On average, military families move about every three years or so. Understandably, some wait to purchase homes and opt to rent until the ideal location or situation comes along. But what if your military spouse dies before you ever had a chance to buy a house? Does that mean you missed your opportunity to take advantage of the VA Home Loan benefit?
Not necessarily. Before the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 (H.R. 1627) was signed, only spouses of those who died of military-related causes could apply for VA Home Loan benefits. But the legislative package added additional provisions for the needs of Veterans, their families, and survivors through improved healthcare, housing, education, and memorial services.
Q: Does the VA recognize surviving spouses of same-sex marriages?
A: Yes. The VA makes no distinction between opposite or same-sex marriages.
Q: How is a surviving spouse eligible for a VA Home Loan?
A: To be eligible for a VA Home Loan, at least one of the following must be true:
- The Veteran is a POW
- The Veteran is missing in action
- The Veteran died while in service or from a service-connected disability, and the spouse hasn’t remarried
- The Veteran died while in service or from a service-connected disability, and the spouse didn’t remarry before they were 57 years old or before December 16, 2003
- A surviving spouse of a Veteran who was rated totally disabled and was eligible for disability compensation at the time of death from any cause
- Surviving spouse remarried but is now divorced from the new spouse
- Surviving spouse remarried, but the marriage ended due to the death of the new spouse
Q: If I meet one of these criteria, am I automatically cleared for a VA Home Loan?
A: Not yet. Like any Veteran or active-duty servicemember applying for a VA Loan, a surviving spouse will need a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) to use the VA Home Loan benefit.
Q: What is a COE, and how do I get one?
A: A Certificate of Eligibility proves to your lender that you qualify for the VA Home Loan benefit. Here are the steps for applying for a COE as a surviving spouse:
If you’re receiving Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits:
- You’ll need to fill out a Request for Determination of Loan Guaranty Eligibility — Unmarried Surviving Spouses (VA Form 26-1817)
- You’ll need the Veteran’s DD214 (or other separation papers) if available
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Submit the form and discharge or separation papers to:
- Your lender for processing online, or
- The VA regional loan center that serves your state
If you’re not receiving DIC benefits:
First, fill out an Application for DIC, Survivors Pension and/or Accrued Benefits (VA Form 21P-534EZ).
Next, you’ll need these three items:
- The Veteran’s DD214 (or other separation papers), if available
- A copy of your marriage license
- The Veteran’s death certificate
Submit the form and documents to the VA pension management center that serves your state.
Q: Once the COE is in place, what’s the next step for getting a VA Loan?
A: As with any home loan, you’ll want to find a VA lender you trust, then get a preapproval letter, which will tell you exactly how much loan you can qualify for, and it lets the seller know they have a serious buyer. And, of course, you’ll also need to meet your lender’s credit and income requirements to get a loan.
Q: What are the benefits of a VA Home Loan for a surviving spouse?
A: Along with the following benefits, you won’t have to pay a funding fee if you’re the surviving spouse of a Veteran who died in service or from a service-connected disability or who was totally disabled and you’re receiving Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC):
- Competitive interest rates
- Flexible credit requirements
- Zero percent down payments on many loans
- Up to 100% refinancing of a home’s appraised value
- No monthly mortgage insurance premiums (PMI)
- No penalties for early payoff or balance reduction
Q: As a surviving spouse, do I qualify only for a one-time VA Home Loan?
A: No. The good news for eligible surviving spouses is that they can reuse their VA Home loan benefit to purchase property. For example, once you pay off a loan or decide to move into another home, you can use the VA benefit for your next house. However, note that you must once again meet all of the lender’s credit, income, and financial requirements to receive approval for another VA Loan.
Q: Can the children of a surviving spouse get a VA Home Loan?
A: No, the benefit doesn’t extend to children or any other family members.