14. What is the VA COE?

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The Certificate of Eligibility (COE) is a crucial document for veterans and active-duty service members seeking a VA home loan. Issued by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the COE verifies a borrower’s eligibility for the VA loan program, confirming their military service and entitlement benefits. Obtaining a COE is the first step in the VA loan application process and is essential for securing a VA-backed mortgage.

Purpose of the COE

The COE serves as official proof of a borrower’s eligibility for a VA loan. It outlines the amount of entitlement available to the borrower, which is the portion of the loan the VA will guarantee. This entitlement helps lenders determine the maximum loan amount they can offer without requiring a down payment. The COE also provides information on the borrower’s funding fee status, indicating whether they are exempt from paying the VA funding fee due to a service-connected disability.

Eligibility Requirements

To qualify for a COE, borrowers must meet specific service requirements based on their military status and the period during which they served. The general eligibility criteria include:

  • Veterans: Veterans must have served a minimum required period of active duty, typically 90 consecutive days during wartime or 181 days during peacetime.
  • Active-Duty Service Members: Active-duty personnel are generally eligible after serving 90 consecutive days during wartime or 181 days during peacetime.
  • National Guard and Reserves: Members of the National Guard or Reserves must have at least six years of service or meet specific active-duty requirements if they were called to serve.
  • Surviving Spouses: Unmarried surviving spouses of veterans who died in service or due to a service-related disability may also be eligible for a COE.

How to Obtain a COE

Obtaining a COE can be done through several methods, each catering to different preferences and levels of convenience.

Online Application

The most straightforward way to obtain a COE is through the VA’s eBenefits portal. Eligible borrowers can log in to their eBenefits account, complete the necessary information, and submit their application online. This method often results in immediate approval and issuance of the COE.

Lender Assistance

Many lenders can obtain the COE on behalf of the borrower using the VA’s automated system, known as Web LGY. Borrowers can provide their lender with the necessary service documentation, and the lender can quickly retrieve the COE during the loan pre-approval process. This method simplifies the process and ensures that the COE is accurately included in the loan application.

Mail Application

Borrowers can also apply for a COE by mail by completing VA Form 26-1880, “Request for a Certificate of Eligibility,” and sending it along with the required documentation to the appropriate VA regional loan center. This method may take longer than the online or lender-assisted options but is a viable alternative for those who prefer a paper-based process.

Required Documentation

The specific documentation required to obtain a COE varies based on the borrower’s service status:

  • Veterans: Veterans typically need to provide a copy of their DD Form 214, “Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty.”
  • Active-Duty Service Members: Active-duty personnel must submit a statement of service signed by their commanding officer or personnel office, detailing their service history and current active-duty status.
  • National Guard and Reserves: Members of the National Guard or Reserves need to provide proof of their service, such as a points statement, along with evidence of their active-duty status if applicable.
  • Surviving Spouses: Surviving spouses must provide the veteran’s DD Form 214 (if available), a copy of the veteran’s death certificate, and VA Form 26-1817, “Request for Determination of Loan Guaranty Eligibility – Unmarried Surviving Spouses.”

The VA COE is an essential document for veterans, active-duty service members, and their families seeking a VA home loan. By verifying eligibility and providing proof of entitlement, the COE facilitates the VA loan process, helping borrowers access the benefits they have earned through their service. Understanding how to obtain a COE and the necessary documentation ensures a smoother path to securing a VA-backed mortgage and achieving homeownership.