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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:
When did you serve? Between September 16, 1940, and July 25, 1947 (WWII) You meet the minimum active-duty service requirement if you served for at least this amount of time:
  • 90 total days, or
  • Less than 90 days if you were discharged for a service-connected disability
When did you serve? Between July 26, 1947, and June 26, 1950 (post-WWII period) You meet the minimum active-duty service requirement if you served for at least this amount of time:
  • 181 continuous days, or
  • Less than 181 days if you were discharged for a service-connected disability
When did you serve? Between June 27, 1950, and January 31, 1955 (Korean War) You meet the minimum active-duty service requirement if you served for at least this amount of time:
  • 90 total days, or
  • Less than 90 days if you were discharged for a service-connected disability
When did you serve? Between February 1, 1955, and August 4, 1964 (post-Korean War period) You meet the minimum active-duty service requirement if you served for at least this amount of time:
  • 181 continuous days, or
  • Less than 181 days if you were discharged for a service-connected disability
When did you serve? 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
You meet the minimum active-duty service requirement if you served for at least this amount of time:
  • 90 total days, or
  • Less than 90 days if you were discharged for a service-connected disability
When did you serve? 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
You meet the minimum active-duty service requirement if you served for at least this amount of time:
  • 181 continuous days, or
  • Less than 181 days if you were discharged for a service-connected disability
When did you serve? Between September 8, 1980, and August 1, 1990, or
Between October 17, 1981, and August 1, 1990, if you served as an officer
You meet the minimum active-duty service requirement if you served for at least this amount of time:
  • 24 continuous months, or
  • The full period (at least 181 days) for which you were called to active duty
When did you serve? Between August 2, 1990, and the present (Gulf War) You meet the minimum active-duty service requirement if you served for at least this amount of time:
  • 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
When did you serve? You separated from service after September 7, 1980, or
After October 16, 1981, if you served as an officer
You meet the minimum active-duty service requirement if you served for at least this amount of time:
  • 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
When did you serve? I'm on active duty now You meet the minimum active-duty service requirement if you served for at least this amount of time: 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:
When did you serve? Between August 2, 1990, and the present (Gulf War) You meet the minimum active-duty service requirement if you served for at least this amount of time: 90 days of active-duty service
When did you serve? Any time period You meet the minimum active-duty service requirement if you served for at least this amount of time: 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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