VA Loan Basics You Should Know

The VA loan benefit was created to help active duty, National Guard, Reservists, retired or separated military personnel get affordable home loans. Your basic eligibility for this military benefit depends on the length of your military service, the nature of your military discharge, and the year you joined.

Currently serving military members are required to put in a minimum amount of time in uniform before they can apply for their VA loan benefit. Unfortunately this benefit is not available to you immediately upon joining the service. Those currently serving on active duty must serve 90 continuous days or more.

Members of the Guard and Reserve have the following eligibility requirements as described on the VA official site:

“Six years of service in the Selected Reserve or National Guard, AND

-Were discharged honorably, OR
-Were placed on the retired list, OR
-Were transferred to the Standby Reserve or an element of the Ready Reserve other than the Selected Reserve after service characterized as honorable, OR
-Continue to serve in the Selected Reserve”

For any military member no longer serving, the nature of your military discharge is important. There is a common misconception about VA loan rules in this area. Veterans with ANY discharge are eligible for VA loans with only one exception. Those with discharges classified as “dishonorable” are the only veterans ineligible for a VA mortgage.

This is an important distinction to make as there are a variety of discharges, some of which are administrative, some medical, and some punitive. Only a dishonorable discharge renders the veteran ineligible for a VA loan, and some dishonorable discharges are subject to review by a military discharge review board for possible upgrade.

One very important thing to remember about the VA loan program? Your basic eligibility does not guarantee you a mortgage loan. The VA benefit requires the participation of a lender who will qualify you based on your credit history, FICO scores, and other financial factors the same as with any major line of credit.

Being eligible for the VA loan benefit makes you able to be considered for this type of loan with its common benefits (including no down payment required in typical cases), but you will need to make sure your financial house is in order, so to speak, before applying for the loan itself.

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