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VA Loan Library Comments

Counting Income and Allowances for Active Military, Guard & Reserve

Each year, most VA loans are made to veterans. But active duty service members and those still serving in the National Guard and Reserves can absolutely look to use their VA home loan benefits.

In some respects, being on active duty can make things easier from an income and employment perspective. Generally, as long as you’re not ETSing within a year of your loan closing, lenders can get a quick and easy look at your income and your employment stability. That isn’t always the case for veterans working in the civilian world.

Active duty borrowers can also benefit by having things like BAH and other military allowances count as effective income toward getting a mortgage.

Verifying Income

Active duty service members can simply provide a recent Leave and Earnings Statement (LES) as a record of employment and income. Lenders will often need the LES to be dated no more than 120 days prior to the mortgage.

If your enlistment will end within 12 months of your loan closing, you’ll need to show a lender that you’ll continue to have stable, reliable income. These borrowers will need to provide either an offer of civilian employment, evidence of re-enlistment or other proof of their ability to afford the mortgage.

In addition to their regular military pay, active duty service members may be able to count other types of income toward mortgage qualification. Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) is among the most common and well known.

Let’s take a look at a few other types of military income that might be able to help you buy a home.

Subsistence & Clothing Allowances

Allowances for subsistence and clothing appear on the Leave & Earnings Statement and can be considered as effective income toward a mortgage.

These two allowances are not taxable, meaning that lenders may “gross up” this income for the purposes of calculating your debt-to-income ratio.

There’s a host of other potential allowances service members may receive. Unlike the subsistence and clothing allowances, these income sources are considered taxable.

Other Military Allowances

Would-be VA buyers may be able to count the following as effective income:

  • Flight pay
  • Submarine pay
  • Hazard pay
  • Career Sea pay
  • Career Flyer pay
  • Imminent Danger pay
  • Overseas pay
  • And more

Just receiving this pay isn’t enough. In order to count it as effective income, lenders will want to see that these allowances are likely to continue. For example, they’ll seek to verify a pilot will continue receiving flight pay given the nature of his or her duties.

If lenders aren’t satisfied the allowance(s) are stable, borrowers may be able to use the income to offset debts. Policies and guidelines can vary by lender.

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Separation Benefits & Incentives

Prospective borrowers may be able to count Voluntary Separation Incentive income toward mortgage qualification. This income is taxable in the year received.

Veterans United currently considers a one-time lump sum from Special Separation Benefit as a substantial cash reserve.

Reserve & National Guard Income

Lenders can consider Reserve and National Guard income toward mortgage qualification if they feel it’s stable and likely to continue.

They’ll often look at a borrower’s total active and Reserve or Guard service history when making a determination.

If we’re not able to count this as effective income, Veterans United currently allows borrowers to use this income to offset debts that have 10 to 24 months duration.

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