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VA Loan Certificate Of Eligibility

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What Is A VA Loan Certificate Of Eligibility 

A VA Loan Certificate of Eligibility (COE) is a document from the Department of Veterans Affairs that confirms that you are eligible to receive a VA loan. Since VA loans are only available to people who have met a certain set of conditions, the Certificate Of Eligibility (COE) confirms that you have met those requirements and a lender can offer you a VA mortgage loan. 

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How Do I Get A VA Certificate Of Eligibility?

There are several different ways to get your Certificate of Eligibility

  • Ask your lender

Most mortgage lenders have access to a database that verifies your eligibility for a VA loan. All they’ll need is the Veteran’s social security number and birth date. Sometimes, you may need to provide additional documentation, such as the Form DD-214, commonly known as a Certificate of Release or Discharge From Active Duty.

If you don’t have your DD-214, you can apply for it online here

The best version of the DD-214 is member copy 4 because it provides the most complete information a mortgage lender will need.

(And, to answer your question in advance, this database is not open to the public. You will have to go through your lender to get access to this information.)

  • Apply Online

You can apply to receive your COE online here.

  • Apply By Mail

You can also apply to get access to your Certificate of Eligibility by mail. Start by downloading VA Form 26-1880 here, then fill it out and mail it to the address listed on the form.

Depending on your situation and type of military service, you may need to take other steps to prepare to receive your Certificate of Eligibility. See the instructions below if you are: [LINK each of these to the spot on the page where they are discussed]

  • Still on active duty
  • The surviving spouse of a veteran
  • A reserve member
  • A member of the National Guard

How Long Does It Take To Get A VA Certificate Of Eligibility?

If you are eligible to have a mortgage company access the database, the process takes a few seconds of their time.

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If you apply for your COE by mail, getting your Certificate of Eligibility can take 4 to 6 weeks.

How To Read a VA Certificate Of Eligibility

A Certificate of Eligibility contains:

  • The Veteran or service member’s name
  • The last 4 digits of their Social Security number
  • Their branch of service
  • The VA reference number for that certificate
  • Their entitlement code

What Do the VA Entitlement Codes Mean On a Certificate of Eligibility?

The two-digit VA Entitlement Code on your Certificate of Eligibility gives your potential lender information about when you served and whether you are exempt from having to pay a VA Funding Fee on your loan.

Here’s what each VA Entitlement Code means

Entitlement Code Meaning

  • 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

As you can see, most of these codes indicate the era when you enlisted/served.

The three most common VA Entitlement Codes today are:

VA Entitlement Code 10

Most veterans who served in the last 20 years will receive VA Entitlement Code 10, meaning that they enlisted during the period of the Gulf War, defined as enlistment between August 2, 1990, through the present.

VA Entitlement Code 05

This usually means that you have used your VA home loan benefit before, and that benefit has now been “restored” so you can use it again. You can use your VA home loan benefit more than once, to buy your next home, or to refinance an existing mortgage.

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VA Entitlement Code 11

Reservists who have met the minimum requirements for reserve service set by the VA (usually at least 6 years in the Selected Reserves unless you qualify because of activation under Title 10 orders) will receive VA Entitlement Code 11.

How Do I Qualify To Use My COE a Second Time?

You can receive a VA Entitlement Code of 05 (a “restored” entitlement, meaning that you can get another VA loan) by meeting one of the following requirements:

  1. Sell the home you bought previously using a VA loan, and pay off that loan in full, or
  2. Pay off your prior VA loan in full without selling that home (note: you can only do this one time), or
  3. Get another qualified Veteran to agree to assume your VA loan, and change your entitlement to theirs (they take over all the responsibilities of paying off that loan and legally change it into their COE.)

What Happens if Your Lender Can’t Verify Your Eligibility?

Sometimes your lender can’t determine your eligibility for a VA loan. This can happen when:

  • You did not receive an honorable discharge
  • You have had a prior VA loan that went into foreclosure
  • You are an unmarried surviving spouse
  • You were a reservist or member of the National Guard and certain conditions apply.

Don’t worry if this happens. It does not necessarily mean you will be denied a VA loan. Your mortgage lender can work with you to resolve the issues.  They will usually ask for then send your service points or DD-214 to the VA which will begin the process of evaluating and hopefully resolving your issue.

Is Your DD-214 the Same As A VA Certificate of Eligibility?

No, they are different things. But the DD-214 can be an important element of getting your VA Certificate of Eligibility if your lender cannot access your record in their online database. 

Do I Need a DD-214 To Get a VA Certificate of Eligibility?

No, if you do not have a DD-214 there are alternative ways to get a COE. Talk with your lender for more information or review the qualifications by class of service below.

How Can I Get My VA Certificate Of Eligibility (COE) If My Lender Can’t Access My Record In The Database?

If your lender cannot locate your record in their online database of those entitled to receive a VA mortgage loan, there are steps you can take to obtain your VA Certificate of Eligibility, depending on your status and class of service:

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Active Service:

How To Get Your COE If You’re Still in Active Service In The Military

If you’re still on active duty, you’ll need to get a current statement of service on military letterhead and signed by your commander, adjutant, or personnel officer, containing:

  • Your full name
  • Your Social Security number
  • Your date of birth
  • The date you entered duty
  • The duration of any lost time
  • The name of the command providing this information.

Surviving Spouse:

How To Get Your Certificate Of Eligibility if You Are A Surviving Spouse of a Veteran Who Died on Active Duty or Who Had A Service-related Disability

To qualify for a Certificate Of Eligibility as a surviving spouse, you’ll need to receive Dependency and Indemnity Compensation benefits. If you are receiving Dependency and Indemnity Compensation benefits, you’ll need to have your spouse’s DD-214, then you’ll need to fill out VA Form 26-1817, the Request for Determination of Loan Guaranty Eligibility – Unmarried Surviving Spouses. 

If you are not currently receiving Dependency and Indemnity Compensation benefits, you’ll need to send:

  • A completed copy of VA Form 21P-534EZ, Application for DIC, Death Pension, and/or Accrued Benefits and
  • A copy of your marriage license and
  • The Veteran’s death certificate 

To the VA pension management center that serves your state.

Then you’ll need to fill out VA Form 26-1817, the request for Determination of Loan Guaranty Eligibility – Unmarried Surviving Spouses. 

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Reserve Member:

How To Get Your COE if You Are a Current or Former Activated Reserve Member

You will need to supply either a copy of your DD214 or other discharge documents.

How To Get Your COE if You Are a Discharged Reserve Member Who Was Never Activated

You will need proof of your honorable service and a copy of your latest annual retirement points.National Guard:

How To Get Your Certificate of Eligibility if You Are a Current Member of the National Guard Who Has Never Been Activated

You will need to submit evidence of honorable service and your latest annual retirement points summary, along with a signed statement of service that clearly states your personal information and that you are an active Guard member. Personal information should include:

  • Your full name
  • Your Social Security number
  • Your date of birth
  • The date you entered duty
  • The duration of any lost time
  • Your total number of creditable years of service
  • The name of the command providing this information.

How To Get Your Certificate of Eligibility if You Are a Discharged Member of the National Guard Who Was Never Activated

You will need your retirement points statement (NGB Form 23) and proof of character of service and your Report of Separation and Record of Service (NGB Form 22) for each period of National Guard service.

What If I Have Questions About My VA Certificate of Eligibility that aren’t Answered Here?

We understand. There are two ways you can get answers to your questions:

  1. Ask a Mortgage Expert Here
  2. Contact the VA at 877-827-3702 (Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m – 6:00 p.m. Eastern time.)

About the Author

Scott Schang

A 20+ year veteran of the Mortgage and Real Estate industry, I am passionate about educating and empowering consumers. I have been writing about consumer protection issues and making sense of complicated real estate and mortgage topics on this website since 2007

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