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VA Loan Eligibility: How Long Do I Have to Serve?

Updated December 5, 2018
2 min read

Not just anybody can get a VA loan. Eligible service members, veteran, spouses and select others can purchase a home through the VA home loan program.

To what does “eligible” refer? It’s mostly about military service requirements set by the VA. In short, two days of Boot Camp typically won’t cut it.

You may be eligible for a VA loan if you:

  • Served 90 days on active duty during wartime,
  • Served 181 days on active duty during peacetime,
  • Completed six years of service in the National Guard or Reserves, or
  • Are the surviving spouse of a veteran or service member who died in the line of duty or from a service-connected disability.

These are the broad guidelines. There can be exceptions, and the only way to be sure is to get your Certificate of Eligibility, either with the help of a VA lender or directly from the VA.

Certificate of Eligibility

The COE confirms to lenders and the VA that a borrower has met the military service requirements needed for a VA loan. There’s not much content on the COE, but it’s an essential step when seeking a VA loan.

Although it’s essential, it doesn’t have to be your first step. You can start working toward mortgage preapproval with mortgage lenders without having your COE. In fact, it’s a document some lenders may be able to get for you.

Obtaining Your Certificate of Eligibility

Veterans and service members can get their COE on their own through the VA eBenefits portal or by mailing or faxing paperwork to the appropriate VA Regional Loan Center. The latter typically involves nothing more than filling out a basic request for a Certificate of Eligibility.

Some lenders use the VA’s Automated Certificate of Eligibility (ACE) to more swiftly get a borrower’s COE. Sometimes, it takes only minutes. To go through ACE, borrowers just need to provide their lender with proof of service. Increasingly, most COE requests are being done online.

Keep in mind that from lender to lender, ACEs are not transferable, so borrowers need to get another ACE if switching lenders. Unfortunately, ACE cannot make military service requirement decisions for Reservists or National Guard members, or for unmarried surviving spouses.

Types of Proof of Service for Certificate of Eligibility

For Armed Forces veterans and members, Copy 4 (as seen in bottom right hand corner) of the DD-214 is the preferred proof of service because of its details. Reservists and National Guard members should use their most recent annual retirement points summary and proof of honorable service. NGB Form 22, or a points summary, can be sufficient proof of service for Army and Air National Guard members.

All active duty Armed Forces, Reservists and National Guards members need to complete a statement that includes basic personal and service information. There isn’t a template for these statements, so talk with lenders about what yours should include.

For borrowers who’ve lost proof of service, don’t be alarmed. You may need to fill out additional paperwork requesting your military documentation, but you can still get the loan process started in the meantime.

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Veterans United Home Loans is a VA approved lender; Mortgage Research Center, LLC – NMLS #1907 ( Not affiliated with the Dept. of Veterans Affairs or any government agency. Not available in NV or NY. 1400 Veterans United Dr., Columbia, MO 65203. Equal Housing Lender