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What is the VA loan Certificate of Eligibility?

By Joe Boylan | April 24, 2021

A VA Loan Certificate of Eligibility is your proof of service, and it shows that you're qualified to receive your VA loan benefits. You may be eligible for VA loans if you have served or are currently serving in the military. Spouses of veterans may also be able to receive specific benefits for which a Certificate of Eligibility is required. This article will explain how it works when it is needed and how you can apply for this important document which essentially starts the VA Loan process. If you would like to learn more about VA loans in general, read this complete guide to VA loans.

What is the VA Loan Certificate of Eligibility?

The VA Loan Certificate of Eligibility is also known as the VA Loan COE. It is a simple, short document any VA lender is going to need to see before they can make a VA-Backed Home Loan. It’s a good idea to obtain your VA certificate of eligibility as a first step before meeting a loan officer.

Your COE is given by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The COE tells the lender that you have met the Department's requirements and are qualified to receive your VA home loan benefit. It can be submitted along with your application, at the financial institution of your choice. if you intend to buy a home, you should apply for your COE during the pre-qualification process. 

Who qualifies for a VA Loan Certificate of Eligibility?

Eligibility requirements for the VA loan program and the required Certificate of Eligibility are fairly straightforward, especially for an active duty service member. Veterans must have served for a specific amount of time. Your duty status is also considered and your active-duty service requirement is calculated based on when you served. You must have received an honorable discharge.

If you have served for at least 181 days in peacetime or 90 days during wartime, you are eligible If you've served in the National Guard or Reserve member, you can obtain your COE. The requirement for veterans, in this case, is six years of service. If you're a surviving spouse of a member who has died in the line of duty, you will also be eligible for a COE.

It’s important to remember that the VA doesn’t actually make the loan, they only guarantee or back these loans, they don’t set the interest rates or minimum credit score, and other qualifications, the individual mortgage lender will do that much like a conventional loan. When you're applying for a VA-backed home loan, the individual private lender will have their own additional requirements which you will need to satisfy. For example, they will have loan income requirements and ask about your credit rating, in order to determine your loan limits.

Obtaining your COE

If you meet the service requirements for a VA loan, there are several ways to get your Certificate of Eligibility. You can use the VA’s ebenefits service or the VA website to apply for your VA home loan certificate of eligibility.

Veterans who want to apply for their COE will need a copy of their DD214. The DD21 is also known as your discharge document or separation papers. 

Activated members of the Reserve or National Guard will also need a copy of their DD214. This is required whether they are currently serving or formerly served. 

The president can activate members of the Reserve or National Guard and keep them on active duty for a year, for any mission deemed necessary. Active-duty service members who require their COE will need to submit a statement of service that signed by their personnel officer, commander or adjutant. 

The statement of service shows the following:

  1. The name of the command providing the information
  2. Your full name
  3. Your date of birth
  4. The duration of any lost time
  5. Your Social Security Number
  6. The date you entered duty

If you currently serve in the National Guard or Reserve and have not been activated you will not need to submit your DD214 when you're applying for your COE. Instead, you'll also need a statement of service. This should show the same details as the statement of service described above, for other active-duty service members. If you've not been activated but are currently serving in the National Guard or reserve, you must submit the statement of service.

The statement of service is an official document and verifies that you are employed in the military. Your commanding officer should have access to an official letterhead, which can be used with the document, showing that it is coming from someone in the Armed Forces who is familiar with your service. Your commanding officer can choose to provide other information on the letter, such as your:

  1. Rank
  2. Current deployment
  3. Date of separation (if any)

if you've been honorably discharged, the letter may state your desire to reenlist. Military-related sources of pay such as special-duty pay, parachute pay and flight pay may also be included in the letter. 

Discharged members of the National Guard and Reserves

If you have served in the National Guard or Reserves but have been discharged, your paperwork will be slightly different from that of a member who is currently serving. If you're discharged from the reserves and were never activated, you will need a copy of your latest annual retirement points to obtain your COE. You will also need proof of your honorable service.

If you're a discharged member of the National Guard who was never activated, you will need your NGB form 22. This is your Report of Separation and Record of Service, for each period of National Guard service. You'll also need NGB form 23, which is known as your Retirement Points Statement. This should be accompanied by proof of the character of service.

Surviving Spouses

A surviving spouse can apply for a COE. To do this, they will require a copy of their spouse's DD214. Some spouses may be receiving Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). If so, they will need to complete a Request for Loan Guaranty Eligibility, also known as VA form 26-1817.

Some surviving spouses are not receiving benefits. In this case, they will need to send in:

  • A completed application for DIC benefits, death pension, and accrued benefits
  • A copy of their marriage license
  • The veteran's death certificate

Is a VA Loan Certificate of Eligibility the same as a DD214?

No. A D214 and VA Loan Certificate of Eligibility are two different documents. in some cases, a DD214 may be required to apply for a COE. For example, if you are a member of the National Guard but are not active, you will need a DD214 to apply for your COE. 

A DD214 can also be used to obtain certain college education benefits. You can also use it to gain a veteran's funeral benefit, medical benefits, and even veteran preference in hiring. School enrollment is also easier with your DD214.

Some lenders will ask that you submit your COE, DD214, and personal information when you are applying for a loan. None of these documents is a substitute for the other. Your DD 214 can be thought of as being similar to an employment letter that would be submitted by a civilian. The COE serves a different purpose and shows that you've met the service requirements for a VA-backed loan.

If a veteran is deceased or otherwise unable to apply for their DD214, their next-of-kin or another authorized person can get it. There are several ways to do this, depending on the volume of requests, federal funding, staffing, and other variables.

Why does your COE say $36,000?

If you notice that your COE says $36,000, this figure is your basic entitlement not a limit on the amount of money that you can borrow. It indicates that the person making the application has full entitlement. This figure is a notice to the lender that the VA backs your loan, up to a specific sum.

If you borrow less than $144,000 and default on the loan for some reason, the lender has a guarantee that they will be repaid up to $36,000. If your loan is for more than $144,000 and you default, the lender will be repaid up to 25% of that amount.

Eligible veterans may not have a cap on loans over $144,000. A limit on loans over $144,000 also no longer exists for service members and survivors with full entitlement. People in all of these groups will not have to pay a down payment and their lender is guaranteed that if the veteran defaults, the bank will be repaid up to 25% of the loan.

Can your COE expire?

The VA Loan Certificate of Eligibility helps you to get access to home loans at discounted rates. It will never expire, however, if your status changes, you will need to get a COE that reflects this. This means that veterans who obtained their COE wile they were on active duty, will need to get a new COE after they have been discharged.

Do you need a COE for an IRRRL?

An Interest Rate Reduction Refinancing Loan (IRRRL) allows some military service members to refinance at a lower rate. This can also apply to their spouses. You can also use it to convert from an ARM to a mortgage with a fixed rate. The costs of refinancing can usually be rolled in.

The VA does not require a COE for an IRRRL. if you print the IRRRL case number screen, that will provide all the information that is required. If a veteran has to have their information updated or upgraded, the COE can be used for that purpose.

About Joe: Joe Boylan has been a Real Estate Broker in the Pikes Peak Region for over 20 years. Joe writes about best practices and provides advice to both Home Buyers and Home Sellers. Visit his website at
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