VA Home Loan: Do You Have What it Takes?

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In order to obtain a VA home loan, you must first fill out VA Form 26-1880, the request for your Certificate of Eligibility. This certificate is issued only through the Veterans Administration, and is the first step towards applying for your loan. Veterans, active duty, guard or reserve, and military spouses potentially qualify for this certificate. Keep in mind that the Certificate of Eligibility, while necessary, only allows an eligible individual to apply for a home loan; it does not guarantee a loan approval.
Learn more about this exclusive benefit, Download a free VA Loan Guide today.

Eligibility for the Certificate is based on an individual's (or a spouse's) military service. Congress establishes eligibility with strict guidelines. Here are five common categories of those who normally qualify for a Certificate of Eligibility:

Wartime - Service During:

  • WWII: 9/16/1940 to 7/25/1947
  • Korean: 6/27/1950 to 1/31/1955
  • Vietnam: 8/5/1964 to 5/7/1975
You must have at least 90 days on active duty and been discharged under other than dishonorable conditions.  If you served less than 90 days, you may be eligible if discharged for a service connected disability.

Peacetime - Service during periods:

  • 7/26/1947 to 6/26/1950
  • 2/1/1955 to 8/4/1964
  • 5/8/1975 to 9/7/1980 (Enlisted)
  • 5/8/1975 to 10/16/1981 (Officer)

You must have served at least 181 days of continuous active duty and been discharged under other than dishonorable conditions.  If you served less than 181 days, you may be eligible if discharged for a service connected disability.

Service after 9/7/1980 (enlisted) or 10/16/1981 (officer)

If you were separated from service which began after these dates, you must have:

  • Completed 24 months of continuous active duty or the full period (at least 181 days) for which you were ordered or called to active duty and been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable, or
  • Completed at least 181 days of active duty and been discharged under the specific authority of 10 USC 1173 (Hardship), or 10 USC 1171 (Early Out), or have been determined to have a compensable service-connected disability;
  • Been discharged with less than 181 days of service for a service-connected disability.  Individuals may also be eligible if they were released from active duty due to an involuntary reduction in force, certain medical conditions, or, in some instances for the convenience of the Government.

Gulf War - Service during period 8/2/1990 to date yet to be determined

If you served on active duty during the Gulf War, you must have:

  • Completed 24 months of continuous active duty or the full period (at least 90 days) for which you were called or ordered to active duty, and been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable, or
  • Completed at least 90 days of active duty and been discharged under the specific authority of 10 USC 1173 (Hardship), or 10 USC 1173 (Early Out), or have been determined to have a compensable service-connected disability, or
  • Been discharged with less than 90 days of service for a service-connected disability.  Individuals may also be eligible if they were released from active duty due to an involuntary reduction in force, certain medical conditions, or, in some instances, for the convenience of the Government.

Active Duty Service Personnel

If you are now on regular duty (not active duty for training), you are eligible after having served 181 days (90 days during the Gulf War) unless discharged or separated from a previous qualifying period of active duty service.

Selected Reserves or National Guard

If you are not otherwise eligible and you have completed a total of 6 years in the Selected Reserves or National Guard (member of an active unit, attended required weekend drills and 2-week active duty for training) and

  • Were discharged with an honorable discharge, 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 service, or
  • Continue to serve in the Selected Reserves

Individuals who completed less than 6 years may be eligible if discharged for a service-connected disability.

You may also be determined eligible if you:

  • Are an unremarried spouse of a veteran who died while in service or from a service connected disability, or
  • Are a spouse of a serviceperson missing in action or a prisoner of war

Note:  Also, a surviving spouse who remarries on or after attaining age 57, and on or after December 16, 2003, may be eligible for the home loan benefit.  However, a surviving spouse who remarried before December 16, 2003, and on or after attaining age 57, must apply no later than December 15, 2004, to establish home loan eligibility.  VA must deny applications from surviving spouses who remarried before December 6, 2003 that are received after December 15, 2004.

Eligibility may also be established for:

  • Certain United States citizens who served in the armed forces of a government allied with the United States in WW II.
  • Individuals with service as members in certain organizations, such as Public Health Service officers, cadets at the United States Military, Air Force, or Coast Guard Academy, midshipmen at the United States Naval Academy, officers of National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, merchant seaman with WW II service, and others.

NEXT STEP: Download a free VA Loan Guide to get started using your VA home loan benefit.

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