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How to get a VA Certificate of Eligibility

Learn more about VA COEs and how to apply for one

A VA Certificate of Eligibility (COE) is required if you’re a first-time VA loan home buyer. In some cases, you’ll need one to buy your next home or to refinance your home. A COE shows a lender that you’ve met the VA eligibility requirements, which include a specified number of days served during peacetime, days served during wartime, or years of service in the Reserves or National Guard. Surviving spouses of service members are also eligible to receive their COE and apply for a VA loan.

How to apply for a VA Certificate of Eligibility

The first step in obtaining a VA COE is to gather the important information you’ll need for the application. Depending upon your status (Veteran, active service member, current/former National Guard or Reserve member), you’ll need discharge papers or a statement of service. Your discharge papers are also known as your "DD Form 214" or just your "DD-214". Freedom Mortgage can assist you with obtaining your COE. Contact us at 877-220-5533 to get started.

The VA provides a helpful guide that breaks down what information you’ll need to apply for a COE, based on your type of service. Once you have the necessary documents handy, there are two ways you can apply.

  • Online: Use the VA eBenefits system to apply electronically, once you’ve created an account. It can take approximately five minutes to submit a request online, and you’ll receive your COE right away, if approved.
  • By mail: Complete Form 26-1880 (Request for Certificate of Eligibility), and mail it to the address shown. The turnaround time for approval and delivery of a COE is approximately four to six weeks.

Entitlement Codes and Funding Fees

If you meet the VA’s minimum service requirements, you’ll receive a COE. It will show basic information, like your name, Social Security number, and type of service. You’ll also notice it includes an "entitlement code." This code is provided on every Certificate of Eligibility, and there may be more than one shown. There are 11 entitlement codes:

  • 01: World War II
  • 02: Korean War
  • 03: Post-Korean War
  • 04: Vietnam War
  • 05: Entitlement Restored
  • 06: Surviving Spouse
  • 07: Spouse of POW/MIA
  • 08: Post-World War II
  • 09: Post-Vietnam
  • 10: Persian Gulf War
  • 11: Selected Reserves

Most codes correspond with a specific time or type of service. Entitlement Code 05 ("Entitlement Restored") indicates that you’ve utilized your VA loan benefit at least once before, but that you are free to use your VA loan benefit again. Codes 06 and 07 pertain to spouses of service members and indicate their eligibility to apply for a VA loan.

Most military service members and Veterans who are buying or refinancing with a VA loan will need to pay a one-time VA funding fee. This fee is used to protect the VA loan program against borrowers who default on their mortgages. The COE will indicate whether you’re exempt from paying it. VA loan applicants who collect (or are eligible for) compensation for a service-related disability or are an eligible surviving spouse are exempt, meaning that they do not have to pay the VA funding fee.

Can I get a COE if I don’t meet minimum service requirements?

The VA states that even if you don’t meet the minimum service requirements, you may still be eligible for a COE if you’ve been discharged for one of the following reasons:

  • Hardship
  • Convenience of the government (you’ve served at least 20 months of a two-year enlistment)
  • Early out (you’ve served 21 months of a two-year enlistment)
  • Reduction in force
  • Certain medical conditions
  • Disability, related to your service

Surviving spouses applying for a COE

A surviving spouse of a deceased service member can obtain a COE for a VA loan if at least one of these situations applies.

  • The Veteran is missing in action or a prisoner of war.
  • The Veteran died, either during their service or from a service-connected disability, and you did not remarry.
  • The Veteran died while in service, or from a service-connected disability, and you didn’t remarry before you were 57 years old or before December 16, 2003.
  • The Veteran had been totally disabled, then died, but their disability may not have been the cause of death (in certain situations).

If you’re a surviving spouse of a Veteran or service member and are applying for a VA loan, you’ll need to gather information, such as your marriage license, along with your spouse’s separation papers and death certificate. You’ll also need to complete a form, depending on whether or not you are receiving Dependency and Indemnity Compensation.

Does a COE mean I am guaranteed VA loan approval?

The COE means you are eligible to receive a loan through the VA program, but it is not a guarantee that you’ll be approved. You’ll still need to meet certain credit score and income conditions, and the property you are purchasing will be subject to a VA appraisal and inspection that must meet their Minimum Property Requirements.

Freedom Mortgage is proud to be a top VA lender, according to Inside Mortgage Finance, 2023.

Last reviewed and updated February 2024 by Freedom Mortgage.

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