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Among the basic rules and regulations governing the VA home loan program are the guidelines for eligibility for the VA home loan benefit. Who can apply and when?

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VA Loan Eligibility Requirements

Among the basic rules and regulations governing the VA home loan program are the guidelines for eligibility for the VA home loan benefit. Who can apply for a VA mortgage loan and when?

The Certificate of Eligibility, or COE, will show your service history and discharge status, among other things. The VA’s regulations are different for service members depending on when they served, the nature of their service, and how much time was served in uniform. The table below includes the VA’s time-in-service requirements for all members of the armed forces, starting with World War II veterans:

  • World War II: September 16, 1940 – July 25, 1947
  • Post-World War II: July 26, 1947 – June 26, 1950
  • Korean Conflict: June 27, 1950 – January 31, 1955
  • Post-Korean Conflict: February 1, 1955 – August 4, 1964
  • Vietnam Era: August 5, 1964 – May 7, 1975
  • Post-Vietnam Era: May 8, 1975 – August 1, 1990
  • Persian Gulf War: August 2, 1990 – Present
The VA’s regulations stipulate further requirements based on your dates of service. Veterans who served during a time of war must have served 90 days on active duty and been discharged under other than dishonorable conditions. Veterans who served during a time of peace must have served 181 days on active duty and been discharged under other than dishonorable conditions. If you served less than the required number of days, you may be eligible if discharged because of a service-connected disability.

Veterans of the Gulf War era must generally complete 24 months of continuous active duty service or the full period for which they were called to active duty, and be discharged under other than dishonorable conditions.

Members of the National Guard and Reserves should reference their own service requirements.

Additionally, some surviving spouses of veterans may have home loan eligibility. A spouse can be granted eligibility if they are:

  • The unmarried surviving spouse of a veteran who died as a result of service or service-connected causes;
  • The surviving spouse of a veteran who dies on active duty or from service-connected causes, who remarries on or after attaining age 57 and on or after December 16, 2003;
  • The spouse of an active duty member who is listed as missing in action (MIA) or a prisoner of war (POW) for at least 90 days. Eligibility under this MIA/POW provision is limited to one-time use only.
You may have noticed that the VA grants eligibility to those who received an “other than dishonorable” discharge. This means that veterans may not need an honorable discharge to qualify for a VA loan. But you also don’t need your Certificate of Eligibility in hand to start the VA loan process. A lender can often help you obtain this document as you start to work toward home loan preapproval.