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Getting Your Certificate of Eligibility: Let a Lender Do the Heavy Lifting

Even if you're positive you meet the VA loan eligibility requirements, there's only one way to be certain you have access to VA home loan benefits: Obtain your Certificate of Eligibility.

This is where the VA separates belief from reality.

The Certificate of Eligibility (COE) is an official document that basically attests to your right to participate in the VA Loan Guaranty program. There are multiple ways to get the COE, and some are faster than others. Mailing away for the document or more challenging eligibility scenarios could require 4 to 6 weeks before there’s resolution through the Department of Veterans Affairs. But most prospective borrowers and lenders can get a COE online in a matter of seconds, not days or weeks.

We'll explain shortly how you can go about securing your Certificate of Eligibility and what you'll need to get it. But it's important to explain at the outset that obtaining your COE does not have to be your first step.

Getting started on your VA home loan is an easy process — and it could be the best decision you ever make.

We can and often do issue loan preapproval without a Certificate of Eligibility. But obtaining an eligibility determination is an important step in the process. Any delays or questions about the veteran’s status down the road could delay closing or even upend the entire process.

Getting a COE on Your Own

Prospective VA borrowers can obtain their Certificate of Eligibility directly from the VA, either by using its online eBenefits portal; by visiting a nearby Regional Loan Center; or by mailing or faxing in the necessary documents. They can also have a VA approved lender secure their COE, which is often the easiest and quickest method. We'll cover that in a bit.

Veterans will need proof of their military service. For those who served in the Armed Forces, that’s a DD Form 214, also known as a Certificate of Release or Discharge From Active Duty. Generally member copy 4 is the preferred copy of the DD214, as it has the most detailed information regarding the veteran's service. You can determine which copy to submit by looking in the bottom right corner of the document. How can you get your DD214 Form? The VA provides this portal to apply for your form online.

Those still serving on active duty have to submit a current statement of service that denotes:

  • Veteran’s full name
  • Social Security Number
  • Date of birth
  • Branch of service
  • Rank
  • Active duty entry date
  • Current date of separation
  • Unit of assignment and current duty location
  • Duration of lost time, if any
  • Last Discharge
  • Type of Discharge, and
  • Name of the command providing the information

Reservists and National Guard members don’t have a single discharge certificate like the DD-214. Instead, they should submit their latest annual retirement points summary along with evidence of their honorable service. Army or Air National Guard members can submit NGB Form 22, a Report of Separation and Record of Service, or a points statement.

Like their Armed Forces counterparts, active members of the Reserves or National Guard must provide a signed statement of service that shows their key personal information. The statement also needs to clearly state that the applicant is an active Reservist or Guard member.

There’s no need to panic if you’re unable to find your proof of service. Documents get lost to time.

Veterans discharged from regular active duty should go ahead and submit their Request for a Certificate of Eligibility without the proof of service. It’s important to keep the process moving, plus the VA can often issue a decision regarding your request based on its own internal records about your service.

Lenders Can Get Your COE in Minutes

Veterans who have found an approved VA lender can ask their loan officer to request their Certificate of Eligibility electronically. Borrowers provide the lender their proof of service. The agent then uses the VA’s Automated Certificate of Eligibility (ACE) portal to obtain the document in seconds.

But there are some cases where ACE cannot make a determination about eligibility. Some of those include:

  • Reservists and National Guard members
  • Veterans who had a previous VA loan go into foreclosure
  • Those who didn’t serve the minimum required length of service and were not discharged for an authorized exception
  • Veterans discharged under conditions other than honorable
  • Veterans wanting to restore a previously used entitlement
  • Unmarried surviving spouses

It’s also important to note that veterans can’t transfer an ACE-generated Certificate of Eligibility from one lender to another. That means you’ll have to get a new COE if you decide to hop to a different lender at some point during the home-buying process.

Otherwise, there’s rarely a need for eligible veterans to update their COE before closing on their VA loan. The only time that’s an issue is if an active duty service member is discharged or released once the process has started but prior to the loan closing. At that point, the lender is going to request a new determination of the veteran’s eligibility.

Speak with a Veterans United loan specialist about obtaining your Certificate of Eligibility anytime at 855-870-8845, or get started online today.

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