Are you considering a VA home loan? If so, understanding the eligibility requirements is a crucial first step. 

These loans, designed specifically for veterans and their families, have numerous benefits. However, they also have specific eligibility criteria set by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Today, we’ll break down these eligibility requirements for VA home loans in a clear, easy-to-understand manner. From service requirements to credit and income criteria, we’ll cover it all. 

And what about the Certificate of Eligibility (COE)? We’ve got that covered too. So, are you ready to learn more about your potential path to homeownership through a VA home loan? Let’s get started.

What is a VA Home Loan?

In essence, a VA home loan is a special type of mortgage. The US Department of Veterans Affairs guarantees it. 

Specifically, it’s designed for American veterans and their surviving spouses. The VA doesn’t lend money directly. Instead, it backs a portion of the loan. 

Consequently, this backing allows lenders to offer better terms. For instance, you might qualify for a loan with no down payment. 

Or perhaps, you might not need private mortgage insurance. However, you need to meet the eligibility requirements to access these benefits.

Why Understand VA Home Loan Eligibility?

So, why bother understanding VA home loan eligibility? Well, it’s quite simple. Understanding eligibility when applying for a VA home loan is the first step toward accessing these benefits. 

If you meet the requirements, you could unlock favorable financing options. This could, in turn, make owning a home more affordable. 

For example, imagine you’re one of the active duty service members buying a home with no down payment. Or not having to pay private mortgage insurance. Sounds appealing, right? 

That’s precisely why it’s worth understanding these requirements. And rest assured; I’m here to guide you through this process.

Service Requirements for VA Loans

Now, let’s tackle the service requirements for VA loans. These requirements are central to determining your eligibility. They vary based on when and how you served. So, let’s break them down.

Active Service During Wartime

For VA loan eligibility during wartime, the rules are clear-cut. Did you serve 90 consecutive days of active service? 

If so, you meet the wartime service requirements. It’s as straightforward as that. But what if you served during peacetime?

Active Service During Peacetime

In peacetime, the requirements shift slightly. For VA loan eligibility during peacetime, you need to have served 181 days of active service. 

That’s about six months of continuous service. But what if you served in the National Guard or Reserves?

Service in the National Guard or Reserves

For National Guard or Reserves members, the VA loan requirements are different again. Here, you need to have six years of eligible service. Qualifying members must have earned a minimum of sixteen points per year. Alternatively, you could qualify if you served 90 days under Title 10 orders (active duty) or 90 days under specific Title 32 orders with at least 30 consecutive days. 

So, whether you served in wartime, peacetime, or the National Guard or Reserves, understanding these service requirements is vital to unlocking the benefits of a VA home loan. But what if you don’t meet these VA loan eligibility for National Guard or Reserves service requirements? Is there still a chance you could qualify?

Understanding VA Loan Discharge Conditions

Even if you didn’t meet the service requirements, don’t be disheartened. Your type of military discharge could still open the door to VA home loan eligibility. 

It’s important to understand that not all discharges are the same in the eyes of the VA. Some discharges can still make you eligible for a VA home loan. 

Discharge for Hardship, Government Convenience, or Reduction in Force

Suppose you were discharged due to hardship, at the government’s convenience, or due to a reduction in force. Then you might still be eligible for a VA home loan. These VA loan discharge conditions recognize that your separation from the military was under conditions beyond your control.

Discharge for Medical Condition or Service-Connected Disability

Were you discharged due to a medical condition or a service-related disability? If so, the VA recognizes that your service contributed to your current situation, and you could still qualify for a VA home loan.

Discharge for Early-Out

If you were discharged for early-out and served for at least 21 months of a 2-year enlistment, you might meet the eligibility requirements. This recognizes that you served the majority of your enlistment period.

Remember, each case is unique, and the VA considers various factors. If you’re uncertain about your eligibility based on your discharge status, don’t hesitate to seek guidance. 

Reach out to a mortgage loan officer or the VA directly. They can provide the most current information about eligibility requirements for VA home loans tailored to your situation.

A photo of a veteran and his spouse talking to a loan officer about VA home loans eligibility requirements inside an office.

The Role of the Certificate of Eligibility (COE)

Once you’ve determined that you meet the service or discharge requirements, the next step is obtaining a Certificate of Eligibility or COE. This document is crucial in the VA home loan process. Let’s explore why.

What is a COE?

A COE is a document that affirms to your lender that you meet the eligibility requirements for a VA home loan. It’s essentially your ticket to accessing the benefits of this loan program. But how do you get one?

How to Obtain a COE

Getting a Certificate of Eligibility for VA loan is simpler than you think. In many cases, your lender can even help you get it.

All they need is your social security number, date of birth, and specific details about your service dates. With these details, they can usually pull your COE quickly and easily.

So, with your COE in hand, what’s the next step in securing a VA home loan? We’ll look at that next.

Credit and Income Requirements

Now, let’s move on to another crucial aspect: credit and income requirements. Yes, even with a VA home loan, these factors still come into play. Let’s unpack this.

VA Loan Credit Score Requirements

The VA itself doesn’t set a minimum credit score requirement. However, the lenders who actually provide the loans usually do.

Most lenders generally require a credit score of at least 620. But remember, a higher score means you have better chances of securing favorable loan terms.

So, it pays to keep your credit score in good shape. But what about income? How does that factor into your eligibility?

Income Requirements

Regarding income, the VA has a unique requirement known as residual income. This is the amount of money left over each month after you’ve paid all your major expenses.

The idea is that this leftover income should be enough to cover typical family needs, like food, transportation, and medical care. The exact amount required varies based on your location and family size.

So, it’s not just about how much you earn but also how much you keep. The VA loan income requirements help ensure that VA loan borrowers have a solid financial position to manage their home loan payments.

But what if you’re a surviving spouse of a service member? What are your eligibility requirements?

VA Loan Eligibility for Surviving Spouses

Let’s focus on a different group: surviving spouses of service members. You might ask, “Can I qualify for a VA home loan?” The answer is yes, under certain conditions.

As a surviving spouse, your VA loan eligibility hinges on specific criteria. Here’s a rundown:

  • You must not have remarried. This is a fundamental requirement for all surviving spouses seeking a VA home loan.
  • You are the un-remarried legal spouse of a veteran who perished while in service or from a service-connected disability. In this case, your spouse’s service directly impacts your eligibility.
  • You are the legal spouse of a service member missing in action (MIA) or a prisoner of war. Even in these uncertain circumstances, you may still be eligible for a VA home loan.
  • You are the legal spouse of a veteran who was totally disabled and then died, but not from a service-connected disability. Here, you must have been married for at least one year.
  • The surviving spouse must obtain a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) to verify their status and eligibility for the VA loan benefits.
  • If the surviving spouse is receiving Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits, they do not need to be unmarried.
  • If the surviving legal spouse remarries after age 57 or after December 16, 2003, they may still be able to retain their VA home loan benefits.

Remember, each case of a VA loan for surviving spouses is unique. It’s always best to check with a VA lender or the VA directly for the most current information.


We’ve covered a lot of ground in this article, from VA loan service requirements to surviving spouse eligibility. VA home loans offer a way to homeownership for those who have served our country and their families. 

Understanding the eligibility requirements for VA home loans is the first step on this journey. Remember, each person’s situation is unique, and the conditions can change over time.

That’s why you must reach out to a trusted, professional, licensed mortgage loan officer. They can provide you with the most current information and guide you through the process. 

Don’t let the opportunity to take advantage of the VA loan benefits pass you by. Schedule a call with a mortgage loan officer today and start your journey to homeownership.

Eligibility Requirements for VA Home Loans FAQs

Can I obtain a VA loan if I’m a veteran with a dishonorable discharge?

Generally, veterans with a dishonorable discharge are not eligible for VA home loan benefits. However, there may be exceptions depending on the specific circumstances of the discharge. It’s recommended to consult with a VA representative for more information.

Am I qualified for a VA home loan as a non-U.S. citizen veteran?

Yes, non-U.S. citizen veterans may be eligible for a VA loan if they served in the U.S. military and meet other eligibility requirements.

Am I eligible for a VA home loan if I’m in the military of a U.S. ally during WWII?

Yes, individuals who served as members of the military forces of a government allied with the United States during World War II may be eligible for a VA home loan.

Can I get a VA home loan as a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy?

Yes, midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy are considered active duty for VA home loan eligibility purposes.