable discharges will usually require further development by VA. This is necessary to determine if the service was under other than dishonorable conditions.

Other Eligible Persons

Active Duty Member:   Note: Certificate only valid while veteran remains on active duty. 90 days (181 during peacetime)

Reserve/Guard Eligibility

Members of the Reserves and National Guard who are not otherwise eligible for loan guaranty benefits are eligible upon completion of 6 years service in the Reserves or Guard. 

The applicant must have been honorably discharged from such service unless he or she is either In an inactive status awaiting final discharge, or still serving in the Reserves or Guard. 

Eligibility of Spouses of Veterans

The unmarried surviving spouse of a veteran who died as a result of service or service-connected causes, and the spouse of an active duty member who is listed as missing in action (MIA) or a prisoner of war (POW) for at least 90 days have eligibility.

Note: Eligibility under this MIA/POW provision is limited to one time use only.

Other Qualifying Service

Congress has periodically granted veteran status to groups other than members of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and coast Guard, such as certain members of the Public Health Service, cadets at the service academies, certain merchant seaman, etc. Lenders should contact the appropriate VA for assistance when one of these unique cases is encountered.

Exceptions to Length of Service Requirements

There are numerous exceptions to the length of service requirements outlined here.  For example, one day of service is sufficient for an individual who is discharged or released from service (regular or Reserve/Guard) due to a service-connected disability.  

The complexity and number of exceptions provides another reason to submit a formal eligibility application to VA in all cases, even if it appears the applicant is not eligible. 

Certificate of Eligibility for IRRRLs

VA has developed an alternate procedure for lenders to use when closing an Interest Rate Reduction Refinancing Loan (IRRRL). Lenders can access an automated system.

This system provides an automated e-mail response to lenders. Lenders MUST print this response and provide it with the guarantee package for issuance of the Loan Guaranty Certificate.

 

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