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VA home loans: Getting your form DD 214

Peter Miller
The Mortgage Reports contributor

The DD 214: this vet’s experience

Long ago, when I left the military, I received two memorable pieces of paper,: an honorable discharge and a form DD 214. I knew what the honorable discharge was all about, but the DD 214 was a puzzle. What was this thing?

It must’ve been important because the separation clerk said with great seriousness, “You want to hang onto this for the rest of your life.”

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What is form DD 214?

Sure enough, right at the top of the form, it said, “THIS IS AN IMPORTANT RECORD. SAFEGUARD IT.”

I did. I stuck it in a file and still have it.

A DD 214 is officially known as a “Certificate of Release or Discharge From Active Duty,” but one court case called it the “passport back to civil life.” That’s a pretty good description of the form’s importance.

The complete guide to VA home loans

One of the key benefits associated with military service is the ability to get VA-backed mortgage financing. To get a VA mortgage, you need a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) and to get the certificate you need a Form DD 214 or its equivalent.

What if you don’t have your DD 214?

According to the VA, you don’t actually need the original DD 214. Copies are perfectly okay.

But what if you don’t have either the original or a copy?

VA mortgage rates are the lowest, so why aren’t more veterans using the program?

You’re supposed to receive a DD 214 when you separated from the military. However, over the years and with moving such paperwork can get lost. This is a common problem. The National Archives reports that it receives 1.2 million record requests each year. Almost half – nearly 700,000 requests – are for separation paperwork.

The good news is that you can get a replacement DD 214. Just go to the official National Archives website.

The bad news is that service is not instant. If you’re now applying for a mortgage or expect to apply shortly time can be a serious issue. The National Archives reports that the National Personnel Records Center “provides certified copies of separation documents within 10 workdays 75 percent of the time.”

The good news

Fortunately, for most VA borrowers, there is a fast, easy and free solution: have your VA lender order your DD-214 electronically.

Veteran homeownership strong thanks to VA mortgages

If you don’t have your form and want to apply for a VA home loan, ask your lender if it has access to the VA’s  Web LGY system. This application can prove your VA eligibility and get you a COE in seconds, as long as your information is in the system.

The VA acknowledges that, “Not all cases can be processed through Web LGY – only those for which VA has sufficient data in our records. However, Veterans are encouraged to ask their lenders about this method of obtaining a certificate.”

How else do you get your DD 214?

Your DD 214 is the magic ticket which can help you get the Certificate of Eligibility. With the COE any lender will know that you’re VA qualified and able to get VA financing.

According to the VA there are several ways to get your COE or equivalent documentation.

First, you can apply online through the eBenefits portal. If you need assistance call the eBenefits Help Desk at 1-800-983-0937. Their hours are Monday-Friday, 8 am to 8 pm EST.

Second, you can send in your application by mail.

Third, not every VA-qualified borrower gets a DD 214. There are other forms, depending our your service and branch. For details see Department of Veterans Affairs COE page.

Why bother to get VA-qualified?

There’s a good argument to be made that VA financing is the best-available mortgage option for those with qualifying service. It requires nothing down. Your mortgage payment can be equal to as much as 41 percent of your gross monthly income if you have no other debts.

VA mortgage cash-out guidelines and requirements

Unlike other loan options with little down, there’s an up-front funding fee but no annual mortgage insurance premiums. Lenders can ignore your credit score – it’s not required by the VA though most will surely look at it.

Instead, VA lenders must look at your residual income. This is the money you have left over at the end of the month. The VA allows different levels of residual income depending on household size and geographic location.

What are today’s VA mortgage rates?

VA mortgage rates are usually among the best available. And when you add in the ability to put nothing down and pay no mortgage insurance, the VA home loan offers amazing advantages over other programs.

Make this great loan even better by shopping for the best interest rate before you sign on the dotted line.

Verify your new rate (Nov 13th, 2019)