Can a Widowed Wife or the Widower of a Veteran Get a VA Loan?

When a qualified veteran takes out a mortgage, the loan qualifies for insurance from the Department of Veterans Affairs. That protects the lender against loss, which makes it easier for the veteran to get a loan at a more attractive rate. A veteran's surviving spouse also may qualify for mortgage insurance.

Surviving Spouses

A surviving spouse may be eligible for a VA loan if the military member died while in service or from a service-related disability. The surviving spouse of a totally disabled veteran may be eligible even if the disability didn't directly cause the veteran's death. Spouses of prisoners of war or military members missing in action can apply too.


  • The spouse of a dishonorably discharged veteran is not eligible for a VA loan, even if she otherwise qualifies.

Surviving spouses normally have to be unmarried to qualify. However once a widow or widower turns 57, they can remarry and still apply for a VA loan.

Qualifying for Loans

A spouse who wants a VA loan must first apply for a certificate of eligibility, or CE. If the spouse has already established his right to benefits, he submits Form 26-1817,along with the veteran's discharge papers. If he hasn't applied for benefits, he first must submit VA Form 21-534, along with the discharge papers, his marriage license and the veteran's death certificate. The spouse can submit 26-817 through the lender or mail it to the VA.

Having the CE still doesn't guarantee the VA will insure a specific mortgage on a specific house. The VA won't insure a loan unless the applicant is a good credit risk and has enough income to make the monthly payments. However, as VA loans don't require down payments, they're more affordable than a regular mortgage.

The VA only guarantees loans for a personal home, not investment properties. The loan can be used to buy or build a home, purchase and improve the property or make energy-efficient improvements to a home the spouse already owns.

Surviving spouses of someone who died while in service, or of a service-related disability have an extra benefit: they don't have to pay the usual VA fee for guaranteeing a loan.


A spouse who co-signed a VA-backed mortgage can apply for a VA refinance loan -- known as a streamline refinance -- after her spouse dies. This is an option even if the surviving spouse wouldn't otherwise qualify for a VA loan. This has some distinctive requirements:

  • The applicant must be current in the mortgage, with only one late payment in the past year.
  • The new monthly payment must be lower than the old payment, unless the refinance switches from an adjustable rate to a fixed rate.
  • The applicant can't get any cash out of the refinance.
  • The property must have been bought with a VA loan.