VA Financing: Eligibility & Requirements

Instructor: Ian Lord

Ian has an MBA and is a real estate investor, former health professions educator, and Air Force veteran.

The VA home loan is a financing option available to those who serve or have served in the United States Armed Forces. This lesson outlines who is eligible for a Department of Veterans Affairs mortgage and the VA's unique requirements.

VA Loan Eligibility

Jane and John are a happily married couple ready to take the plunge and buy their first home together. What makes them different than the average home buyer is that Jane served in the Navy for a few years between high school and college. Jane and others who have served have access to a special lending program unique within the mortgage financing world: the US Department of Veterans Affairs Home Loan.

A VA home loan allows eligible veterans and the unmarried spouses of deceased veterans to buy the home they want. There are also other spouses who may be eligible, such as those whose veteran spouse is missing in action. Surviving spouses who get remarried after age 57 are also eligible.

VA home loans are actually funded by the buyer's choice of lender. The VA guarantees the loan for lenders who participate in the program. It promises to pay the lender a certain amount of money if the buyer is foreclosed on. This helps reduce risk for the lender since the VA loan backed buyer often doesn't have a down payment.

A VA loan can be used to buy a stand-alone house or a condo. It can be also used to build a house or buy and fix up an existing house. Extra loan money is even available to improve energy efficiency. The VA also permits the purchase of a manufactured home and lot. A big draw for veterans is the possibility of no money down and limited closing costs.

VA loan eligibility is directly tied to length of service. If a veteran has served since 1980, they generally must have served for at least two years. They must also have a discharge type other than a dishonorable discharge. An active duty service member can qualify with as little as 90 days of service. A service member could potentially qualify to buy a house after their entry training. Those who served before the 1980s have different time requirements. The rules change slightly depending on the service period. These windows roughly correspond to war time periods and the times in between major wars.

Jane joined the military and 2005 and was honorable discharged in 2009. This means that she meets the eligibility rule. The table below provides a closer look at VA established eligibility based on status and qualifying service periods.

Status Qualifying Service Periods Qualifying Service Dates Minimum Active Duty Time
Veteran WWII 9/16/1940 - 7/25/1947 90 total days
Post-WWII 7/26/1947 - 6/26/1950 181 continuous days
Korean War 6/27/1950 - 1/31/1955 90 total days
Post-Korean War 2/1/1955 - 8/4/1964 181 continuous days
Vietnam War 8/5/1964 - 5/7/1975

*For Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam, the beginning date is 2/28/1961
90 total days
Post-Vietnam War 5/8/1975 - 9/7/1980

*The ending date for officers is 10/16/1981
181 continuous days
24-month rule 9/8/1980 - 8/1/1990

*The beginning date for officers is 10/17/1981

24 continuous months


The full period (at least 181 days) for which you were called or ordered to active duty
Gulf War 8/2/1990 - Present

24 continuous months


The full period (at least 90 days) for which you were called or ordered to active duty
Currently On Active Duty Any Any 90 continuous days
National Guard & Reserve Member Gulf War 8/2/1990 - Present 90 days of active service
Six years of service in the Selected Reserve or National Guard AND an honorable discharge


Were placed on the retired list


Were transferred to the Standby Reserve or an element of the Ready Reserve other than the Selected Reserve after service characterized as honorable


Continue to serve in the Selected Reserve

VA Loan Requirements

There are a few more requirements for Jane and Joe to get that VA mortgage. The VA will issue a certificate of eligibility (COE) once the veteran submits evidence proving she is eligible. The lender needs this to move the process along and can help Jane get the certificate. Veterans must intend for themselves or their immediate family to live in the home for at least one year. Exceptions can be made if the military forces current service members to move or deploy. A loan won't be possible if the service member is only in town for a short training school or temporary assignment.

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