VA Loan Q&A: Eligibility

Navy family in front of house

Q: As a military member, am I automatically eligible for a VA loan? If not, what is required so I can use the benefit to buy a house?

VA loan eligibility is earned after completing the required length and character of service described in the Department of Veterans Affairs guidelines.

Date you Served Makes a Difference

Veterans who served after September 15, 1940 may be eligible for home loan benefits after serving on active duty in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard for:

  • As few as 90 days active duty, any part of which is during wartime
  • As few as 181 or more continuous days active duty during peacetime

If a veteran enlisted after September 7, 1980, or entered service as an officer after October 16, 1981, her or she may be eligible after completing either the 90 or 181 days or the full call of active duty service described above or:

  • 24 continuous months of active duty for regular military members
  • 6 years of service for Reservists/National Guard members

Generally, members discharged early for service-connected disabilities or certain other reasons may still be eligible under VA guidelines. Other uniformed service groups including military cadets may also have VA loan eligibility. Discharge must be under conditions other than dishonorable.

Some National Guard and Reservists Eligible after 90 Days Active Duty

Those who served during the Persian Gulf War, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn, or any time after August 2, 1990 need 24 months of continuous active duty service or at least the full period of service for which they were called (which must be 90 days of active duty). Even National Guard and Selected Reservists, who normally earn home loan benefits after 6 years, may be VA eligible in as few as 90 days if called up to active duty during wartime.

Certain Surviving Spouses May Get VA Loans

Spouses widowed by a veteran who died during service or from a service-connected disability or causes may enjoy the benefits of VA loans. New laws extend the eligibility requirements to certain surviving spouses widowed by a veteran who was completely disabled for the VA-specified number of years and eligible for compensation before dying of conditions not necessarily service-related. Guidelines require most surviving spouses to remain unmarried to be eligible for VA mortgages.

"An eligible veteran must also meet VA and lender credit and income requirements in order to qualify for a loan," shares iFreedom Direct's Special Operations Director and retired U.S. Army Major Tim Lewis. "Talking to a VA-approved lender at the very beginning of the home buying process can make the difference between a quick closing or falling between the cracks."

It's possible to be eligible in less time than described above if a veteran was separated from the military due to a service-related injury, reduction-in-force, illness or other hardship or specific reasons. The VA's specific eligibility requirements can be found on the website.

Get in touch with one of our VA loan professionals today for a no-obligation consultation and assistance in obtaining your Certificate of Eligibility (COE).

Veterans First is a trade name of Wintrust Mortgage, a division of Barrington Bank & Trust Company, N.A., a Wintrust Community Bank. I NMLS# 449042 I Equal Housing Lender

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