Obtaining your Certificate of Eligibility (COE) is an important part of verifying your VA loan eligibility.
To qualify for a VA loan — including the low rates and favorable terms it comes with — borrowers need what’s called a COE, or Certificate of Eligibility, from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
But what is a COE, and how can you get yours? Here’s what you need to know.
A Certificate of Eligibility is a document that confirms you meet the military service requirements of the VA loan program. Mortgage lenders use these documents to verify that you’re eligible for a VA-backed mortgage.
To get a COE, you’ll need to have served a certain number of days in the military (these vary based on when your service was and whether it was in war or peacetime) and have a qualifying discharge. Some National Guard and Reservists can also get a COE.
In some cases, you can get a COE without meeting service requirements. We break these situations down in the FAQ section below.
To apply for your COE, you’ll need the right paperwork first. For Veterans and former members of the National Guard or Reserves, this includes your discharge or separation papers, and for active-duty members of the military, National Guard, or Reserves, it’s a statement of service signed by your commander, adjutant, or personnel officer.
If you’re applying as the surviving spouse of a Veteran, you’ll need your spouse’s discharge documents and a completed VA Form 26-1817. In some cases, you may also need your marriage license, your spouse’s death certificate, and a VA Form 21P-534EZ.
Once you have the appropriate documents, you can apply for your VA COE in several ways:
If you’re still unsure about how to get your Certificate of Eligibility, talk to a loan officer today.
When you receive your COE, it should contain a variety of information — things like your name, SSN, military branch, date of birth, total loan entitlement, and whether you’re exempt from the VA funding fee or not.
It will also include your entitlement code. This two-digit number tells your lender when you served and what set of service requirements you must meet for that period. It also indicates if you’re the surviving spouse of a Veteran.
Here are the various entitlement codes you might see on your COE:
Entitlement code 05 is used if you’ve used your VA loan benefit before. It indicates that your previous loan has been repaid and that you’re now eligible for a new loan under your full entitlement.
Surviving spouses can get Certificates of Eligibility as long as their spouse died in service or due to a service-related disability, is missing in action, a prisoner of war, or has died and had been totally disabled due to their service. Spouses who are eligible receive the 05 entitlement code.
To apply for your COE as a surviving spouse, you’ll need your spouse’s discharge documents (if available) and will need to submit VA Form 26-1817 to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
If you’re not receiving Dependency and Indemnity Compensation from the VA, you’ll need to send a VA Form 21P-534EZ, a copy of your marriage license, and your spouse’s death certificate.
If you don’t meet the minimum service requirements for a COE, there are still ways to qualify. You may be eligible if you were discharged due to hardship, convenience of the government, early-out, reduction in force, due to a service-related disability, or due to certain medical conditions.
If you received a discharge other than honorable, you can apply for a discharge upgrade and undergo the VA Character of Discharge review process. If you’re able to get your discharge changed, you may then be eligible for a COE and, thus, a VA loan.
VA COEs never expire. If you obtained your COE while on active duty, though, a new COE would be necessary once you are discharged (your entitlement code would change).
You’ll also need a new COE each time you use your VA benefit. So if you buy a home, sell it, and wish to buy a new one, you would need an updated COE with the entitlement code 05 in order to be eligible.