What is a Certificate of Eligibility?

Veteran Affairs (VA) Home Loans are a benefit for service members, veterans, and their spouses to who want to buy, improve, or build a home. For any VA home loan applicant, they need to get a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) to begin an application.  

What is a Certificate of Eligibility and why do I need one?  

A Certificate of Eligibility is a document from the VA that confirms that the service member or veteran can get a VA home loan. By having a COE the service member proves to a lender that they qualify based on their history and duty status.  

A COE also includes the VA loan entitlement. Loan entitlement is the amount the VA will pay back the lender in case the service member can no longer pay for the house.  

Those eligible will get a COE to show their lender.  

What documentation do I need to get a Certificate of Eligibility? 

To request a COE, service members need to show that they did not receive a dishonorable discharge and that they met the minimum active-duty service requirement based on when they served.  

Veterans 

The VA has specific service requirements for different periods of service. Review the VA’s table of service requirements for COE eligibility. Generally, a veteran is eligible if they served for at least 90 days of active duty.  

Current service member 

Service members who have been on active duty for at least 90 continuous days are eligible for VA home loans. 

National Guard members are eligible after at least 90 days of non-training active-duty service.  

Reserve members are eligible after at least 90 days of non-training active-duty service and were discharged honorably.  

How do I request a Certificate of Eligibility?  

A COE can be requested online or by mail.  

An application for COE can be completed and submitted through eBenefits.va.gov.  

To mail in an application, complete VA Form 26-1880 and mail to the correct regional office listed on the form.  

For a COE service members must show evidence of: 

Veteran 

Copy of their discharge or separation papers (DD-214) 

Current service member 

A signed statement by the commander, adjutant, or personnel officer showing the service member’s: 

  • Full name; 
  • Social Security number; 
  • Date of birth; 
  • Date they entered duty; 
  • The length of any lost time; and 
  • The name of the command supplying the information. 

The VA has specific requirements for other eligible applicants such as: 

  • Current or formerly activated National Guard member; 
  • Current or formerly activated Reserve member; 
  • Current member of the National Guard or Reserves who has never been activated; 
  • Discharged member of the National Guard who was never activated; 
  • Discharged member of the Reserves who was never activated; and 
  • Surviving spouse of a veteran who died on active duty or who had a service-related connected disability.  

What if I do not meet the minimum service requirement? 

Service members who were discharged for the following may still be eligible to get a COE: 

  • Hardship,  
  • The convenience of the government (must have served at least 20 months of a 2-year enlistment),  
  • Early out (must have served 21 months of a 2-year enlistment),   
  • Reduction in force,  
  • Certain medical conditions, or 
  • A service-connected disability (a disability that happened during military service). 

What can I do if I left the service without an honorable discharge?  

If a service member received an other than honorable, bad conduct, or dishonorable discharge; there may be two ways to qualify: 

  1. Find out how to apply for a discharge upgrade  
  2. Learn about the VA Character of Discharge review process 

Can I get a Certificate of Eligibility as the spouse of a Veteran? 

Spouses of veterans who meet one of the following descriptions may be eligible for a COE: 

  • The veteran is missing in action; 
  • The veteran is a prisoner of war (POW); 
  • The veteran died serving or from a service-connected disability and the spouse did not remarry; 
  • The veteran died serving or from a service-connected disability and the spouse did not remarry before they were 57 years old or before December 16, 2003; or 
  • The veteran had been totally disabled and then died, but their disability may not have been the cause of death (in certain situations). 

Depending on whether the spouse receives Dependency & Indemnity Compensation (DIC) or not, there are two methods for spouses to request a COE.  

Learn more about the application for eligible spouses 

Is there any other way to get a Certificate of Eligibility? 

At least one of these must be true to be eligible for a COE: 

  • Be a U.S. citizen who served in the Armed Forces of a government allied with the United States in World War II, or 
  • Have served as a member in certain organizations, such as: 
  • Public Health Service officer; 
  • Cadet at the United States Military, Air Force, or Coast Guard Academy; 
  • Midshipman at the United States Naval Academy; 
  • Officer of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration; or 
  • Merchant sailor during World War II. 

Who can I contact with questions about eligibility for a Certificate of Eligibility?  

Call the VA regional loan center for any questions about eligibility: 

877-827-3702 

Monday through Friday 

8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET. 

This website has been prepared for general information purposes only. The information on this website is not legal advice. Legal advice is dependent upon the specific circumstances of each situation. Also, the law may vary from state-to-state or county-to-county, so that some information in this website may not be correct for your situation. Finally, the information contained on this website is not guaranteed to be up to date. Therefore, the information contained in this website cannot replace the advice of competent legal counsel licensed in your jurisdiction.

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