A VA loan is a unique type of mortgage that is guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) specifically for service members. In the devastating event that a veteran or service member passes away, the surviving spouse may be eligible to use the mortgage program.
In this article, we will examine the surviving spouse’s eligibility, how to start the loan process, and overall VA loan benefits.
Can a Service Member’s Spouse get a VA Loan?
Surviving military spouses can utilize the VA loan program if they qualify for the Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012. Previous to 2012, military members must have died of military-related causes for their spouses to apply for a VA loan.
Since then, the eligibility requirements have been updated to include:
- The veteran died in service or from a service-related disability
- The veteran died in service or from a service-connected disability and the spouse did not remarry before they were 57 years old or before December 16, 2003
- The spouse was missing in action (MIA) or a prisoner of war (POW) for at least 90 days
- The spouse was considered totally disabled and then died of unrelated causes
- Surviving spouse did not remarry
It is important to note that the exact eligibility requirements for a surviving spouse can vary based on the type of VA loan they are seeking. Only one of the above requirements must be met to qualify for a VA loan.
If the surviving spouse feels that they will be approved for the Camp Lejeune Families Act, the first step is to apply for a certificate of eligibility or COE.
Starting the VA Loan Process as a Surviving Spouse
If the spouse of a veteran qualifies for the Camp Lejeune Families Act, the first step is to apply for a certificate of eligibility (COE). A COE simply verifies the applicant’s status as a qualifying veteran, service member, or surviving spouse. The COE proves to the mortgage lender that you meet the requirements to take out a VA loan.
The US Department of Veterans Affairs has the form available here for you to print and mail or you can request a COE online through eBenefits. Some lenders have the ability to use an online system called Web LGY to retrieve a copy of your COE.
If you plan to print the form, you will need the following information about the deceased veteran:
- Full Name and Date of Birth
- Social Security Number
- Veterans’ Service Number
- Date of Death
- Periods of Service
- Branch of Service
Once completed, you will need to mail the form to your state’s regional VA office. After you have received your COE, the VA loan process will be the same as if the veteran or service member applied for it themselves.
VA Mortgage Benefits for Surviving Spouses
Surviving spouses who qualify for a VA loan have access to the same benefits that have helped millions of veterans, service members, and military families since 1944. The most common benefits include:
- No Down Payment
- No Private Mortgage Insurance
- Competitive Interest Rates
- Lenient Credit Requirements
- Limited Closing Costs
- No Loan Limits
- No Penalties for Early Payoff
There are a variety of loan options to choose from such as purchase loans, IRRRL, cash-out refinance, and energy-efficient mortgages. Each loan will vary slightly in their requirements and their benefits. There are multiple options that may be helpful to those who are trying to rebuild after the devastating loss of a spouse.
As the surviving spouse, you may even be eligible for a VA streamline refinance loan. A VA streamline is a mortgage refinance option for families that have an existing VA loan. This is a great option to lower the current interest rate or even convert the loan from an adjustable rate to a fixed rate.
One benefit that is often overlooked is that surviving spouses can re-use their VA benefits to buy another home. Once a loan is paid off, the VA benefit can be used to purchase your next home. The benefit can be used repeatedly as long as the spouse meets the credit, income, and financial requirements to be approved for a VA loan.
Navigating the VA Loan Process
If you are a surviving spouse and are looking to purchase a home, but are not sure if you qualify, check your eligibility today or contact the VA Loans for Vets team at (602) 908-5849 to begin the process.