Members of the National Guard, Air National Guard, and Reserves have special VA loan eligibility requirements before they can use the VA Loan to buy a home. But there is much more to actually qualifying for a VA Loan than simply being eligible. Let’s look at the VA Loan eligibility requirements, including the necessary forms and paperwork you will need before you can apply for a VA Loan.
Guard and Reserve VA Loan Eligibility
Current or former members of the National Guard, Air National Guard, and Reserves are eligible to apply for a VA Loan if they meet one of the following:
- Served at least 90 consecutive days on active duty during wartime.
- Served at least 181 consecutive days on active duty during peacetime.
- Completed six years of in-service time with their Guard or Reserve Unit (These must be “Good Years” to qualify).
Note: These requirements are only to be eligible to apply for a VA loan; they do not guarantee your loan will be approved. You still must meet the financial requirements set by the lender.
Proof of Service
After meeting minimum service requirements to be eligible for a VA Loan, servicemembers and veterans must provide the VA with Proof of service so they can acquire a Certificate of Eligibility, which they will furnish to the actual lender.
Proof of Service: Members of the Guard and Reserves who have active duty time should have received a DD Form 214 when they were transitioned back to their Guard or Reserve status. Your DD Form 214 should state the total number of days they served on active duty. Here are instructions for getting a copy of your DD 214 if you do not currently have a copy.
If you are currently serving on active duty and have met the service requirements, you can also send a Statement of Service signed by your unit commander, his/her adjutant, or a personnel officer.
A Statement of Service must include the following information:
- Full name, date of birth, and Social Security Number
- Date entered into military service
- Total number of Creditable Years of Service (also known in the Guard and Reserves as “Good Years”)
- Duration of Lost Time
- Unit Command information, including name, location, and contact information
Discharged Members of the Guard and Reserves: If you do not meet requirements for time served on active duty, and you are no longer in the Guard or Reserves, then you can send copies of your separation paperwork or other accepted forms. These include:
- National Guard: NGB Form 22, Report of Separation and Record of Service, for each period of National Guard service, or, NGB Form 23, Retirement Points Accounting, and proof of the character of service
- Reserves: Copy of your latest annual retirement points statement and evidence of honorable service.
Once you have your proof of service, you will provide this to the VA, which will issue you a Certificate of Eligibility.
Certificate of Eligibility
A Certificate of Eligibility (CoE) is a requirement for every VA Loan application. Many lenders can now process these forms for you if they have access to the VA Web LGY system. If the lender has access to the system, they may be able to obtain a Certificate of Eligibility in a few minutes. However, the VA may not have all servicemembers’ records in their system, and you may apply for the CoE through another method.
- Apply online: To get your Certificate of Eligibility (COE) online, visit the eBenefits portal. If you already have login credentials, click the Login box, and if you need login credentials, please click the Register box and follow the directions on the screen.
- Apply by Mail: Use VA Form 26-1880, Request for Certificate of Eligibility (pdf). Instructions and the mailing address are on the form.
The turnaround time for a manual request can take anywhere from a couple days, to a couple weeks, depending on whether your have your paperwork in order, how backed up the VA is, and other factors. The VA can often rush a CoE if you have the proper documentation. I believe it took less than a week for me to receive my Certificate of Eligibility when I applied for a VA Loan a few years ago.
Eligibility Does Not Guarantee a Loan
Meeting the above criteria will establish eligibility to apply for a VA Loan, but it will not guarantee your application will be approved. Lenders look at multiple factors before approving loans, including your income, credit score, debt to income ratio, and other factors. We cover these topics in the following article about getting approved for a VA Loan.
If you are planning on buying a home with a VA Loan, then check out our VA Loan interest rate page which lists current interest rates from a variety of lenders. This will give you an idea of what current interest rates are in your area.