Section 2.5

Service Eligibility Requirements for VA Loans

All of the big benefits that come with a VA loan make it one of the best loan options out there, in our opinion. But those benefits aren't available to just anyone. In order to qualify for a VA loan, you must first meet the VA's service requirements.

These service requirements look at when you served, how long you served for, and the reason for your discharge. The specific requirements in some of these areas can vary, depending on whether you served on active duty, in the National Guard and Reserves, or in another qualifying service organization.

If You Served on Active Duty...

. . . in Wartime

To be eligible for a VA loan, you only need 90 total days of full-time, active duty service if you are currently serving now or if you served during at least one of the following designated wartime periods:

  • WWII: 9/16/40–7/25/47
  • Korean War: 6/27/50–1/31/55
  • Vietnam: 8/5/64–5/7/75 or stationed in Vietnam from 2/28/61–5/7/75

. . . in Peacetime

If you did not serve during a wartime period, or you served for less than 90 days during a wartime period, you need to have served for 181 continuous days in order to be eligible for a VA loan. These peacetime service periods are as follows:

  • Post-WWII Period: 7/26/47–6/26/1950
  • Post-Korean War Period: 2/1/55–8/4/64
  • Post-Vietnam War Period: 5/8/75–9/7/80 or 5/8/75–10/16/81 if you served as an officer

. . . In Other Service Periods

In addition to the VA's designated peacetime and wartime periods, there are a few service periods where you may need to have 24 continuous months of service in order to meet the eligibility requirements for a VA loan. However, the 24-month requirement is just one of the options during these specific time periods. You may still qualify with either 90 or 181 days, depending on your exact circumstances. To learn more, you can check out the VA's loan eligibility page of their website.

If You Served in the National Guard & Reserves . . .

UPDATE: On January 5, 2021, a new law expanded the VA's eligibility requirements for servicemembers and veterans of the National Guard and Reserves. The information below reflects these updated requirements.

In order to be eligible for a VA loan, members of the National Guard and Reserves must meet slightly different requirements than active-duty servicemembers. Their requirements include full-time National Guard duty performed under Title 10 and/or Title 32 orders for:

  • At least 90 cumulative days, and
  • At least 30 days served consecutively

The 30 consecutive day requirement is not meant to be in addition to the 90 days. Instead, it simply means that at least 30 of the 90 days served must have been consecutive.

For members of the National Guard and Reserves, you are able to count your shorter periods of annual training towards the 90-day requirement.

Not all Title 32 orders will qualify. Only those authorized by federal law under sections 316, 502, 503, 504, and 505 of Title 32 will count towards the 90-day requirement.

If You Were Part of Another Service Organization . . .

In addition to serving in the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, and the National Guard and Reserves, those who have served in the following organizations may also be eligible for a VA loan:

  • Public Health Service Officers
  • National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration Officers
  • WWII Merchant Seaman
  • Air Force or Coast Guard Academy Officers
  • US Naval Academy midshipmen

You may also qualify if you served in the armed forces of another government who was allied with the US during WWII and you are now a UScitizen.

If You Are a Surviving Spouse . . .

In some situations, VA home loan benefits can be passed on to the spouse of a servicemember. A surviving spouse may be eligible if the veteran they were married to:

  • Is missing in action (MIA)
  • Is a prisoner of war (POW)
  • Died while in service
  • Died from a service-connected disability
  • Died after being totally disabled

Another eligibility requirement for surviving spouses states that they can't have remarried, except for under specific circumstances. These two exemptions are: 1) where the surviving spouse didn't remarry until after their 57th birthday, or 2) where they remarried before 12/16/2003 and applied for VA loan eligibility before 12/15/2004.

In certain situations, the cause of death for a totally disabled veteran doesn't have to be related to any type of disability, service-connected or otherwise. If you're curious, you can learn more about what these situations are in Chapter 2 of the VA Lenders Handbook.

If Your Military Service Doesn't Meet the Minimum Time Requirements . . .

You might still be eligible for a VA loan, even if you don't meet the VA's minimum service requirements that we covered earlier.

For example, you can still potentially qualify if your discharge was due to a service-connected disability, regardless of which time period you served in. For some service periods, you can also be eligible if you were discharged for one of the following reasons:

  • Certain medical conditions
  • A non-temporary hardship
  • A reduction in force
  • An early out (e.g. you served 21 months of a 2-year enlistment)
  • The government's convenience

In addition to these reasons, the status of your discharge must be either Honorable, Under Honorable Conditions, or General.

If your discharge status is Dishonorable, Other Than Honorable, or Bad Conduct, you might not be eligible for a VA loan unless you successfully petition to change your discharge status.

Find Out If You Qualify for a VA Loan

If you think you're eligible for a VA loan based on these service requirements, we'd love it if you'd give us a call! We're happy to help you confirm your eligibility and make sure you meet all of the other non-service requirements for a VA loan.

We'll cover what all of these other requirements are in the next article in this series.