VA home loans are generally available to active duty personnel and veterans of the U.S. armed services who have met certain active duty minimums. Current members and veterans of the National Guard or Selected Reserve with at least six years of service are generally eligible as well.

Unmarried surviving spouses of eligible service members, or who remarried at or after age 57, may be eligible as well under certain circumstances. See details below.

VA Loans are also available to cadets and midshipmen of the U.S. military academies, to officers of the U.S. Public Health Service or National Oceanic and Atmospheric soldier parentsAdministration, and selected other groups as well.

Those who have received a dishonorable discharge from any of the armed services are not eligible for a VA loan.

To get a VA loan, you must first obtain a Certificate of Eligibility. Most VA home loan lenders will be able to help you with this. You can also get further information and assistance from your regional VA loan center or through the VA website.

Detailed eligibility criteria

Active duty members of the military are currently eligible for a guaranteed VA home loan after 90 days of continuous service.

Veterans are eligible for a VA loan if they meet the following requirements:

  • 90 total days of service during the defined periods for WWII, the Korean War or Vietnam War, or
  • 181 continuous days of peacetime service through Sept. 7, 1980 (Oct. 16, 1981 for officers) , or
  • 24 months of continuous service for the period beginning Sept. 8, 1980, (Oct. 17, 1981 for officers) or
  • Completed the full period called or ordered to active duty, with a minimum of 181 days for the period Sept. 8, 1980 (Oct. 17, 1981 for officers) through Aug. 8, 1990.
  • Veterans not meeting the above criteria may still be eligible for a VA loan if they were discharged due to 1) hardship, 2) the convenience of the government, 3) reduction-in-force, 4) certain medical conditions, or 5) a service-connected disability.
  • Those who received a dishonorable discharge are not eligible for a VA loan.

National Guard and Reserve VA requirements

 Members of the National Guard and Reserve may qualify for a VA loan if they meet the following guidelines:

  • 90 days of active service in the Gulf War era (Aug. 2, 1990 to present), or
  • At least six years of service in the National Guard or Selective Reserve AND,
  • Received an honorable discharge, or
  • Were placed on the retired list, or
  • Were transferred to the Standby Reserve or Ready Reserve after honorable service, or
  • Continue to serve in the Ready Reserve.

Loans for military spouses

A surviving spouse of a veteran is eligible for a VA Streamline Refinance of a VA loan originally taken out in the veteran's name and based on the veteran's eligibility. This allows you to refinance the loan to a lower rate if VA refinance rates today are lower than the rate currently on the mortgage.

A widow or widower of a veteran may also be eligible for a VA loan in their own right if they meet any of the following:

  • The unmarried surviving spouse of a veteran who died in service or of a service-related disability, or
  • A surviving spouse who remarried at age 57 or above, and after Dec. 16, 2003, or
  • The surviving spouse of a totally disabled veteran; the disability need not have been the result of military service or the cause of death.

For the surviving spouse of a veteran with a non-service related disability, the veteran must have been totally disabled for one of the following: 1) Ten years prior to death; 2) Five years after discharge from service or 3) 1 year prior to death for a former POW who died after Sept. 30, 1999.

Special situations from WWII service

Merchant seamen with WWII service and U.S. citizens who served in the armed forces of certain allied nations during WWII are also eligible for VA loans.

Published on January 5, 2016