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How Do I Know if I Qualify for a VA Loan?

What you'll learn: Eligibility and underwriting requirements to obtain a VA loan


If you are thinking about leveraging your VA entitlement to get a VA loan for a home purchase, there are a few things you’ll need to understand. To obtain a Certificate of Eligibility (COE), you’ll need to determine if you’re eligible for a VA loan.

You may be eligible for a VA loan if you meet one or more of the following criteria: 

  • You have served 90 consecutive days of active service during wartime.
  • You have served 181 days of active service during peacetime.
  • You have six years of service in the Reserves or National Guard.
  • You are the spouse of a service member that has died in the line of duty or as a result of a service-related injury.

You can learn more about eligibility and determine if you qualify but going directly to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) website.

Do I need a VA COE?

While you may not need a COE when you first apply for a loan, you will need it to obtain a VA loan. Here are some requirements to obtain a COE:

  1. You must be a veteran.

    • You’ll need a copy of your discharge papers (DD214).
  2. You must be an active-duty service member.

    • You’ll need a statement of your service signed by your commander or personnel officer with the following:
      • Full name
      • Social Security number
      • Date of birth
      • Date you entered duty
      • Duration of lost time in service (if any)
      • Name of the command supplying the information
  3. You must be a current or former activated member of the National Guard or Reserve.

    • You’ll need a copy of your discharge papers (DD214).

What are the additional requirements for a VA loan?

While the government defines the criteria to obtain a VA loan, lenders also have guidelines to determine if someone qualifies for a VA loan. This ensures that a borrower has the ability to pay back the loan after review of their credit score, current income and debt, the home value, and condition of the home.

What is the minimum credit score for a VA loan?

There is not set a minimum score, but each lender may have their own guidelines to determine loan eligibility. In addition to credit score, the VA requires that you maintain a certain amount of money each month — after all major expenses are paid. The excess is meant to cover typical family needs — food, transportation, and medical care — and is known as “residual income”. When planning to buy a home, whether through a VA loan or other type of mortgage, it’s important to understand what your total housing costs will be and if you can afford to buy a home.

How long does it take to get a VA loan?

There are a few factors outlined above that can affect the length of time necessary to obtain a VA loan — specifically, obtaining a COE. If you don’t have one, you can learn more and apply on the VA’s website. It can take about six weeks to get your VA COE. You’ll also need to apply for the loan through your lender, which can take approximately 30-45 days.

What will I need to qualify for a VA loan?

In addition to a COE, you’ll need to prepare your income history through a pay stub or a Leave and Earnings Statement (LES), W-2s, tax returns (if you are self-employed or if the lender needs more information about your income), your credit report, and address any additional requests from your lender. Overall, the necessary requirements and paperwork for a VA loan tend to be less than those of a conventional mortgage. It’s always a great idea to do your homework and speak to you loan officer to learn more.

To learn more about PenFed VA Loans or what loan is right for you:

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