What Is a Certificate of Eligibility?

Am I eligible for a VA loan, and how do I prove it?

The very first thing you must determine before you apply for a VA loan is if you can even get one.

Just because you are a veteran or active duty service member does not necessarily mean you are eligible for a VA loan. Some criteria for VA loan eligibility as outlined by VA depends on your type and length of service.

Certificate of Eligibility (COE)

If any of these sound like you, you can apply for a VA loan:

1. You have contributed 90 consecutive days of active service during wartime:

  • WWII: Sept. 16, 1940 to July 25, 1947
  • Korean War: June 27, 1950 to Jan. 31, 1955
  • Vietnam War: Aug. 5, 1964 to May 7, 1975
  • Gulf War: Aug. 2, 1990 to present (24 continuous months OR 90 days called or ordered to active duty)

Note: You may be eligible even if you served less than the required time if you were discharged for disability due to a service-related injury, hardship, the convenience of the government, reduction in force or certain medical conditions.

2. You have contributed 181 consecutive days of active service during peacetime:

  • Post-WWII: July 26, 1947 to June 26, 1950
  • Post-Korean War: Feb. 1, 1955 to Aug. 4, 1964
  • Post-Vietnam War: May 8, 1975 to Sept. 7, 1980 (The ending date for officers is Oct. 16, 1981.)

3. You are currently active duty and have served 90 consecutive days.
4. You served in the National Guard or the reserves for six years.
5. Your spouse died in the line of duty or from a service-related injury OR your spouse is missing in action or a prisoner of war.
6. You are a U.S. citizen who served in the armed forces of a government allied with the United States in World War II.

To take a deeper dive into details related to why you are or aren’t qualified, visit Va.gov.

Proof of service: How do I get it?

Of course, you have to prove that one or more of the above is true. Enter the Certificate of Eligibility (COE). This is an official document issued by VA that states that you did, indeed, serve the necessary time.

You can apply for a VA loan without it, but at some point you will need to provide it or you won’t be able to close. The good news is that you can apply for your COE online, get it through your lender or request it via snail mail.

Your request for COE must be accompanied by evidence of your eligibility:

  • Veterans: DD form 214
  • Active duty/current National Guard member or reservist not activated for federal military service: A current and signed statement of service that shows personal information, entry date on active duty, duration of any lost time, name of the command providing the information
  • Discharged member of the Selected Reserve who has never been activated for federal military service: A copy of your latest annual retirement points statement and evidence of honorable service
  • Surviving spouse receiving Dependency and Indemnity Compensation: VA form 26-1817 and veteran’s DD form 214 (if available)
  • Surviving spouse not receiving Dependency and Indemnity Compensation: VA form 26-1817, veteran’s DD form 214 (if available), marriage license, death certificate

Once you have received your COE, you are on the fast track to receiving your VA loan.

Chris Birk of Veterans United Home Loans contributed to this post.