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How to get a VA Certificate of Eligibility

Ways to obtain your COE

Profile picture of Michele Lerner
by Michele Lerner Mortgage & Real Estate Contributing Editor
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Obtaining a Certificate of Eligibility is the first step toward getting a VA home loan. There are three primary ways to get a Certificate of Eligibility. You can apply directly online, by mail or through a VA-approved lender.

There are many advantages to VA mortgages, including easier eligibility requirements. The mission of the VA home loan program is to get more veterans and active-duty service members into homes with favorable loan terms. VA loans are also available for some family members of veterans, such as surviving spouses of service members who died in active duty.

What is a Certificate of Eligibility?

A Certificate of Eligibility (COE) is a form obtained from the VA that certifies you qualify for a VA home loan. It proves that you meet the service history and duty requirements to be eligible for a mortgage that is backed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

You can apply for a COE if you are a service member who has served for 90 continuous days; are a veteran who served more than 90 total days during wartime or 181 continuous days during peacetime; or served in the National Guard or Selected Reserve for at least six years and meet certain criteria.

You can also apply for a COE if you are the spouse of a veteran who died while in service or from a service-related disability or are the spouse of a veteran who's a prisoner of war or missing in action.

How to get a VA Certificate of Eligibility

You can apply for a VA COE online through eBenefits, by mail or, in some cases, through your lender. The information you need to apply for a COE differs based on your status.

For example, if you are a veteran, you will need a copy of your discharge or separation papers (DD214).

If you are an active-duty service member, you’ll need a statement of service signed by your commander, adjutant or personnel officer with your name, Social Security number, date of birth, the date you entered duty, the duration of any lost time and the name of the person providing the information.

If you are a surviving spouse, you will need the veteran’s separation papers (DD214) and other documents, depending on whether or not you're receiving Dependency and Indemnity Compensation benefits.

VA COE FAQ

How long does it take to get a COE?
If you apply online or through your VA-approved lender, you may be able to get your COE in just minutes. Applying for a COE by mail is much slower; it may take up to four to six weeks.
What does the amount on the VA certificate of eligibility mean?
This number is what’s known as your entitlement. It is the amount the VA guarantees to pay the lender if you default on your loan. If you have a full entitlement, the VA guarantees to the lender it will pay up to $36,000 on a loan up to $144,000, or up to 25% of the loan amount if it is above that figure. If you have only remaining entitlement, the loan limit is based on the county loan limit.
Can I get a COE as the spouse of a veteran?
Yes, you may be able to get a COE if the veteran died while in service or from a service-connected disability, is missing in action or is a prisoner of war. You will need a DD214 and different documents depending on if you are receiving DIC benefits.
What if I lost my previously issued COE?
You can request a new COE either through your lender or through the VA website. If you run into trouble with your request, call your VA regional loan center and explain your situation.
Can I use an old COE that I’ve used before?
A COE does not expire, so if you have one that was issued a while ago you can still use it. One exception is if you were on active duty at the time you obtained it and have since been discharged. Keep in mind that you only have your full entitlement if you have never used your home loan benefit or have paid off a previous VA loan in full and have since sold the property.
When does a COE expire?
COEs do not expire. The exception is if you obtained the COE while on active duty and have since been discharged.
Do VA benefits pay for assisted living?
The VA covers some long-term care services, including care at assisted living facilities, for those who have VA health care. The VA recommends contacting your VA social worker for information about how to access these services.
Does the COE guarantee that I’ll get a VA loan?
The COE itself does not guarantee you’ll get the loan, but you can’t get the loan without it. You still need to meet VA and lender standards for income, credit and other requirements.

Bottom line

VA loans, backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs, provide some of the most favorable terms and benefits of all the government-insured loans. It’s relatively easy for veterans and service members to qualify, as long as they have a Certificate of Eligibility.

You do not need to obtain your COE before you contact your lender, as your loan officer can help you do this. If you are a current or past service member who would like to purchase a home, contact a VA-approved lender to learn more.

Article sources

ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. To learn more about the content on our site, visit our FAQ page.

  1. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), “How do I obtain a VA Home Loan Certificate of Eligibility or a duplicate of a certificate?” Accessed April 1, 2021.
  2. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), “How to apply for a VA home loan COE.” Accessed April 1, 2021.
  3. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), “Eligibility for VA Benefits.” Accessed April 1, 2021.
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Profile picture of Michele Lerner
by Michele Lerner Mortgage & Real Estate Contributing Editor

Michele Lerner, author of “HOMEBUYING: Tough Times, First Time, Any Time”, has been writing about personal finance and real estate for more than two decades. Michele writes for regional, national and international publications in print and online for a variety of audiences including consumers, real estate investors, business owners and real estate professionals.