How to get a certificate of eligibility from the VA

VA certificate of eligibilityVA home-loans are provided by approved VA lenders, not the Veteran's Administration. The VA lenders are required to obtain proof that the veteran applicant is eligible for a VA loan. The Certificate of Eligibility (COE) serves as that proof and informs the lender that the applicant has met the minimum service requirement.

There are three ways the veteran can obtain the Certificate of Eligibility (COE).

  1. By Mail
    The veteran can obtain the certificate by mail. Simply print the Request for a Certificate of Eligibility form and return it to the address on the form

  2. Online
    Create an account and complete the application. Here's a nice flyer detailing the procedure: Obtaining Your Certificate of Eligibility Online.pdf. However, in some cases, your lender may be able to establish your eligibility and obtain your certificate of eligibility online.

  3. Through the Lender
    Many VA approved lenders have access to a special database and are able to obtain the COE in a few minutes.

There are times when the automated system fails to produce a certificate of eligibility, in this situation, have your DD214 ready.

Who is eligible for a VA loan:

In general . . .
You have served 181 days of active service during peacetime,
You have served 90 consecutive days of active service during wartime,
You have more than 6 years of service in the National Guard or Reserves,
You are the spouse of a service member who has died in the line of duty or as a result of a service-related disability.

The Veteran's Administration lists ALL the service requirements for a VA home-loan on their web site.

Does the certificate of eligibility guarantee a loan?

Unfortunately, no. The VA guarantee means that the Veteran's Administration will pay the lender a percentage of the loss when the VA lender forecloses on a loan. In short, the VA "guarantees" the loan to the lender.

Veteran home-buyers should have a 620 minimum credit score, an acceptable work history, and sufficient money to pay the various closing-costs if not paid by the home seller.

  Frequently Asked Questions About the VA Certificate of Eligibility

Q. Can a VA loan be denied?
A. The VA loan is not unlike any other mortgage loan. The veteran applicant must meet the lender's (and VA administration) guidelines for income, credit, length of employment, etc. The confusion is usually due to the word "VA loan guaranty". The guaranty means the lender is protected against loss if the borrower fails to repay the loan.

Q. Can a veteran with bad credit get a VA home-loan?
A. The VA does not require a minimum credit score and some lenders may be inclined to go below 620 depending on the circumstances that caused the poor credit.

Q. How long does it take to get a certificate of eligibility from the VA?
A. Obtaining the certificate of eligibility through the Veterans Administration can take up to six weeks (and longer). Fortunately, VA approved lenders are able to acquire the certificate of eligibility much sooner through the automated systems

Q. Is a dd214 the same as a certificate of eligibility?
A. The DD Form 214 is the proof of service. The DD-214 usually includes everything the VA needs to determine whether the veteran is eligible for a VA loan..

Q. Why does my VA Certificate of Eligibility say $36 000?
A. The $36,000 is the VA's maximum guarantee for loans up to $144,000 paid to the lender in the event of a default on the loan.

Here’s how it works:

If you qualify for a VA-backed home-loan, you’ll receive a home-loan entitlement. This is the maximum amount we’ll guarantee the lender that we’ll pay if you default on your loan.

As long as you qualify for a loan based on your income and credit history, and the property’s value matches its asking price, your lender will likely agree to loan you up to 4 times the amount of your entitlement without a down payment. This is your loan limit.

You may still be able to borrow more than this amount if you’re able and willing to pay a down payment. Most lenders require that your entitlement, down payment, or a combination of both cover at least 25% of your total loan amount.
SOURCE: US Department of Veterans Affairs