VA Home Loans – Chapter 3

VA Loan Basics: What is the Certificate of Eligibility?

It’s the green flag that starts the race. It’s the bell that kicks off the day. It’s the ticket that lets you into the show.

It’s the Certificate of Eligibility. Known as the starting point of the VA loan process, the Certificate of Eligibility (COE) proves to a lender that a buyer has met the VA’s service requirement.

And while it’s a short and simple document, the COE can stir up a lot of confusion. Let’s clear up the mayhem and tackle some of the most common questions regarding the Certificate of Eligibility.

What is a COE?

Every veteran has to meet one of the following service requirements before they can obtain a VA loan:

  • 181 days of service during peacetime
  • 90 days of service during war time
  • 6 years of service in the Reserves or National Guard
  • Some surviving spouses of veterans killed in the line of duty are also eligible

Lenders are required to get proof of a veteran’s service before starting the VA loan process. The COE serves as that proof, and tells a lender that an applicant has officially met the minimum service requirement.

How do I get my COE?

Three ways:

  1. Ask your lender. The easiest and best method of obtaining a COE, in our opinion. VA-approved lenders can tap into a special database and obtain your COE in minutes.
  2. Apply online. Visit the VA Benefit Website to learn how to apply for your COE.
  3. Apply via mail. Print off this form, fill it out, and return it to the address on the form.

What if I lose a previously issued COE?

No problem. Just obtain another one via one of the three methods listed above.

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

If there’s one thing the COE is not, it’s a guarantee. The word “guarantee” frequently gets tossed into VA loan discussions, but let’s make this clear: No one is guaranteed to receive a loan through the VA loan program. The COE simply signifies that you’ve cleared one hurdle on the track: namely, that you’ve met the military service requirement. Your property still has to measure up to VA criteria, and your borrower qualifications (credit score, income, debts) must meet a lender’s standards.

My lender’s automated system can’t determine my eligibility. What should I do now?

Sometimes a lender can’t automatically obtain a potential borrower’s COE. This can occasionally happen to the following potential borrowers:

  • Service members who had a prior VA loan go into foreclosure
  • Service members who were discharged under conditions other than “honorable”
  • Some Reservists and National Guard members
  • Unmarried surviving spouses

Don’t panic if you’re left hanging by a lender’s automated system. This is a relatively common occurrence, and one that VA-savvy lenders know how to handle. Military buyers are usually asked to provide supporting documentation, which is sent to the VA for evaluation.

What other questions do you have?

Have any other questions about the COE? Leave them in our comments section below, or call or TEXT a Veterans loan specialist at 972.523.8353.

Want to know more?

If you have questions or to discuss your situation specifically, please give Warren Whitaker a call or TEXT at (972) 523-8353 or send an email to

To start your loan application and get started to home ownership, please CLICK HERE.

VA Home Loans

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3



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