Eligibility for VA Loans Based On Period of Service

Your eligibility is established by receiving your Certificate of Eligibility, which is obtained by filling out the VA form 26-1880 and submitting it to the VA for review. Getting your COE is the first step in applying for a VA loan, and can be done on your own or with a lender, online or in the mail.
; that is up to the individual lender and is subject to whether you meet the financial requirements for loan approval. Below are explanations of the different categories of service and the requirements for each.

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Wartime Service– If you served during WWII (9/16/1940 to 7/25/1947), the Korean War (6/27/1950 to 1/31/1955), or the Vietnam War (8/5/1964 to 5/7/1975), then you must have served for at least 90 days on active duty and have any discharge other than dishonorable. An exception to the 90 days requirement can be granted if discharge was due to a service-related disability. See a VA-approved lender for more information on getting your Certificate of Eligibility and qualifying for a VA loan.

Peacetime- If you served during any period prior to 1980 that was not during wartime (dates listed above), you would be classified under this category. Requirements for eligibility for service during this time frame include at least 181 days of continuous active duty status. To be eligible, you must also have received a discharge other than dishonorable. Just like for wartime service, if you were discharged prior to 181 days due to a service-related disability, an exception may be granted to allow you to be eligible for a VA loan.

Post 1980/1981 (Enlisted/Officer) Service– If your military service began after 9/7/1980 (enlisted) or 10/1601981 (officer), then you’ll be under more strict service requirements. You must have completed 24 months of continuous active duty or the full period that you were ordered to active duty as long as it was at least 181 days. This stipulation exists for those ordered off of active duty for reasons outside their control before the 24 month requirement. Discharge must also be other than dishonorable in order to be eligible. Individuals discharged with less than 181 days of active service for service-related disabilities are also eligible. Other reasons for discharge outside the control of the service member can also make the veteran eligible. These reasons include involuntary reduction in force, some medical conditions, or convenience of the Government.

Gulf War– If you began service after 8/2/1990 you are considered a Gulf War veteran. For a Gulf War veteran to be eligible for the VA loan program, they must have completed 24 months of continuous active duty or the full period that you were ordered to active duty as long as it was at least 90 days or have been discharged prior to 90 days of service due to a service-related disability. You must have a discharge other than dishonorable.= in order to be eligible.

Active Duty– If you’re currently on regular duty (as opposed to active duty for training), you need to serve for 181 days (unless you began during the Gulf War, then it is only 90 days).

Reserves and National Guard– In order for a Guard/Reservist to be eligible, assuming they are not otherwise eligible from previous military service, he or she needs to complete a total of 6 years of service in the Reserved or Guard. This includes attending required weekend drills and 2-week active duty training every year. Upon discharge, an honorable discharge must be received, or the veteran must have been placed on the retired list or the Standby Reserve after honorable service.

Surviving Spouse– Spouses of veterans who died in service or due to a service-related disability can be eligible for VA loan benefits providing. Requirements vary based on time frame and age; speak with a VA-approved lender to find out if you could be eligible for VA loan benefits

Limits on VA Loan Eligibility – What About Age?

It is interesting that there is so much confusion and misunderstanding surrounding eligibility for VA loans. Aside from confusion about where the money being lent in a VA loan comes from, misconceptions about VA loan eligibility are probably the most prominent of all the myths surrounding the VA loan benefit. Being clear on who is eligible for VA loans and why is obviously a very important thing for veterans or those directly related or married to a veteran. While eligibility is pretty cut-and-dry, some people who think they might not be eligible actually are, while others may be surprised to find out that they actually are not eligible for VA loan benefits.

In order for a veteran to qualify, the first requirement they must meet is their time in service requirement. This varies from branch to branch, most particularly from full-time service branches to part-time (National Guard, Reserve). The second requirement that a veteran must meet is the discharge requirement (if they have already received their discharge). Veterans with a less-than-honorable discharge are not automatically eligible for the VA loan benefit, but can take steps to be awarded eligibility. A lot of servicemembers use their VA benefits as soon as they can while still very young, while a fair amount also wait until later in life to take on the burden on finances and time that owning a home can be.

For a veteran who uses his or her VA loan benefits early, and pays off their home before age 50, it might make sense to want to purchase another home. It also makes sense that they would want to take advantage of their VA loan benefits again. A veteran in this situation (or a veteran who opted not to utilize his or her VA loan benefits until a later age) will probably wonder if they are still eligible to use the benefits. After all, it’s possible that there is a time limit on the benefits or an age limit; perhaps you have to use the benefit within 10 years of separation or before age 40, or something like that. In this area, the VA is very clear with their rules, making it easy to understand.

It is no issue for a borrower to re-use their VA eligibility a second, or even a third time. For a borrower that has fully paid off their previous home, this is a very simple process involving an application for a restoration of VA loan eligibility. For someone selling a house bought with a VA loan and hoping to buy another house with their VA benefits (a typical moving scenario) it can get more complicated, but we won’t go into detail on that here. For the borrower who has already paid off their home, they need to furnish proof that the original VA loan has been completely paid off.

One thing that might surprise a borrower is that they must sell the property they’ve paid off before their VA eligibility can be restored. While this at first seems odd, it makes sense after thinking about it; the purpose of the VA loan program is to assist the veteran in purchasing suitable housing – for a primary living residence. If the veteran already owns a home and isn’t planning on selling it, how does the VA know that the benefit is being used for its intended purpose? There are cases where the VA might approve a one-time exception to selling the home before allowing a new VA loan to be made to the borrower.

Either way, whether the house is sold or is still owned by the borrower, the VA still requires proof that the original loan is taken care of before approving a second loan. Getting eligibility restored is the veteran’s first step in getting a second loan, and must take place before a loan can be approved. The best way to go through this process is to involve your loan officer and he or she can walk you through it all step by step.

With all that cleared up, we can address whether there actually is a time or age limit on a veteran using their VA loan benefit. The answer is no, there is no maximum amount of time or age that a veteran can use the benefits. The only requirements are rather common sense and common across any legal contracts: the borrower must be of legal age and mentally competent enough to sign a legally binding contract. The requirements for legal age and mental competency vary state by state and your loan officer will be better able to provide guidance if this is a concern.

Eligibility Requirements for VA Loans

Being eligible for a VA loan opens up a world of benefits and money-saving opportunities. VA loans allow an eligible borrower to open up a loan to buy a home with backing from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA). This backed, or guaranteed, mortgage motivates the lender to provide a more favorable interest rate than the borrower would normally be eligible for based on their credit score. Eligibility is based on whether the person has served or is serving in the armed forces, including Guard and Reserve servicemembers.

For a full-time service member, you are eligible essentially from the moment you graduate from basic training. Technically, a servicemember is eligible from the moment basic training starts, but good luck trying to go through the steps and hoops necessary to get one during basic training. Quite frankly, if you’re thinking about a mortgage and the benefits of a VA-guaranteed mortgage vs. a conventional mortgage while you’re knee-deep in mud running up a mountain on 2 hours of sleep, there may be something wrong with you. If the recruit were to make such a request, however, they would likely be told to wait until basic training was completed to make the request.

Once basic training is completed, as a recruit goes through individualized technical training or AIT, if the recruit were to make a request about getting a VA mortgage, he or she would likely be told the same thing. In this case, however, it has more to do with the lack of time that the recruit would have to handle such a thing. Only after training has completed will the recruit have the necessary disposable time to properly work out a VA-guaranteed mortgage.  But at the conclusion of training, the active servicemember is immediately eligible for benefits and can begin the process whenever he or she sees fit. But something that ought to be remembered is that at the beginning of military service and for the first few years, the service member will typically be moved around with some frequency. That makes it rather difficult and not usually wise to open up a VA loan in the early years of service. But it is theoretically possible if desired.

For an active servicemember to start the process for getting a VA-backed mortgage, they’ll need to meet with a lender to acquire a Certificate of Eligibility (COE). Going through a lender is not the only way to get a COE, but it is usually the easiest. Once the COE is obtained, the rest of the process can be followed, using existing documents such as recent military pay stubs as evidence for a servicemember’s eligibility.

But for a guard or reservist, the process is a little bit more complex. Just as for regular service members, the VA loan benefits provide guard and reservists an opportunity to get a better interest rate than they would normally qualify for. However, for guard and reservists, there is a requirement for minimum time served in order to be eligible for those benefits. Those serving in the Guard or the Reserves have to complete at least six years of service before being eligible. This restriction is in place because of the smaller time commitment and looser separation policies of the guard and reserves compared to full-time service. By establishing a minimum service requirement, abuse of the system is prevented in a large way.

If a guard or reservist has retired, the minimum service requirement is not a concern because it has obviously been completed and all that is required to demonstrate eligibility is an NGB Form 22. The NGB Form 22 is a Report of Separation and Record of Service. There is another form that is allowable as evidence, called the NGB Form 23, or the Retirement Points Accounting. One of these forms in addition to proof of the nature of discharge should be sufficient to establish eligibility for a VA loan.

If a member of the Selected Reserve that was never discharged would like to utilize his VA loan eligibility, they will need to provide a copy of their most recent annual retirement points statement and evidence of honorable service. If they were activated, they merely need to provide their DD Form 214.

Requirements and Applying for Eligibility for VA Loans

If you are a veteran, currently serving in the military or were married to someone who was killed in the line of duty you may be eligible for a VA loan. Here is a list of some requirements for eligibility. We’ve also broken down the process for applying and becoming approved for your VA loan.


First, you need to be able to say yes to at least one of the following questions:


-Have you served 181 days during peacetime (Active Duty)?

-Have you served 90 days during a time of war (Active Duty)?

-Have you served a minimum of 6 years in the Reserves or National Guard?

-Are you the spouse of a service member who was killed in the line of duty?


Here is a government list of dates for service eligibility http://www.benefits.va.gov/homeloans/elig2.asp


If you can say yes to at least one of these then you most likely qualify. The next step will then be to prove your eligibility to a lender approved for providing VA loans.  You will need an official certificate of eligibility and you can apply for it on the government’s site here https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/ebenefits-portal/ebenefits.portal:


There are also many documents you will need to submit in order to apply and become approved whether you served in the National Guard, active duty or are a surviving spouse. There are many documents for some and all of them are listed by category here: http://www.benefits.va.gov/homeloans/eligibility.asp under “Evidence of Eligibility.”

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