A VA loan is a specific kind of mortgage loan made available by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). It was previously known as the Veterans Administration. 

The VA provides eligible service members, veterans, and surviving spouses with assistance in purchasing a property.

VA loans are provided by private lenders such as mortgage firms or banks, and the United States Department of Veterans Affairs insures these loans (called the VA guaranty). VA Home Loans are provided by various private lenders, including banks and mortgage companies.

Because the VA will guarantee a portion of the loan, the lending institution will be able to provide you with more favorable terms.

But how exactly do you go about getting approved for a loan through the VA? Let’s talk about how to qualify for a VA loan.

Who Qualifies For A VA Loan?

To be eligible for a VA Loan, you or your spouse must do the following:

  • Meet the minimum service requirements established by the VA
  • Have a valid Certificate of Eligibility (COE)
  • Meet the lender’s credit, income, and employment requirements history.

You can obtain a COE if you did not receive a discharge that was less than honorable and if you meet the minimum active-duty service criteria according to the period in which you served.

Who Might Qualify For A VA Loan?

You might qualify for a loan from the Veterans Affairs if you meet one or more of the following requirements:

  • You served 90 consecutive days of active duty throughout a conflict.
  • You served 181 days of active duty during times of peace.
  • You have served in the National Guard or Reserves for six years.
  • You are the surviving spouse of a service member who passed away in the line of duty or due to a service-connected disability.

Can I Qualify if I was Discharged?

You may still qualify for a VA loan even if you do not satisfy the minimum service criteria. 

In these situations, eligibility depends on the type of discharge. You could be eligible for a loan if you were released under one of the following conditions:

  • Hardship
  • The convenience of the government (you must have served at least 20 months of a 2-year enlistment)
  • Early out (you must have served 21 months of a 2-year enlistment)
  • Reduction in force
  • Certain medical ailments
  • A service-related impairment (a disability related to your military service)

However, you might not be eligible for VA benefits if you were discharged for dishonorable behavior or bad conduct.

What are the Steps to Receive Your Loan?

Your Certificate of Eligibility confirms that you are eligible for VA loan benefits from the lender. That is a simple step for most Veterans. Your lender can often retrieve your COE using only your SSN and date of birth.

The three alternative options to receive a COE for a VA loan are as follows:

  • Apply through a VA-approved lender
  • Apply online through the VA’s eBenefits portal
  • Apply by mail with VA Form 26-1880

How do VA Loans Work for Spouses?

Surviving spouses will also need a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) to verify eligibility and use VA loan benefits. Obtaining a Certificate of Eligibility as a surviving spouse is contingent on whether or not you get Dependency and Indemnity Compensation.

Spouses receiving Dependency and Indemnity Compensation benefits must submit VA Form 26-1817 (Request for Determination of Loan Guaranty Eligibility — Unmarried Surviving Spouses) and a copy of the Veteran’s separation papers, such as a DD Form 214.

If you are not getting Dependency and Indemnity Compensation benefits, you must file VA Form 21P-534EZ to your state’s VA Pension Management Center.

In addition, you must submit a copy of your marriage license, the Veteran’s death certificate (or DD Form 1300 – Report of Casualty), and the Veteran’s separation papers.c

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