VA loans are a type of mortgage offered exclusively to Veterans and military members as a thank-you for their service. They feature benefits that make it easier for Veterans and their families to become homeowners, which can help build wealth and stability for their future.
If you plan on taking advantage of your VA loan benefit, you should know that a Certificate of Eligibility is required. But there’s no need to stress! We’ve got you covered with this guide.
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What Is a VA Loan Certificate of Eligibility?
A Certificate of Eligibility, or COE, is a document that confirms your service requirements needed to secure a VA home loan. Remember, the Department of Veterans Affairs does not actually do the lending for VA loans. Instead, they set base guidelines and private loan companies do the lending based on their own financial requirements.
The COE shows lenders that you have served the required amount of time in the U.S. military to obtain a VA loan. It also shows if you’re exempt from paying the VA funding fee.
Beyond proving your eligibility, the Certificate of Eligibility provides your entitlement code.
Your COE will include an entitlement code that ranges from 01 to 11, indicating the period in which you served or the status of your previous VA loans, if applicable.
How to Get a VA Certificate of Eligibility
You can apply for a VA loan Certificate of Eligibility in three different ways:
- Apply online at the VA’s eBenefits Portal, which lists all the acceptable documents to upload as proof of your service. This is often the quickest method and will supply you with a downloadable PDF document right away.
- Apply through your VA- approved lender if you want to complete the full VA loan application in one place.
- Apply by mail by printing and mailing in VA Form 26-1880 from the Veteran’s Information Portal. You can expect to receive a copy of your COE by mail within 4-6 weeks.
Whichever method of application is chosen, all applicants are expected to provide personal identifying information such as name, date of birth and social security number. However, there is a bit of nuance to the additional information the VA needs to complete your unique Certificate of Eligibility. Let’s take a look.
VA Loan COE Eligibility For Active Duty Service Members
To obtain a Certificate of Eligibility as an active duty service member may need to submit a statement of service that states key information such as:
- Name of your commanding officer
- Branch of service
- Unit of assignment
- Active duty service date
- Expected discharge and discharge character
- Medals, badges and citations awarded
Currently, no form is available to provide this information. A letter should be sufficient, but it needs to be on official military letterhead. You can find a helpful example here.
VA Loan COE Eligibility For Veterans
To obtain a Certificate of Eligibility as a Veteran, you will need to provide proof of military service through forms such as DD214 or other discharge paperwork.
Some of the most important information provided on a DD214 form include:
- Place of entry
- Last duty assignment
- Records of service
- Primary duty specialty
- Character of service
VA Loan COE Eligibility For National Guard and Reserve Members
Members of the National Guard and Reserves who have active-duty time should receive a DD Form 214 when they are transitioned back.
Alternatively, members of the National Guard who did not have active-duty time should submit NGB Form 22, which is the 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.
Reservist members should submit a copy of their latest annual retirement points statement and evidence of honorable service.
VA Loan COE Eligibility For Surviving Spouses
Surviving spouses must provide proof of their relationship to the deceased Veteran through a document such as a marriage certificate. Surviving spouses must also offer evidence of the Veteran’s military service through a form such as DD214 or other discharge paperwork.
VA Loan Certificate of Eligibility FAQs
How long will it take to get my COE?
If you apply for your Certificate of Eligibility through your lender or online through the eBenefits portal, you can receive it within a few minutes. If you use mail, typical processing times are 4 to 6 weeks.
Does a Certificate of Eligibility expire?
A VA COE does not expire, but you may need to update it if your service status changes.
What if my COE gets denied?
If your Certificate of Eligibility gets denied, it may be because you didn’t provide sufficient evidence or you do not currently meet the eligibility requirements. Reach out to your local VA office for more guidance.
Does a COE guarantee my loan approval?
Getting your Certificate of Eligibility is only one step of the eligibility process for a VA loan. You must also meet employment and income requirements set by lenders.
Getting Your COE: The Bottom Line
While the specific requirements for obtaining a COE may vary depending on the individual’s circumstances and the type of benefit they are seeking, the VA has made the process relatively straightforward and accessible. Once you have your COE, you’re one step closer to accessing VA loan benefits, including lower interest rates, no down payment and more accessible credit qualifications.
Equal Housing Opportunity. The Department of Veterans Affairs affirmatively administers the VA Home Loan Program by assuring that all Veterans are given an equal opportunity to buy homes with VA assistance. Federal law requires all VA Home Loan Program participants – builders, brokers and lenders offering housing for sale with VA financing – must comply with Fair Housing Laws and may not discriminate based on the race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin of the Veteran.