VA Loan Certificate of Eligibility (COE)

Updated: December 24, 2022
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    A VA Loan Certificate of Eligibility (COE) is an essential document in the VA lending process. Your VA COE enables you to use your VA Home Loan benefit to buy, build or refinance a home.

    Eligible veterans who have met the minimum time-in-service requirements to qualify for a VA loan can apply for their COE through the VA. VA lenders can also help borrowers make a request.

    COEs contain important information for you and your lender, including whether you are exempt from paying the VA loan funding fee.

    It will also tell your lender how much of your VA loan entitlement you have left – if you have never used a VA home loan, you still have 100% entitlement.

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    Start the VA Loan Process with Your Certificate of Eligibility

    The VA loan process begins with establishing that you (the borrower) are eligible to apply for a VA loan.

    This is where your COE application comes in – it lets your lender know you can apply for a VA home loan. However, having a COE doesn’t grant automatic approval for a VA mortgage. You must financially qualify for the loan the same way you would for a line of credit.

    Your COE merely establishes you as an eligible applicant for the loan.

    How to Apply for a VA Certificate of Eligibility

    The VA COE application process depends on whether the applicant is a veteran, active-duty, National Guard or reserve service member.

    Here are the requirements for applying for a VA COE. (Note: this is not the VA loan application process. Your COE establishes your ability to apply for a VA loan).

    VA COE Application Requirements for Veterans

    Veterans must use VA form 26-1880 to submit their discharge report, a DD Form 214 or an equivalent National Guard or reserve form.

    All discharge paperwork must show the service member’s “character of service (item 24) and a narrative reason for separation (item 28).”

    COE Requirements for Active Duty Military

    Active-duty military members must submit a current statement of service to the VA.

    You can submit this statement personally or through your lender.

    Your statement must include:

    • Full name
    • Social Security Number
    • Date of birth
    • Entry date on active duty
    • Duration of any lost time
    • Name of the command providing the information
    • Signature of the adjutant, personnel office or commander of the unit or higher headquarters with jurisdiction over you.

    VA COE Application Requirements for National Guard or Reserve Members with Federal Service

    National Guard and reserve applicants who were activated for federal service at any point should submit a DD-214 or an equivalent National Guard or reserve discharge form. Again, this discharge paperwork must have a section “showing the character of service” and a “narrative reason for separation.”

    You must provide: 

    • NGB Form 22, Report of Separation and Record of Service, for each period of National Guard service
    • NGB Form 23, Retirement Points Accounting, and proof of the character of service OR
    • A copy (no originals) of the latest annual retirement points statement and evidence of honorable service.

    Guard and Reserve COE Requirements Without Federal Service

    National Guard and reserve service members who were never been called into federal service must provide:

    • Statement of service from an adjutant, personnel officer or commander of the unit or higher headquarters
    • Full name
    • Social Security Number
    • Date of birth
    • Duty entry date
    • Total “creditable years” of service
    • Duration of any lost time
    • The name of the command providing the information.

    Surviving Spouse COE Application Requirements

    Some surviving spouses of deceased military members and veterans may also qualify for a VA loan.

    Surviving Spouses who receive Dependency & Indemnity Compensation benefits (DIC) must submit:

    • VA form 26-1817 with Social Security numbers for themselves and the veteran
    • The veteran’s DD-214, if available

    Surviving Spouses who do not receive DIC must submit the following information:

    • VA form 21P-534-ARE
    • DD214 (if available)
    • Marriage License
    • Death Certificate or DD Form 1300 – Report of Casualty
    • Search for the mailing address for your state to send the VA 21-534 via the following link: PMC States.

    How to Submit an Application for a Certificate Of Eligibility (COE)

    Once you have gathered all the required documentation for submission, you can begin the process.

    There are three ways to obtain your COE:

    1. Apply for your VA COE online via the Department of Veterans Affairs e-Benefits portal
    2. Veterans who have found an approved VA lender can ask their loan officer to request their COE electronically.
    3. Mail VA Form 26-1880 to the VA at P.O, Box 100023, Decatur, GA 30031.

    How Long Does it Take to Get a Certificate of Eligibility from the VA?

    If you mail in your COE application, you should receive your COE in about four to six weeks. However, if you self-submit online or through your VA lender, you should receive your COE within minutes.

    How to Read Your VA Certificate of Eligibility

    Lenders look at five basic sections of your VA COE to figure out how much you can borrow, if you’ve used a VA loan before and if you have to pay a funding fee.

    The five sections include your:

    • Entitlement Code: VA entitlement codes identify a service member’s eligibility requirements based on their “era” of service. Periods of peacetime and major conflict define each era. Eligibility procedures vary by the following 11 codes:
      • 01: World War II
      • 02: Korean War
      • 03: Post-Korean War
      • 04: Vietnam War
      • 05: Entitlement Restored
      • 06: Unremarried Surviving Spouse
      • 07: Spouse of POW/MIA
      • 08: Post-World War II
      • 09: Post-Vietnam
      • 10: Persian Gulf War
      • 11: Selected Reserves
    • VA Loan Funding Fee: The VA loan funding fee section shows whether an applicant is eligible for a VA loan funding fee waiver. The VA waives funding fees for veterans who receive or are eligible to receive VA compensation for service-connected medical issues. Service members and veterans without an official VA disability rating are not exempt from the fee under most circumstances. Active-duty Purple Heart recipients are exempt from paying the funding fee while on active duty. Some borrowers are eligible for a funding fee refund. Ask your loan officer if you qualify.
    • Prior VA Loans: The prior VA loans, or “status,” section of your COE tells your lender if you already have a VA loan. If you do, your status will show as “active.” This is an important detail for lenders. If you have used part of your VA loan benefit already, you may not have enough VA entitlement to cover a new loan. In some circumstances, you may be able to apply for entitlement restoration. Talk to your loan officer to find out more.
    • VA Loan Entitlement Amount: The VA Loan entitlement amount section tells your lender how the VA will guarantee on your loan, or how much of your loan entitlement remains if you’ve used a VA home loan before. You can still purchase a home with a VA loan without full entitlement, but you may be required to cover the difference or apply with a co-borrower.
    • Conditions: The conditions section of your COE tells your lender if you must meet any additional requirements. For example, borrowers who have used their VA home loan benefits will see a code here indicating a higher VA loan funding fee for subsequent use. This section may also inform the lender of funding fee exemption if a borrower must apply for entitlement restoration to proceed with a new loan.

      About The AuthorJoe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News

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