The VA Loan program offers significant benefits to the spouses of veterans who have passed away either in service or due to a service-related disability. In fact, in several ways, the surviving spouse benefits from the VA loan program are better than a normal veteran’s benefits. This is because surviving spouses have not only lost their husband or wife to military service, but are also very likely to now be in more trying financial circumstances than they were previously. The VA loan program is designed to take care of these surviving spouses and honor the sacrifice that they and their military spouses have made on behalf of the country. But every now and then a question crops up about benefits offered by the VA loan program to spouses of veterans who have not yet passed away.
Often the question is about whether the wife of a veteran can apply for a VA loan using her husband’s entitlement if they’re still married. If they were divorced, it would probably be quite obvious that the former spouse would not be permitted to use his or her ex-spouse’s VA entitlement to get a VA loan. While there are many military families who never find themselves in a situation where the answer to this question is relevant, there are also many families who would be very interested and, in fact, vested in the answer to it. Unfortunately, this is a very difficult question to answer because the answer has a number of variables. First is the VA stance on the matter, which is fairly definitive and the same for the entire country. Second, however, are state laws that affect the way VA loans work in their state.
State laws can often affect the way that VA mortgages work within a married couple, sometimes dramatically. In a state with community property laws, there would be specific laws that govern the obligations and abilities of each spouse in regards to a mortgage taken out by either one of them. Not all community property states have the same set of laws, so it becomes impossible to answer the question without knowing in which state the question is being asked. The difference between state laws in regards to VA mortgages and other mortgages is the primary reason why the question above is a complicated one indeed. So, let’s break things down and get started on the VA stance on the matter and the relevant policies and guidelines.
The VA has rules that cover just about everything, including the eligibility of a veteran to make a new purchase, the guidelines for active duty servicemembers and getting approved for VA mortgages, and the differences between full-time servicemember and Guards and Reservists. Conveniently, the VA also takes care of the spouses of veterans. The VA puts spouses into two categories, based primarily on the status of the veteran spouse. The first category are spouses whose servicemember spouses died while on active duty. The other category is for spouses whose servicemember spouses died as a result of military service. Since the spouse in the question at the beginning still has a living spouse, this does not bode well for them.
Indeed, the VA has established no rule or policy that would allow the spouse of a living veteran to independently seek a VA loan. First, the spouse would need to obtain a “spouse alone” COE, which requires documentation of the veteran’s death, as well as his or her military service. But for those who were hoping the answer to this question was yes, there may still be hope. State community property laws often require both spouses to be obligated on any mortgage that one of the spouses takes out, so even if the veteran spouse has poor credit, the non-veteran spouse can still leverage his or her good credit and employment history and utilize the veteran’s VA loan benefits as long as the veteran is eligible for them.
For spouses that fit into one of the two categories mentioned above, you’ll need to provide all of the documentation that the VA requires to obtain a Certificate of Eligibility (COE). For a spouse in either category, if you’re already receiving Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, you do not need to send anything. If you’re not receiving DIC and your spouse died on active duty, you will need to send a copy of his or her DD Form 1300 (Report of Casualty) and a copy of your marriage certificate. If you’re in the second category, you’ll need to send the a copy of the veteran’s DD Form 214, a copy of the death certificate, and a copy of your marriage certificate.