Military family that used their Certificate of Eligibility to buy a home.

Certificate of Eligibility (COE)

Key Topics In This Article: What Is A COE? | COE Requirements | How To Read A COE | Request Your COE |

If you’ve served in the military or are a surviving spouse, you may be eligible for a VA home loan. The benefits of a VA home loan include a no downpayment option, lower interest rates, and easy credit history requirements. Also, the VA home loan program includes one of the best refinance loan programs in the mortgage industry.

You’ll need a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) from the Department of Veterans Affairs to obtain a VA home loan.

What Is A Certificate of Eligibility?

A Certificate of Eligibility for a VA home loan is a document issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs granting you access to the VA home loan program through an approved mortgage lender. You can’t get a VA home loan if you don’t have a COE.

Certificate of Eligibility Requirements

Here is a list of the basic Certificate of Eligibility requirements from the Department of Veterans Affairs.1

  • Active duty military personnel who have served at least ninety continuous days.
  • Veterans need at least 90 days of active duty service, and some may need twenty-four continuous months of service before they can get a COE.
  • Surviving spouses might qualify for a COE. If your spouse is either missing in action or a prisoner of war, or died in service (or a service-related disability), you might be eligible for a Certificate of Eligibility for a VA home loan. Another requirement for surviving spouses is that the surviving spouse did not remarry before December 16, 2003 or before your 57th birthday.

The Department of Veterans Affairs sets these three requirements for qualifying for a COE. Mortgage lenders who want to offer their client base a VA home loan option must adhere to the COE requirement.

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How To Read A Certificate of Eligibility

Knowing how to read a Certificate of Eligibility will better inform you of the VA home loan process. Below our Certificate of Eligibility example image, I’ll cover the six areas of the document to focus on, like an underwriter would when reading your Certificate of Eligibility.

Certificate of Eligibility Example

1. Department of Veterans Affairs Reference Number

The first area an underwriter will look at will be the Department of Veterans Affairs reference number to ensure the document is original, as the reference number is unique to the veteran requesting a Certificate of Eligibility.

The reference number will always be at the top of the page, off to the right below the big, bold “VA” lettering.

2. VA Entitlement Code

Here is a list of the VA Entitlement Codes that will appear on the COE (there are eleven Entitlement Codes the VA uses; only one will appear on the COE).2

Entitlement CodeEffective EventMinimum Service
01World War II90 continuous days
02Koren War90 continuous days
03Post-Korean War181 continuous days
04Vietnam War90 continuous days
05Entitlement RestoredNA
06Surviving SpouseNo time requirement
07POW/MIA SpouseVeteran POW/MIA 90 days
08Post World War II181 continuous days
09Post Vietnam181 continuous days
10Gulf War*24 months continuous
11Reserves*6 Years-Selected Reserves
*A Gulf War veteran with active service needs 90 days, and some Reserve veterans are eligible for 90 days.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has specific dates and definitions for each Entitlement Code. When reading your Certificate of Eligibility, ensure the Eligibility Code matches your enrollment or status. If it’s incorrect, contact the VA immediately to resolve the error.

3. VA Funding Fee

When using your COE for a VA home loan, most veterans must pay a one-time VA Funding Fee. The amount a veteran must pay depends on various factors. When your underwriter reads your Certificate of Eligibility, they will look to see what your funding fee is to ensure they meet the VA home loan requirements as stated on the COE.

4. Prior VA Loans Charged To Entitlement

If you have previously applied for and closed a VA home loan, this is where your underwriter will read the details of your previous VA home loan. This enables the VA to keep a record of your transactional history, and your underwriter will read and apply the information found in this section to your current application.

If you have never accessed your VA Entitlement, this section will be blank and void of any information.

5. VA Entitlement Amount

When you read your Certificate of Eligibility, you will see “VA Entitle Amount” in big, bold capital letters in the middle of the document. This amount can be used to close your VA home loan. Also, here is where you will read if you are eligible for a zero down payment loan option.

6. Conditions The Lender Must Adhere To

At the end of the COE document, you will read the “Conditions” the lender must adhere to. This will help ensure your loan is an eligible VA home loan. Typically, you will see a condition related to “subsequent use of Funding Fee” and if you are exempt from paying the “VA Funding Fee.”

The lender must adhere to whatever conditions are listed by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

How To Request Your Certificate of Eligibility

You or your lender can request your Certificate of Eligibility (COE).3 In my experience, lenders like to request it directly with the VA to ensure they receive an unaltered document.

To request a COE, you’ll need your personal information (Name, Date of Birth, Social Security Number etc.).

In addition to that, you’ll need some specific information, depending on whether you are currently serving or if you are a veteran. You can request your COE online, and if they already have all of your information, you can obtain your COE immediately.4

Their online portal also lets you check the status of your request and will let you know if any additional information is needed.

If you need a detailed explanation of how to request your Certificate of Eligibility, the Department of Veterans Affairs has created a PDF manual to access their portal for your review.5

It’s an easy-to-read, step-by-step guide that will walk you through the process.

Your Certificate of Eligibility Is Key To Your VA Loan Approval

Simply put, you can only get a VA home loan approval from an underwriter if you have a Certificate of Eligibility from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Knowing what a Certificate of Eligibility is and how to read it will help you navigate the VA home loan process.

Use the Department of Veterans Affairs online portal to access your COE today!


  1. Eligibility For A VA Home Loan Programs –
  2. Eligibility For A VA Home Loan Programs –
  3. How To Request A VA Home Loan Certificate of Eligibility (COE) –
  4. Request A VA Home Loan Certificate of Eligibility (COE) –
  5. Veteran Information Portal –
Loan Officer Kevin O'Connor

About The Author

Loan Officer Kevin O'Connor has over 17 years of experience as a Mortgage Loan Originator and is a trusted resource for mortgage education and information. He's the content creator of K.O. Home Loan Solutions and is licensed by the state of California and the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System. He has a top rating with the Better Business Bureau, Google, Yelp, and Zillow. You can contact him at 1-800-550-5538. CA DRE #01499872 / NMLS #247447