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VA Loan Eligibility for Surviving Spouses of Military Members

VA loan eligibility rules include a provision for surviving spouses of military members who died in service or from a service-related medical condition (as recognized by the VA). The rules also provide VA loan benefits for spouses of military members officially listed as Missing In Action or as Prisoners of War.

VA loan rules also provide refinancing loan options for surviving spouses. According to VA.gov, “a surviving spouse who obtained a VA home loan with the veteran prior to his or her death (regardless of the cause of death), may obtain a VA guaranteed interest rate reduction refinance loan.”

In order to take advantage of these benefits, surviving spouses must apply for a VA Certificate of Eligibility the same way a military member would, with one important exception. Surviving spouses cannot apply for the VA COE online, the application must be sent by U.S. mail according to VA regulations. As a result, VA COE processing times may take longer than a typical VA home loan application. Spouses should anticipate this and apply for the VA COE as early as possible. It’s not advisable to wait until you have found a lender or a suitable home to apply for your COE; surviving spouses who want VA loans should apply for the COE as early as possible.

Why? According to VA.gov, “If your veteran spouse died after service, VA must determine that the death was due to a service-connected disability.  Please allow 2-3 months for this process unless you know that the decision on service-connected death has already been made.” That is an important piece of information--this determination process is not something you want to wait out while trying to negotiate a sales price with a seller. Submit your request for a VA COE in the planning and budgeting stages of your house hunting process for best results.

VA loan certificates of eligibility can be applied for using VAForm 26-1817.  If you can’t print the form, dial the VA at 1-888-768-2132 and follow the prompts for Eligibility.  The form will be mailed to you. Once you have completed the form, send it to the VA Loan Atlanta Eligibility Center at the following address:

VA Loan Eligibility Center
Attn: COE (262)
PO Box 100034
Decatur, GA 30031

The VA loan benefit for surviving spouses and spouses of POW/MIA service members has an important caveat---this benefit is limited if the spouse has remarried. According to VA.gov:

“...a surviving spouse who remarries on or after attaining age 57, and on or after December 16, 2003, may be eligible for the home loan benefit.  However, a surviving spouse who remarried before December 16, 2003, and on or after attaining age 57, must apply no later than December 15, 2004, to establish home loan eligibility.  VA must deny applications from surviving spouses who remarried before December 6, 2003 that are received after December 15, 2004.”

If you are unsure whether you qualify for a VA loan as a surviving spouse or as the spouse of a POW/MIA service member, contact your nearest VA field office for advice and assistance or call the VA directly at 1-800-827-1000.

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