When it comes to getting your home financed with a VA loan, there are a lot of moving parts. But before the process can be set in motion, you need to get your VA Certificate of Eligibility (COE).
So, how do you get your VA Certificate of Eligibility (COE)? Buckle up and let’s find out (or don’t buckle up, it’s pretty straightforward).
What exactly is a VA Certificate of Eligibility? (COE)
Your COE tells your lender that you’re allowed to apply for a VA home loan. It’s not an automatic approval. It just means the lender knows – up front – that you’re eligible for a VA loan if they do approve your application.
To get your COE, you’ll need to verify your VA home loan eligibility.
Your VA Certificate of Eligibility lets your lender know that you qualify for a VA-backed home loan. It’s not an automatic approval for the loan itself—just a green light to apply.
How do I check my VA home loan eligibility?
You’re eligible for a VA home loan if you’re a:
- Active-duty service member
- Current, former, or discharged Reserves/National Guard member
- Current, former, or discharged Reserves/National Guard member who was never activated
- Surviving spouse
The paperwork for your COE application will vary based on which of the above applies to you.
I’m eligible, so what paperwork do I need to get started?
Before you start your COE application, make sure your papers are ready to go. Here’s an overview of what you’ll need based on your military status:
If you’re a veteran, you’ll need a copy of your discharge or separation papers.
Active-Duty Service Member
Active-duty service members need to provide a statement of service signed by their commanding officer.
Current and former members of the Reserves need to provide a copy of their discharge or separation papers.
If you’re a current member of the Reserves but have never been activated, you’ll need a statement of service signed by your commanding officer.
If you’re a discharged member of the Reserves and have never been activated, you’ll need to provide your most recent annual retirement points and proof of honorable service.
Current and former members of the National Guard need to provide a copy of their discharge or separation papers.
For current members of the National Guard who have never been activated, you’ll need a statement of service signed by your commanding officer.
If you’re a discharged member of the National Guard who has never been activated, you’ll need to provide your Retirement Points Statement, Report of Separation, and Record of Service.
Eligible surviving spouses will need the veteran’s discharge documents. You’ll also have to provide supporting documentation depending on whether or not you’re receiving Dependency and Indemnity Compensation*.
*Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (VA DIC) is a monetary benefit available to surviving spouses and dependents of service members who died in the line of duty. If you’re not receiving VA DIC but think you may be eligible, you can learn more and apply here.
I’m ready to apply. How do I get my VA Certificate of Eligibility?
There are two options when it comes to completing your COE application:
- Apply online here.
- Download, fill out, and mail VA Form 26-1880.
Applying online is the fastest way to get your COE. Sign in to your VA/DoD eBenefits account to access the application.
If you choose to apply by mail, you can find the correct mailing address on the last page of VA Form 26-1880 (it varies based on your location).
The COE application requires all the same information online or by mail, so the right choice for you is just a matter of which method you feel most confident with (and how quickly you need to get your COE). After submitting your application, it can take up to six weeks to receive your COE.
I got my COE! How do I use it to get a VA home loan?
Get excited! You now officially meet the criteria to apply for a VA home loan (we always believed in you). Once you have your COE, you’ll still need to complete a loan application with your lender.
Your lender will look at five key sections of your COE that break down your VA home loan eligibility:
- Entitlement codes (01=World War II, etc.)
- Funding fee (based on your military status, down payment, and the number of times you’ve used your entitlement)
- Previous VA loans (if you’ve taken out a previous VA loan, you may need to restore your entitlement before getting approved for a second loan)
- Available entitlement (the amount of VA backing you have access to)
- Conditions (any additional requirements for eligibility will be listed here)
All these factors, plus standard financial criteria like your credit score, will help the lender build the best loan for you. Whether you’re refinancing your current loan or purchasing a new home, our team is ready to help you through the process.
Once you have your Certificate of Eligibility, the next step to getting your VA home loan is an appraisal.