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Eligibility requirements for VA home loan programs

Learn about VA home loan eligibility requirements for a VA direct or VA-backed loan. Find out how to apply for a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) to show your lender that you qualify based on your service history and duty status. Keep in mind that for a VA-backed home loan, you’ll also need to meet your lender’s credit and income loan requirements to receive financing.

Can I get a Certificate of Eligibility for a VA direct or VA-backed home loan?

You may be able to get a COE if you didn’t receive a dishonorable discharge and you meet the minimum active-duty service requirement based on when you served.

  • When did you serve? You meet the minimum active-duty service requirement if you served for at least this amount of time:
    Between September 16, 1940, and July 25, 1947 (WWII)
    • 90 total days, or
    • Less than 90 days if you were discharged for a service-connected disability
    Between July 26, 1947, and June 26, 1950 (post-WWII period)
    • 181 continuous days, or
    • Less than 181 days if you were discharged for a service-connected disability
    Between June 27, 1950, and January 31, 1955 (Korean War)
    • 90 total days, or
    • Less than 90 days if you were discharged for a service-connected disability
    Between February 1, 1955, and August 4, 1964 (post-Korean War period)
    • 181 continuous days, or
    • Less than 181 days if you were discharged for a service-connected disability
    Between August 5, 1964, and May 7, 1975 (Vietnam War), or
    February 28, 1961, to May 7, 1975, if you served in the Republic of Vietnam
    • 90 total days, or
    • Less than 90 days if you were discharged for a service-connected disability
    Between May 8, 1975, and September 7, 1980 (post-Vietnam War period), or
    Between May 8, 1975, and October 16, 1981, if you served as an officer
    • 181 continuous days, or
    • Less than 181 days if you were discharged for a service-connected disability
    Between September 8, 1980, and August 1, 1990, or
    Between October 17, 1981, and August 1, 1990, if you served as an officer
    • 24 continuous months, or
    • The full period (at least 181 days) for which you were called to active duty
    Between August 2, 1990, and the present (Gulf War)
    • 24 continuous months, or
    • The full period (at least 90 days) for which you were called or ordered to active duty, or
    • At least 90 days if you were discharged for a hardship, a reduction in force, or for convenience of the government, or
    • Less than 90 days if you were discharged for a service-connected disability
    You separated from service after September 7, 1980, or
    After October 16, 1981, if you served as an officer
    • 24 continuous months, or
    • The full period (at least 181 days) for which you were called or ordered to active duty, or
    • At least 181 days if you were discharged for a hardship, a reduction in force, or for convenience of the government, or
    • Less than 181 days if you were discharged for a service-connected disability
    I'm on active duty now 90 continuous days
  • When did you serve? You meet the minimum active-duty service requirement if you served for at least this amount of time:
    Between August 2, 1990, and the present (Gulf War) 90 days of active-duty service
    Any time period 6 creditable years in the Selected Reserve or National Guard, and one of the descriptions below is true for you

    At least one of these must be true. You:
    • Were discharged honorably, or
    • Were placed on the retired list, or
    • Were transferred to the Standby Reserve or an element of the Ready Reserve other than the Selected Reserve after service characterized as honorable, or
    • Continue to serve in the Selected Reserve

How do I apply for my COE?

What if I don’t meet the minimum service requirements?

You may still be able to get a COE if you were discharged for one of the reasons listed below.

You must have been discharged for one of these reasons:

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

What should I do if I received an other than honorable, bad conduct, or dishonorable discharge?

If you’ve received one of these discharge statuses, you may not be eligible for VA benefits.

There are 2 ways you can try to qualify:

Find out how to apply for a discharge upgrade
Learn about the VA Character of Discharge review process

Can I get a COE as the spouse of a Veteran?

You may be able to get a COE if you’re the surviving spouse of a Veteran or the spouse of a Veteran who's missing in action or being held as a prisoner of war (POW).
Find out how to apply for a COE as a surviving spouse

Can I get a COE in any other situations?

You may be able to get a COE if you meet at least one of the requirements listed below.

At least one of these must be true. You:

  • Are a U.S. citizen who served in the Armed Forces of a government allied with the United States in World War II, or
  • Served as a member in certain organizations, like a:
    • Public Health Service officer
    • Cadet at the United States Military, Air Force, or Coast Guard Academy
    • Midshipman at the United States Naval Academy
    • Officer of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration
    • Merchant seaman during World War II

Can I use a COE I used before?

You may be able to “restore” an entitlement you used in the past to buy another home with a VA direct or VA-backed loan if you meet at least one of the requirements listed below.

At least one of these must be true:

  • You’ve sold the home you bought with the prior loan and have paid that loan in full, or
  • A qualified Veteran-transferee agrees to assume your loan and substitute their entitlement for the same amount of entitlement you used originally, or
  • You’ve repaid your prior loan in full, but haven’t sold the home you bought with that loan (you can only do this one time)

To request an entitlement restoration, fill out a Request for a Certificate of Eligibility (VA Form 26-1880) and send it to the VA regional loan center for your state.
Download VA Form 26-1880 (PDF)
Find your state’s VA regional loan center

What if I have questions about my eligibility?

If you have any questions about your eligibility for a VA home loan, please call your VA regional loan center at 877-827-3702. We’re here Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET.

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