VA Loan Program: Surviving Spouse Requirements

What a surviving spouse needs to know.

Veteran spouse with daughterCan the spouse of a veteran obtain a VA home loan? The answer is maybe. There are strict requirements for a spousal home loan. The certificate of eligibility defines whether the spouse of a Veteran is eligible for a VA home loan. The certificate of eligibility may be obtained directly through the Veteran's Administration or the COE, as it's known, can be requested by the lender.

Here are the requirements for a spousal VA home loan. At least one of the following must be true:

  • The Veteran has been declared missing in action, or
  • The Veteran is a prisoner of war, or
  • The Veteran died while serving in the military or as a result of a service-connected disability, and you did not remarry before reaching the age of 57 or prior to December 16, 2003, or
  • The Veteran was fully incapacitated and later died, although it is possible that their impairment was not the cause of death (in certain situations)
  • If the Veteran died while serving in the military or as a result of a service-connected condition, and you did not remarry,

Note: A surviving spouse who remarried prior to December 16, 2003, and on or after their 57th birthday, must have applied for home loan eligibility no later than December 15, 2004. The Veteran's Administration will refuse applications for a certificate of eligibility submitted after December 15, 2004 by surviving spouses who remarried prior to December 16, 2003.

The Veterans' Millennium Health Care and Benefits Act, however, marginally increased the aforementioned standards. Following the passing of this legislation, surviving spouses who remarried may continue to utilize the VA Home Loan as long as they meet the following requirements:

  • You remarried, but have since been divorced from your new husband.
  • Remarried, however, the marriage was terminated owing to the new spouse's death.

How do I apply for a COE?

The COE application depends on whether the spouse is receiving Dependency & Indemnity Compensation (DIC) or not. The following forms should be completed and provided to the lender.

If you’re receiving DIC benefits

Complete a Request for Determination of Loan Guaranty Eligibility—Surviving Spouses Who Are Not Married (Download VA Form 26-1817 (PDF)). Additionally, you will need the veteran's DD214 (Get military service records online) or other separation documents. Submit the VA form and discharge/separation paperwork to your lender or to the state-based VA regional loan office. Find a VA regional loan center.

If you’re not receiving DIC benefits

Complete an Application for Disability Insurance Compensation, Survivors Pension, and/or Accrued Benefits (Download VA Form 21P-534EZ (PDF)). Additionally, you will need a copy of the veteran's DD214 (Get military service records online) or other separation documents, as well as a copy of your marriage license and the veteran's death certificate. Submit the VA form and any other required documentation to the state-based VA pension management center. Find a VA regional loan center.

How Is “Spouse” Defined by the VA?

Nice kitchenAs is the case with any government program, precise definitions are critical in evaluating eligibility for a VA Home Loan. Since such, it is critical to establish the precise definition of a spouse used by the Department of Veterans Affairs, as this definition is vital for determining who qualifies as a surviving spouse.

The Department of Veterans Affairs acknowledges a spouse if the “marriage was recognized by the law of the jurisdiction in which at least one of the parties lived at the time of the marriage.” For instance, if either the service member or his or her spouse resided in New York at the time of their marriage and the state of New York recognizes the marriage, the VA would as well.

Additionally, the “VA now accepts all same-sex marriages, regardless of the Veteran's current or former place of residence.” This is a critical provision since it provides eligibility for VA benefits to same-sex spouses regardless of state of residence.

Can a Child of a Deceased Veteran Get a VA Loan?

Surviving Children and dependents are not eligible for a VA home loan.

Animated question markFrequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. Are surviving spouses exempt from the VA funding fee?
A.  According to the VA, a surviving spouse may be excluded from paying the VA funding fee if the surviving spouse of a veteran who died while on duty or as a consequence of a service-related disease or disability.

Q. Can a surviving spouse get a VA Interest rate reduction loan?
A. A surviving spouse, who obtained a VA home loan with the veteran before his or her death (regardless of the reason of death), may obtain a VA guaranteed interest rate reduction refinancing loan. Also called a VA IRRRL for short.

Q. Can a surviving spouse obtain a VA mortgage if he or she remarries?
A. Couples who remarried after age 57 on or after December 16, 2003 may use the VA loan eligibility of a deceased spouse to purchase a home with no down payment, precisely as the veteran would have.

Remarried couples who fulfill the prior conditions are not required to pay the VA funding fee. As a consequence, their loan amount and monthly payment will be smaller.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the VA loan program provides a valuable opportunity for surviving spouses. There are some specific requirements that must be met in order to qualify, so it is important to understand the process and what is required. With the help of a knowledgeable real estate agent, it is possible to navigate the system and get the home you deserve.