How to get a VA Certificate of Eligibility (2024)

Obtaining your COE is the first step to getting a VA home loan

Author pictureAuthor picture
Author picture
Written by
Author picture
Edited by
american flag patch with small house

For many veterans and active-duty service members, the dream of homeownership is both attainable and affordable, thanks to the benefits offered through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) home loan program.

These benefits include competitive interest rates, no down payment requirements and relief from private mortgage insurance. However, accessing these benefits begins with a crucial document: the VA Certificate of Eligibility (COE).

Key insights

  • The COE officially confirms eligibility for VA loan programs.
  • Eligibility requirements vary for different groups, including veterans, active-duty service members, National Guard or Reserves members and surviving spouses.
  • The COE specifies your VA loan entitlement, which is the maximum loan amount without requiring a down payment.

What is a Certificate of Eligibility?

A COE is an official document issued by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that serves as proof of your eligibility for the VA loan program.

It confirms your status as a qualifying veteran, active-duty service member or surviving spouse, and provides essential information such as your available VA loan entitlement and whether you need to pay the VA funding fee.

What is the VA loan entitlement?
Your VA loan entitlement is the amount the VA promises to cover for the lender if you can't repay your loan. It's like a safety net that allows lenders to offer better terms to borrowers.
Your VA entitlement amount will be in your COE and tells you the most you can borrow without needing a down payment .
What is the VA funding fee?
The VA funding fee is a one-time fee that helps to cover the costs of running the VA loan program. Normally, lenders require private mortgage insurance (PMI) to offset the risks of lending, but in the case of VA loans, the VA guarantees the loan should a borrower default.

Not every borrower is required to pay the VA funding fee. There are certain exceptions, such as if you have a service-connected disability or have received the Purple Heart. Your COE will indicate whether you are required to pay the funding fee.

Who qualifies for a VA Certificate of Eligibility?

VA loans are offered to eligible active-duty service members, veterans and certain members of the National Guard and Reserves, as well as some surviving spouses. These loans are provided by private lenders but are guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

There are specific criteria to meet, depending on your service (or your spouse’s service).

  • Service members:
    • Served for 90 continuous days
  • Veterans:
    • Served more than 90 total days during wartime
    • Served 181 continuous days during peacetime
  • National Guard or Selected Reserve members:
    • Served for at least six years and meet specific criteria
  • Spouses of veterans:
    • Spouse of a veteran who died while in service or due to a service-related disability
    • Spouse of a veteran who is a prisoner of war or missing in action

Note that there may be other criteria based on when you served.

» MORE: VA loan requirements

Getting a VA Certificate of Eligibility

You can obtain a COE online, by mail or, in specific cases, through your lender, who "may request an ACE (automated Certificate of Eligibility) on their behalf," said Jay Dacey, president of Jay Dacey Mortgage Team in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The documentation requirements for your COE application depend on your status:

  • Veterans: To apply as a veteran, you'll need a copy of your discharge or separation papers (DD214).
  • Active-duty service members: If you're currently serving, you'll require a statement of service signed by your commander, adjutant or personnel officer. This statement should include your name, Social Security number, date of birth, date of entry into duty, any periods of lost time and the name of the command providing this information.
  • Surviving spouses: Surviving spouses seeking a COE should provide the veteran's discharge papers (DD214) and additional documents, which may vary depending on whether they are receiving Dependency and Indemnity Compensation benefits.

» MORE: Current VA mortgage rates

Authorized PartnerLogoContact
Call Center Open (800) 552-0217 View Rates
Authorized PartnerLogoContact
Learn More
Authorized PartnerLogoContact
Learn More


How long does it take to get a COE?

If you opt for the online application or go through a VA-approved lender, you could receive your COE within minutes. However, if you choose to apply for a COE by mail, the process is considerably slower, typically taking four to six weeks to receive it.

Does the COE guarantee that I’ll get a VA loan?

Having the COE is required, but it doesn't guarantee you'll get the loan all by itself. You still have to meet the VA and lender's requirements for things like income and credit score to actually qualify for the loan.

When does a COE expire?

COEs never expire. However, if you were on active duty when you received your COE and have since been discharged, you will need to obtain a new one.

If you have an older COE, you can still use it, but keep in mind that you will only have your full entitlement if you have never used your VA home loan benefit or have paid off a previous VA loan in full and sold the property.

Do VA benefits pay for assisted living?

Veterans who receive VA health care can get some long-term care services, including care at assisted living facilities. To learn more about how to access these services, contact your VA social worker.

Bottom line

VA loans offer some of the most favorable terms and benefits of all government-insured loans, with low down payments, competitive interest rates and no PMI.

If you're a current or past service member who's thinking about buying a home, contact a VA-approved lender. Your loan officer can help you get your COE and answer any questions you have about the VA loan process.

Article sources
ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:
  1. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, “ Eligibility requirements for VA home loan programs .” Accessed Oct. 10, 2023.
  2. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, “ How to request a VA home loan Certificate of Eligibility .” Accessed Oct. 10, 2023.
Did you find this article helpful? |
Share this article