Are you a veteran of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marines looking to use your VA home loan benefits? The first step in this journey toward home ownership is determining that you are eligible for the VA loan benefit. The lender will require a VA Certificate of Eligibility (COE) in order to begin the VA loan application process.
The COE tells your loan officer that you are eligible for the program, how much VA loan entitlement you have to use, and if you have been declared exempt from having to pay the VA loan funding fee.
But how does a military veteran get approved for the COE in the first place? The VA has a set of eligibility criteria that includes a minimum time in service requirement.
Unfortunately, the minimum time in service needed varies depending on when you joined the military. For most of today’s active duty members getting ready to retire or separate, 90 days minimum time on active duty is the standard.
That applies to any current or former military member who joined on or after 8/2/1990. Retired or separated members of the Guard or Reserve who joined at that time are eligible for a VA COE once they have served 90 continuous days on active duty, or served for six years of service in the Selected Reserve or National Guard and retired, or were honorably separated.
Others may also qualify if they 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” according to the VA official site.
Time-in-service requirements for veterans who joined before 8/2/1990 vary depending on the era of service. For example, post Vietnam-era enlisted veterans (5/8/1975 to 9/7/1980) need 181 continuous days of service. Enlisted military members who served from 9/8/1980 to 8/1/1990 must have served either 24 continuous months or, “the full period (at least 90 days) for which you were called or ordered to active duty” according to the VA official site.
If you aren’t sure about whether you qualify for a VA COE, discuss your situation with a loan officer who can help you apply for the COE and get the VA loan process started for you. In many cases it may be a question of the lender checking your discharge paperwork to see which era applies to you based on the information listed on the DD214 or Report of Discharge.