Thousands of National Guard and Reserve members are eligible for the VA loan program, and new legislation is expanding eligibility to even more Guardsmen, women and Reservists around the country.
Service in the National Guard or Reserves can unlock access to the VA home loan benefit, which helps qualified buyers purchase with $0 down payment, the industry’s lowest average fixed interest rates and more. Recent federal legislation expanded eligibility to even more Guardsmen around the country.
VA loans have been helping National Guardsmen and Reservists become homeowners for more than 30 years.
Here’s what you need to know.
Whether they’re Regular Military, National Guard or Reserve, all would-be VA buyers need to meet time-in-service requirements to be eligible for this benefit.
National Guardsmen and Reservists are typically eligible for a VA loan if they’ve served:
Lenders will look to verify your eligibility for the benefit by obtaining your Certificate of Eligibility from the VA. You don’t need to have this document to start the homebuying process, but you will need it to close on a VA loan.
Lenders can pull a Certificate of Eligibility with minimal information in some cases. Other times, Veterans and service members might need to provide additional documentation.
Guardsmen and Reservists who served on active duty might need to provide a DD-214. Reservists might have to submit a points statement and a copy of their discharge paperwork.
Depending on your specific situation, you might need to provide:
Talk with a VA loan expert to learn more about documenting eligibility and what it takes to obtain your COE in the National Guard.
Recent changes to federal law are helping even more National Guardsmen utilize the VA loan benefit.
For a long time, only Guardsmen called to active duty under Title 10 orders could be eligible for a VA loan prior to the six-year mark. Those mobilized under Title 32 orders could not access the VA loan benefit early, even if they served at least 90 days on active duty.
Passed in 2020, the Veteran Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act amended that gap, granting access to National Guardsmen activated under Title 32 provided they serve at least 90 days on active duty, 30 of which must be consecutive.
The change opened the VA loan benefit to about 50,000 Guardsmen who responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to estimates. It was also retroactive, meaning National Guardsmen who served years ago but didn’t have six years of service might qualify under the Title 32 addition.
Being eligible for a VA loan is a key part of the equation, but you’ll also need to meet lender and government guidelines related to credit, income, and more.
The Department of Veterans Affairs doesn’t have set credit score requirements for VA mortgages, though individual lenders do. These vary from one company to the next, but for the most part, you can expect to need at least a 620 credit score to qualify.
Similarly, there are also no hard income requirements for VA loans. Lenders do, however, consider your debt-to-income ratio (DTI), which indicates how much of your gross monthly income is taken up by existing major debts. Limits on DTI ratio can vary by lender and other factors.
Veterans with a DTI ratio above 41% need to meet a higher benchmark for residual income, which is another VA guideline rooted in discretionary income.
Generally, you’ll need at least six good years’ worth of points, with a good year equal to at least 50 retirement points. Talk with a VA loan expert if you have questions about your service history and potential VA loan eligibility.
Do the National Guard and Reserves qualify for a VA loan? Absolutely. Thousands of Guardsmen and Reservists turn to their VA loan benefit every year to purchase or refinance.