Explained: Refill & Track Prescriptions With The VA

Did you know that the Department of Veterans Affairs offers a prescription refill and tracking service?

The VA Prescription Refill and Tracking tool lets you refill your VA prescriptions, track deliveries, and build lists to help you keep medications organized properly to best manage your health conditions. This tool is provided for eligible veterans and you can sign up with the VA MyHealthEVet portal.

Who Is Eligible For The VA Prescription Refill And Tracking Tool

Veterans are eligible to sign up for and use this tool if they meet all the following conditions:

  • The veteran is enrolled in VA health care, and
  • The veteran is registered as a patient in a VA health facility, and
  • The veteran has a refillable prescription from a VA doctor that is filled at a VA pharmacy and processed by the VA Mail Order Pharmacy.

In order to use the VA Prescription Refill and Tracking Tool, eligible veterans must have or sign up for one of the following online accounts:

  • A verified me account created at VA.gov
  • An Advanced or Premium My HealtheVet account
  • A Premium DS Logon account (used for eBenefits and milConnect)

What You Can Use The Prescription Tool To Do

Qualifying veterans can fill and track most medications, but there are certain exceptions which we will describe below. In most cases, veterans who sign up can use the service to:

  • VA medicines refilled or renewed
  • Wound care supplies
  • Diabetic care supplies
  • Other items available via the VA Mail Order Pharmacy

There are certain exceptions. The VA official site says that in certain cases a VA health care team may decide that certain medications cannot or should not be shipped. This may be handled on a case-by case basis. “In these cases,” the VA official site says, “…you’ll need to pick up your prescription from the VA health facility where you get care.”

Furthermore, some pain medicines (especially narcotics and other controlled substances) may not be refillable except via a new prescription from the VA provider every time you need to refill. This too may be handled on a case-by-case basis.

Other uses for the VA Prescription Refill And Tracking Tool include:

  • Refill your VA prescriptions online
  • Review past and current VA prescriptions
  • Track delivery prescriptions mailed within the past 30 days
  • Get email notifications on when to expect prescription delivery
  • Create lists to keep track of all your medicines, not just VA prescribed medications

What To Do If Your Prescription Does Not Arrive

The VA advises patients to begin by contacting the customer support division of the delivery service responsible for delivering the medication. That contact information and/or phone number is on delivery company’s official website.

If your delivery issue is something the company cannot assist you with, it may be necessary to contact the VA facility where the prescription was obtained-the phone number for the VA Pharmacy is located on the prescription label.

Other Important Information You Should Know

The VA will not mail prescriptions to overseas locations. Prescription mailings are limited to the United States and its territories

Prescriptions mailed to qualifying veterans by the VA “usually arrive” within 3 to 5 days according to VA.gov. For individual shipments you can review them on the website of the delivery service shown in the online Rx Tracker.

You should avoid gaps in your prescriptions by requesting all refills at least 10 days prior to running out of the current prescription.

What To Do If You Mistakenly Receive Another Person’s Prescription Package

Mix-ups sometimes happen and you may get a delivery that was not intended for you. If you receive someone else’s prescription order, the VA requests that you DO NOT attempt to open the contents of any package not addressed to you.

“If the mailing label is for someone else, return the package to the delivery service. If it has your name on the package but it is not your prescription, contact the VA facility that issued the prescription,” according to the VA official site.

What To Do If You Need To Stop A Delivery

In cases where you need to stop a prescription from being sent, contact the VA facility that issued the prescription as soon as possible. This is especially important for those who may need to travel for long periods, those who may be changing addresses, etc.

What To Do If You No Longer Need The Prescription

If you have a condition that has improved and no longer requires the prescriptions you have been taking delivery of, contact the VA as soon as possible to make arrangements. It is very important to know that the VA Pharmacy Service doesn’t accept returned medications-including opioids and other controlled substances.

To safely dispose of medication you no longer need, follow the following steps:

  • Dispose of all prescriptions in their original container. If there is a situation where these substances accidentally get ingested by someone else, this can assist in a poison control situation.
  • Before disposing of your medication, be sure to completely obscure your name and prescription number on the label with a permanent marker or by other means to protect your private information.
  • The VA official site advises patients to add water pills to dissolve them. You can also mix pills or liquid drugs with inedible material (potting soil, kitty litter, etc.)
  • Place the medicine bottle in a container you cannot see through. Tape it securely shut. Place this container in the ordinary trash bin and not in a recycle bin.

In most cases, do not flush unneeded medications down the toilet or pour them down the drain.

Why? The VA advises, “Drugs flushed down drains can harm the water supply that we drink, and wildlife. Dispose of drugs the right way to prevent someone taking them by accident, or through an illegal sale. Protect children and pets from harm caused by accidental ingestion.”

That being said, there is advice from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which states that flushing certain “potent pain medications: may be necessary. The FDA official site states that “a small number of medicines “ may be especially harmful “and, in some cases, fatal with just one dose if they are used by someone other than the person for whom the medicine was prescribed.”

You may feel uncomfortable with, or have an objection to, flushing medications. In such cases you can search in your local community for prescription “take-back” programs. According to Pharmacist.com, “city or county governments’ household trash and recycling services and community pharmacists are good sources of information for locating medicine take-back programs.”

You can also find links to national prescription drug take-back events from the official site of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

VA Education Benefits: Dependents

VA education benefits for dependents include options under the GI Bill, Yellow Ribbon program, and scholarship funds. If you are a military dependent wondering what your options from the VA might be, much depends on the nature of the military member’s service, time spent in uniform, and what GI Bill program the member signed up for at the start of their military career.

If you are eligible for any of the programs listed here, you will need the military member’s proof of service, your own proof of status as a military dependent, and other documentation as required by each individual program. You may also be required to submit bank information in order to receive VA benefits via Direct Deposit.

VA Education Benefits For Dependents: The GI Bill Transfer Option

Those who signed up for and are qualified to use the Post 9/11 GI Bill have the option to transfer some or all of the time remaining on the GI Bill to a dependent. Both eligible spouses and dependent children researching higher education should consider the transfer option in addition to any other type of financial assistance available.

Transferring GI Bill benefits can be complicated for some who are transitioning out of military service and back into civilian life; VA rules state that transferring GI Bill benefits must be done while the military member is still in the service. And the VA official site reminds service members that the Department of Defense has the final say in who is eligible (or ineligible) to transfer these benefits.

Once GI Bill benefits have been transferred to a dependent, the recipient is still required to apply with the Department of Veterans Affairs in order to receive and use them. GI Bill transfer recipients must be enrolled in the Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System (DEERS) and be eligible for benefits at the time of transfer to receive transferred benefits.

Who can transfer Post 9/11 GI Bill education benefits to a military dependent? The service member must meet the following criteria:

  • 10 years of service in the armed forces (active duty and/or Selected Reserve) on the date of approval, is precluded by either standard policy or statute from committing to four additional years and agrees to serve for the maximum amount of time allowed by such policy or statute.
  • Transfers must be submitted and approved while the service member is still on duty.
  • Served a minimum of six years (active duty and/or Selected Reserve) on the date of transfer approval and agrees to serve four additional years in the armed forces.

Signing up for this does not affect the basic ability to apply for other types of VA dependent education options; some educational assistance programs may require you to have used up or otherwise be unable to use GI Bill benefits. Others may be viewed as a supplement to other education assistance open to you.

The Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) Program

This VA program provides education and on-the-job training for eligible dependents of veterans with VA-rated medical issues deemed permanently and totally disabled due to a service-related condition. The program is also open to eligible dependents of veterans who died while on active duty or as a result of a VA-rated condition caused by or associated with military service.

45 months of education benefits maximum are available, but thanks to ruling updates, some may be eligible for as many as 81 months of GI Bill benefits “if they use the Survivors and Dependents Educational Assistance program in conjunction with an entitlement from other VA education programs” according to the VA official site.

DEA benefits may be available to the dependent children or spouses meeting the following criteria:

  • A Veteran who died or is permanently/totally disabled as the result of a service-connected disability.
  • A Veteran who died from any cause while such permanent and total service-connected disability existed.
  • A service member missing in action or captured in line of duty by a hostile force.
  • A service member forcibly detained or interned in line of duty by a foreign government or power.
  • A service member hospitalized (or getting outpatient treatment) for a service-connected permanent and total disability and is likely to be discharged for that disability.

Other requirements include the following:

  • Dependent children must be between the ages of 18 and 26.
  • Some dependents can apply before age 18 and to continue after age 26 depending on circumstances.
  • Marriage does not prevent dependent children from applying.
  • Dependents serving in the military cannot apply for this benefit while on active duty. To pursue training after military service, your discharge must not be under dishonorable conditions.
  • Dependents in the military can apply to the VA for an extension of the eligibility period (see the age restrictions for dependent children above) by the number of months/days equal to active duty time.

The Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship

Fry Scholarships are offered to qualifying children and spouses of service members who died in the line of duty after September 10, 2001. This scholarship pays at the 100% level for a maximum 36 months of benefits. Dependent children are eligible once they turn 18 unless the dependent has graduated high school.

Dependent children may be married and according to VA.gov, “A child may be married or over 23 and still be eligible. If they became eligible before January 1, 2013, their eligibility ends on their 33rd birthday. The age limitation is removed if the child became eligible on or after January 1, 2013”.

Eligible surviving spouses do not have a time limit to apply for a Fry Scholarship, but are no longer able to apply once remarried (where applicable).

Choosing Between The Fry Scholarship and DEA

Some won’t qualify for either the Fry Scholarship or the VA DEA program. Others may qualify for both, depending on circumstances. However, VA loan rules are set up to allow only one program to be used; applicants must make an “irrevocable election between the two programs” when applying.

In certain cases, a dependent may be technically able to apply for both programs but only one at a time can be used, and the maximum combined benefits are still capped at 81 total months of full-time learning total regardless.

Applying For VA Education Benefits For Dependents

To apply for any of the education benefits programs you see here, certain documentation will be required including discharge paperwork for the military member where applicable, or a statement of service from a currently-serving military member’s chain of command showing the military member is an active member in good standing.

You will also be required to supply Social Security Numbers, copies of military orders, dependent IDs, and school transcripts where applicable. In some cases, it may be required to show proof that you have been accepted into a learning program, apprenticeship, training, or college. You may need to submit paperwork to the nearest VA regional office, or fill out online forms and submit electronically where required.

You should also be prepared to supply bank information including routing numbers, account numbers, and address/phone information for your bank; this is so the VA (or the school, where applicable) can send your benefits payments to you once accepted into the program of your choice.

VA: Urgent Care Benefits

Thanks to the passage of the VA Mission Act of 2018, veterans who are eligible for VA health care benefits have expanded access to urgent care treatment as an option for minor medical issues. Updates to the program in 2019 allows veterans to access health services via “approved non-VA medical providers” according to the VA official site.

The Purpose Of The VA Mission Act

The VA Mission Act was signed into law in 2018 and provides for changes in the VA health care system including requirements that the VA “coordinate the furnishing of hospital care, medical services, and extended care services” to insure:

  • Scheduling of medical appointments in a timely manner.
  • Establishing a “mechanism to receive medical records from non-Department providers.”
  • Ensuring continuity of care and services.
  • Ensuring coordination “among regional networks if the covered veteran accesses care and services in a different network than the regional network in which the covered veteran resides.”
  • Establishing measures to prevent eligible veterans from having “a lapse in care resulting from errors or delays by the Department or its contractors or an unusual or excessive burden in accessing hospital care, medical services, or extended care services.”

The VA Mission Act, “subject to the availability of appropriations” must provide hospital care, medical services, and extended care services even if the VA itself “does not offer the care or services” a veteran needs under certain circumstances.

The availability of urgent care and walk-in care is one of the ways the Act has expanded the availability of care under the VA health care system.

Eligible Veterans can, thanks to the Act, receive care or treatment from an urgent care provider as long as that provider is a part of the VA network of authorized urgent care centers.

When The VA Will Pay For Urgent Care Services

Veterans who need urgent care may have that care paid for by the Department of Veterans Affairs when the following applies:

  • The medical care provided is not on the list of excluded services such as preventive medicine or dental care.
  • The Veteran is eligible for the urgent care benefit.
  • The care provider is part of VA’s contracted network of community providers.

Veterans who choose to use an urgent care facility that is not in the VA network should assume they will be required to pay the entire cost of such services.

VA Payment For Prescriptions Issued During An Urgent Care Visit

The Department of Veterans Affairs agrees to cover the cost of or fill the prescriptions given during an urgent care visit to a provider in the network.

Routine care prescriptions must be filled by the VA, and when prescribed medication with a supply of 14 days or less, eligible veterans are allowed to have the script filled at “a contracted pharmacy in the VA network or the prescription can be filled at a non-contracted pharmacy.”

In cases where a non-contracted pharmacy is used, the veteran is required to pay out of pocket and submit a claim to be reimbursed with a local VA medical facility. Prescription medication may or may not require a copay.

The Department of Veterans Affairs official site advises that an annual medication copayment cap applies for veterans in VA Priority Groups 2 through 8 (see below). The co-pay cap is $700 per calendar year. Veterans in VA Priority Group 1 have no medication copayment required.

How To Check If You Are Eligible For Urgent Care Under The VA Mission Act

The VA official site directs veterans to check with their local VA medical facility to check eligibility for these services and VA payment for them. Veterans who are eligible may locate an authorized urgent care facility near them by checking the VA provider locator tool on its official site.

To find an available urgent care provider in VA’s contracted network of community providers, Veterans will be able to use VA’s provider locator on VA.gov.

There Is A Difference Between Urgent Care And Emergency Care

The Department of Veterans Affairs notes a marked difference between urgent care and emergency care. The services offered for urgent care under the VA Mission Act include, according to the VA, “…minor injuries or illnesses that are not life threatening.”

Emergency care, which is not part of the scope of the Urgent Care benefit, is defined by the VA as any medical service required without delay to avoid threats to life or limb.

Urgent Care Services Provided Under The VA Mission Act

Qualifying veterans may seek urgent care from an in-network provider for “non-emergent symptoms” for conditions including flu, minor injuries such as sprained ankles or wrists, bruises, skin irritation, injuries that require splints or casts, earache, painful urination or related issues. Care may be given in two basic types of care centers in the VA network; Urgent and Retail.

The VA defines these two locations as follows:

  • Urgent care facilities may include locations “whose purpose is to diagnose and treat illness or injury for unscheduled, ambulatory patients seeking immediate medical attention” that is non-emergency care. Care at these locations may include splints, casts or other attention that may be more advanced than the services required from a Retail outlet.
  • Retail may be a walk-in clinic, pharmacy, or independent clinic. These may be inside a retail outlet such as WalMart or Target. The mention of these two retail chains does not imply they are actually part of the VA network-you will need to check with the VA to find authorized, in-network locations near you. Do not assume that WalMart or Target are authorized VA urgent care providers.

Remember, if you have a medical condition that is not well-understood or may be complicated to explain to a new care provider, it may be best to discuss treatment with your primary care provider first. Any situation that may be a threat to life or limb should not be dealt with using urgent care services; you may require emergency treatment instead depending on circumstances.

“Special Authority And Exposure”

In the above VA copayment rules for urgent care, there are certain exclusions (see above) for special authority and exposure cases. What does this mean? VA.gov defines “special authorities and exposure” as “those related to combat service and exposures.” This can include but may not be limited to:

  • Agent Orange
  • Military Sexual Trauma
  • Active duty at Camp Lejeune
  • Project Shipboard Hazard and Defense (SHAD/Project 112)
  • Southwest Asia Conditions)
  • Presumptions applicable to certain Veterans with psychosis and other mental illnesses
  • Exposure to ionizing radiation

VA Urgent Care Benefit Copayment Issues

You may be required to make a copayment for authorized VA urgent care services, and that co-pay may differ from other copayment requirements you have experienced under the VA health care system.

The nature and amount of the copayment you are responsible for depends on your VA priority group and the number of times you visit an in-network urgent care provider within the year.

  • Copayment Rules For VA Priority Groups 7-8: A modest copayment applies for each visit.
  • Copayment Rules For VA Priority Groups 1-5: No copayment for the first three visits during a calendar year. For all visits beyond the first three per year a modest copayment applies.
  • Copayment Rules For VA Priority Group 6: No copayment for the first three visits during a calendar year in cases where the visits are related to “special authority” or exposure. If the visit is not related to “special authority” or exposure, there is a modest copayment per any visit. For those who meet the “special authority” or exposure requirement, there is a modest co-pay for every visit after the third one.

For all VA priority groups, there is no copayment required for visits specifically for flu shots only. Furthermore, flu shot-only visits “do not count as a visit for the number of visits in a calendar year for eligible Veterans in priority groups 1-6” according to VA.gov.


VA Benefits: Spouses & Dependents

When Americans join the United States military, their spouses and/or dependents are eligible for a wide range of benefits, allowances, education assistance, and more for the service member and family. The benefits available from the military are not quite the same as those offered to spouses and dependents from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The VA focuses much of their efforts in helping spouses and dependents of military members who have died or have been seriously injured in the line of duty as a result of military service, etc. This emphasis is narrower than the DoD benefits offered to servicemembers, but the list of programs includes a range of areas that can be helpful for family members.

Qualifying spouses, surviving spouses, and dependents of veterans or currently serving military members may be eligible for one or more important VA benefits. These benefit areas will have varying requirements, application time frames, and benefit duration.

VA Life Insurance Benefits for Surviving Spouses and Dependents

Military spouses are permitted to convert “spousal coverage under Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (FSGLI)” to an individual plan of insurance with a private insurance company within 120 days of the veteran’s separation from the military. This is permitted without proof of good health.

Those named as beneficiaries of all VA life insurance programs “receive a tax-free monetary death benefit” that has no restrictions on use. Furthermore, those named as a beneficiary under SGLI, VGLI, FSGLI spousal coverage, or TSGLI programs may use the VA’s Beneficiary Financial Counseling Services and Online Will Preparation Services which provide assistance without the need of hiring legal counsel.

The Department of Veterans Affairs also offers an Accelerated Benefit Option, for those with insurance coverage under SGLI and VGLI. Accelerated benefits allows “access to up to half of the value” of the applicable insurance policy if the member has a terminal illness and is diagnosed with fewer than nine months to live.

VA Disability Compensation for Spouses And Dependents

The Department of Veterans Affairs Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) program offers monthly benefits to surviving spouses and dependents, “in recognition of the economic loss caused by a Servicemember’s death during military service, or by the death of a Veteran as a result of a service-connected disability” according to the VA.

These benefits may also be available under qualifying circumstances for the survivors of a veteran whose death is not service-connected if the veteran was VA-rated as being 100% disabled due to service-connected reasons.

VA DIC Eligibility Requirements

To qualify for VA DIC, a surviving spouse must be:

  • Married to a Servicemember who died as a result of military service
  • Married the Veteran before January 1, 1957 OR;
  • Had a child with the Veteran, AND lived together with the veteran continuously until the Veteran’s death or, if separated, was not at fault for the separation, AND is not currently remarried OR;
  • Married the Veteran within 15 years of discharge from the period of military service in which the cause-of-death disease or injury started or was aggravated OR;
  • Was married to the Veteran for at least one year

Surviving spouses who remarry on or after December 16, 2003, and on or after turning 57 years old are permitted to apply for and/or continue receiving DIC.

To qualify for VA DIC, a surviving dependent must be:

  • Not included on the surviving spouse’s DIC, AND
  • Unmarried, AND
  • Under age 18, or between the ages of 18 and 23 and attending school.

VA DIC for Qualifying Dependent Parents

There is an additional program offering compensation to surviving dependent parents of servicemembers or Veterans if the veteran’s death is judged to be service-connected. This VA compensation program is known as Parents’ DIC and is income-based.

VA Education and Training Benefits for Spouses, Dependents, and Survivors

Education benefits are available to spouses and dependents. The Department of Veterans Affairs official site states that family members caring for service-disabled veterans may qualify for career counseling and skills training. Similar opportunities may also be available for dependents of a veteran who qualify for the VA Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance program. Opportunities for qualifying family members include the following under the VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program:

  • Personalized support – Receive academic counseling, re-adjustment assistance, and more may be available depending on need, resources, space available, etc.
  • Career Assistance – helping caregivers find the best career options based on ability and interest
  • Benefits coaching – Learn how to get the most mileage out of VA benefits and other resources

You can get help with an application for these benefits via your nearest VA Regional Office.

VA Health Benefits for Family Members of Veterans

According to the VA official site, certain qualifying circumstances make the family members of Veterans eligible for health benefits. These programs may reduce the cost of health care. In some cases, certain expenses may be eliminated entirely depending on the program and its funding.

These programs include, but may not be limited to the following:

  • Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA)
  • Children of Women Vietnam Veterans (CWVV)
  • Spina Bifida (SB)
  • Foreign Medical Program (FMP)
  • Camp Lejeune Family Member Program (CLFMP)
  • Caregiver

Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA)

CHAMPVA is a health care benefit program offering coverage for qualifying spouses, and dependents.

Dependents and spouses of veterans are eligible when the veteran:

  • Has a VA-rated service-connected medical condition making them permanently and totally disabled, or;
  • Was VA-rated as permanently and totally disabled due to a service-connected condition at the time of death, or;
  • died of a service-connected medical condition, or;
  • died on active duty, and the dependents are not otherwise eligible for TRICARE benefits.

Children of Women Vietnam Veterans

This VA healthcare benefit program is an indemnity plan intended for children with certain birth defects born to women Vietnam Veterans. It offers reimbursement for medical care-related conditions associated with certain birth defects, except spina bifida which is a condition covered under a separate program (see below).

Qualifying criteria for this VA program includes:

  • Children whose biological mother is a Vietnam Veteran
  • Children conceived after the date on which the Veteran entered the Republic of Vietnam between February 28, 1961, and May 7, 1975
  • Children who have “one of the covered birth defects, as determined by the Veterans Benefits Administration” according to the VA.

VA Spina Bifida Program

VA provides benefits payment, vocational training, plus VA-financed health care benefits to “certain Korea and Vietnam Veterans’ birth children” diagnosed with spina bifida (SB). If you are the birth child of a Vietnam Veteran and have been diagnosed with spina bifida defined “as all forms or manifestations of spina bifida (except spina bifida occulta),” you may qualify.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, eligibility for this program requires a diagnosis of spina bifida “as the VA defines it.” This means any form of the condition except for spina bifida occulta. Speak to a physician if you are unsure whether your condition qualifies.

How the Whole VA Loan Process Works

For many borrowers, applying for any kind of mortgage may seem daunting. But, when broken down, this rundown of 6 steps to getting a VA loan is easy to understand.

1. Select a VA-approved Lender

On the surface, it might appear that any lender will do. However, if you dig a little deeper, you may discover that not all lenders are the same. First, only lenders approved by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs can originate VA mortgages. Secondly, some lenders focus primarily on conventional loans, while others concentrate almost exclusively on the VA loan program for military clients. Using a VA specialty lender with extensive knowledge about the VA loan process vs. a lender who only funds a few VA mortgages a year may translate into an easier and quicker loan process.

2. Obtain a Certificate of Eligibility (COE)

An experienced lender can help you obtain what’s called a Certificate of Eligibility (COE). The COE will prove that you meet initial eligibility standards for VA loan benefits. It will also let the lender know how much entitlement you can receive, which is the amount the Department of Veterans Affairs will guarantee on your VA loan. To get your COE, you’ll need to give your lender a bit of information about your military service. Usually, a COE can be acquired online instantly through a lender’s portal or through the eBenefits portal on the va.gov website. Those servicemembers or surviving spouses whose COEs cannot be obtained online will have to get theirs by mail. A VA lender or the VA can help direct you to the right resource for your specific situation.

3. Go House Hunting and Sign a Purchase Agreement

The fourth step is usually one borrowers enjoy because they get to look at homes they might consider buying. Working with a real estate professional who specializes in the VA process can help you get the most out of your benefits. This is true because the VA allows certain fees and costs to be paid by the seller (if both you and the seller agree), and a knowledgeable agent will know this and help you negotiate seller-paid fees. Once you’ve got a signed purchase agreement, you can move forward in the VA loan process.

4. Pre-Qualify for Your Loan Amount (optional)

Pre-qualifying is important, but not required. By choosing to complete this step you can save some time and potential surprises later in the process. To pre-qualify for your loan amount, you’ll have a candid conversation with your VA loan professional about your income, credit history, employment, marital status and other factors. Giving your lender complete details during the pre-qualifying step can help prevent surprises later during underwriting.  The pre-qualifying step can also reveal areas that need improvement before you can be approved, such as credit or debt-to-income ratio.  While a prequalification letter gives you a ballpark price range for house hunting, it does not guarantee that you will be approved for a loan, and your lender will later have to verify the information you provide. To get a loan requires later final approval by underwriting once all documents have been received and reviewed (see Step 5).

5. Lender Processes Application and Orders VA Appraisal

A signed purchase contract is the document you’ll need to finish your initial application. Once your lender has the contract, they will order the VA appraisal. Here again, not just any appraiser will do. Only a professional who is certified to perform appraisals to VA standards can evaluate the home being considered for VA financing. The VA appraiser will make sure the price you’ve agreed to pay for the home corresponds with the current value. Another very important part of the VA appraisal is to inspect the home to make sure it meets the VA minimum property requirements (VA MPRs). However, the VA appraisal does not take the place of a home inspection, which focuses on code violations, defects and the condition of the property. While many borrowers have heard horror stories about the length of the VA appraisal process, the Department of Veterans Affairs gives the appraisers 10 days from order to completion barring extenuating circumstances. While you’re waiting for appraisal documents, you’ll be busy submitting documents of your own to your VA-approved lender to show you have the ability to qualify for the loan. If the home passes appraisal for value and VA minimum property requirements, and it’s verified by the lender that you qualify for your loan, the underwriter will give his or her stamp of approval.

6. Close on Your Loan and Move In

After being approved by the underwriter, all that is left to do is close and move in. During closing, the property legally transfers from the former owner to you. Closing is a step that requires you to sign documents that confirm you understand and agree to the terms of the loan. You will need to provide proof of homeowners insurance and, if required, pay closing costs. Once you’ve signed all your closing documents, you’ll get the keys to your new home.

While these steps may not happen in the order above or be a required part (such as prequalification)*, they represent the typical process for the applicant in obtaining a VA purchase loan. Your lender may need to take other steps.

VA Loans: Understanding Occupancy Rules

Most veterans say that some of the more confusing aspects of qualifying for a VA home loan are the occupancy requirements. This usually stems from when a service member gets their PCS orders and has to move. Will they be able to rent the house? Will they be able to get a second VA loan at their new location? Are there penalties or fines for not meeting this requirement?

While it can seem daunting, understanding the occupancy requirements of a VA loan is actually quite simple if you break it down.

1. What is “reasonable time”?

VA loan occupancy requires that the veteran move into the home within a “reasonable time.” But what does that mean? The VA requires that the borrower move into the home within 60 days after the VA loan closes.

As you’ve read, there are exceptions to that rule. The 60-day rule may be waived if you meet both of the following conditions:

  • There is a specific event in the future that will make it possible for you to occupy the property on that date
  • You certify that you will occupy the property at a specific date after your VA loan closes

Generally, the VA does not make exceptions if you want to set an occupancy date for more than 12 months after your loan closes.

2. Primary residence requirements

You must certify that you intend to occupy the property as your home. Second homes and investment properties do not qualify for a VA loan.

3. Spouse occupancy

The occupancy requirement is satisfied if your spouse will be living in the home while you are on active duty or otherwise unable to personally occupy the home. A spouse may also satisfy the occupancy requirement if the veteran cannot due to long distance employment issues.

4. Deployed active duty service members

If you are deployed after purchasing your home, your occupancy status is not affected by the deployment. You are considered to be in a “temporary duty status” and are able to provide a valid intent to occupy certification. This requirement is met regardless of whether or not your spouse will be occupying the property while you’re deployed.

5. Dependent occupancy

A dependent child may occupy the home while their parent or parents are deployed or on active duty away from the home. It’s important to note that just by having the dependent in the home does not satisfy the requirement. You must take additional action by having your attorney or dependent’s legal guardian make the occupancy certification. Please keep in mind that many lenders will not recognize dependent occupancy as satisfying the VA loan occupancy requirement.

6. Retirement occupancy

If you will be retiring within 12 months from the date of your loan application, you must include a copy of your application for retirement and proof of requirement stability. Although the VA requires moving in to the home within a “reasonable time,” retiring veterans may be able to negotiate a later move-in date. You have the option to apply for a delay (up to 12 months) in the occupancy requirements.

7. Failure to meet requirements

If you do not occupy the home as agreed under the terms of your VA loan, what happens next is at the discretion of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Even though it seems as if there are a lot of “if, then” rules to define occupancy, it’s really not as complicated as it appears. The VA works hard to help borrowers understand how to fit their situation into these guidelines, and help set you up for success. Understanding your rights and benefits is something that a qualified Home Loan Expert is more than willing to help you with. Remember to always work with a lender who is skilled and specialized in the nuances of VA loans.

8. Delayed occupancy

Typically, a delayed occupancy results from property repairs or home improvements. If extensive changes are being made to the property that prevent you from occupying it while the work is being completed, your occupancy requirements will be considered “delayed.” However, you must certify that you intend to occupy the property as soon as the work is completed.

VA & Non-VA: Veteran Burial Benefits

There are a variety of veteran burial benefits provided by VA and non-VA sources. Claiming VA death benefits (including burial benefits) is never an easy thing to do, but early planning is the key to making sure a loved one’s final wishes are honored just as much as military service.

Many veterans want to be buried with honors in state or national veterans cemeteries; planning ahead helps make sure those honors are available when the time comes. Remember, loved ones have VA and non-VA options for veteran burial benefits so it’s important to know all the available options before deciding.

There are state burial benefits for veterans offered from most state governments, and state-run veterans cemeteries are an option to consider if a VA national cemetery is too far away. While you cannot draw VA benefits AND state benefits for burial at the same time, knowing your options is important when it comes time to make an informed choice.

VA Burial Benefits

In 2014 the Department of Veterans Affairs streamlined its burial benefits program to speed payments and help to families in need.

Those VA changes allow payment of burial benefits without requiring a written application. According to the VA official site, the “most eligible surviving spouses” will get “basic monetary burial benefits at the maximum amount authorized in law” thanks to automated processing.

The VA pays a flat rate for burial and plot or interment that includes a payment for non-service-connected death ($300 at the time of this writing and subject to change). A service-connected death qualifies for a burial benefit of $2,000 (at the time of this writing and subject to change).

Other VA Payment Considerations

The VA official site has several additional considerations depending on circumstances:

  • For deaths on or after April 1, 1988 (but before October 1, 2011) VA will pay $300 toward burial and funeral expenses (for Veterans hospitalized by VA at the time of death).
  • For non-service-related deaths on or after December 1, 2001 (but prior to October 1, 2011) $300 is offered toward burial and funeral expenses in addition to a $300 plot allowance or interment allowance.
  • For deaths on or after December 1, 2001, but before October 1, 2011, VA offers up to $300 toward burial and funeral expenses and a $300 plot allowance or interment allowance.
  • The VA provides a yearly revision for burial / plot allowances for deaths occurring after October 1, 2011 which began in fiscal year 2013 based on the Consumer Price Index for the preceding 12-month period.
  • For deaths on or after April 1, 1988 (but before October 1, 2011) $300 is offered toward burial and funeral expenses for Veterans hospitalized by the Department of Veterans Affairs at the time of death.

Who Is Eligible To Receive the VA Veteran Burial Benefit

VA benefit guidelines require the recipient of VA burial benefits to meet a specific set of criteria including but not limited to the following:

    • The Veteran has any discharge other than Dishonorable.
    • The applicant was financially responsible for the veteran’s funeral, and have not been reimbursed by another source.
    • The Veteran died because of a service-related disability, OR
    • The Veteran was receiving, or entitled to receive, VA pension or compensation at the time of death, OR
    • The Veteran died while hospitalized by VA, or while receiving care under VA contract at a non-VA facility, OR
    • The Veteran died while traveling to or from care at VA expense to or from a specified place for the purpose of examination, treatment, or care, OR
    • The Veteran had an original or reopened claim pending at the time of death and was entitled to compensation or pension prior to the date or death, OR
    • The Veteran died on or after October 9, 1996, while a patient at a VA-approved state nursing home.

Other VA Burial Benefits

VA-provided burial benefits may also include headstones or markers, military funeral honors, and burial in a VA National Cemetery.

The VA advises there are situations which may require you to contact the VA national cemetery for assistance including scheduling burial honors for those who were on active duty at the time of death, and the following:

  • Information pertaining to hours, services, and benefits unique to a particular cemetery
  • Request for disinterment
  • Interment cancellation
  • Interment rescheduling
  • Updates in information initially sent to the Scheduling Office
  • Request for a relocation to another national cemetery

VA burial benefits do not include managing burial services at non-VA facilities including state cemeteries.

How To Apply For The VA Burial Benefit

There are several ways to apply for the VA burial benefit. You can apply online at Vets.gov, you can fill out and mail in a paper application which must consist of VA Form 21P-530, Application for Burial Allowance which must be sent by U.S. postal mail to the VA Pension Management Center in your state.

You can also visit a regional VA benefit office, or get the help of an accredited Veterans Service Officer at an agency such as the DAV, VFW, state veterans’ affairs offices, etc.

In most cases, starting your planning early is the best approach, but know that you may not be able to reserve an actual plot or similar physical space until the time of need; most pre-need planning has to do with making the right preparations rather than reserving the physical internment space itself.

VA Documentation Requirements For The VA Burial Benefit

VA benefit rules state that proof of death is required to claim the VA burial benefit, and all applicants for this benefit will need to submit bills and receipts showing that the applicant was financially responsible for burial.

This will include the need for a statement from the funeral home or other service provider that shows the following information:

  • The name of the deceased Veteran
  • The nature and cost of the funeral or memorial services
  • Nature and cost of any merchandise purchased
  • The amount of any credits offered to the payer
  • The amount of any remaining unpaid balance for services, merchandise, etc

Time Limits For Applying For VA Burial Benefits

Time restrictions depend on whether the veteran had a death identified by the VA as service-connected or not. For non-service connected VA burial benefits, there is a two year time limit to apply following the veteran’s burial or cremation.

Those who were not eligible for VA burial benefits due to a veteran’s dishonorable discharge but later had the discharge upgraded by a military discharge review board have two years from the updated discharge to apply.

For service-connected deaths, there is no time restriction or deadline to apply for a burial plot, interment allowance, or other VA burial benefits.

When VA Will Not Pay Burial Benefits

No VA burial benefit is available in cases where the service member died on active duty, was serving in Congress at the time of death, or was a federal prisoner at the time of death.

Non-VA Burial Benefits

Burial benefits are not exclusive to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Most states have a state veterans cemetery that may provide similar benefits to qualifying families.

Each state has different requirements for interment; some may require state residency for a minimum number of years, there may be varying discharge requirements, and spouses may or may not be able to get burial benefits in addition to the service member depending on circumstances.

State veteran burial benefits often include military honors, a burial flag, and a memorial certificate depending on the state.

Veterans Burial Benefits at a Private Cemetery

Burial benefits when a veteran’s family chooses the loved one to be buried in a private cemetery may include a government headstone or marker, a burial flag, and other assistance. VA benefits are not available for spouses and dependents buried in a private cemetery.

The scale and scope of state veteran burial benefits will vary depending on the state, the facility, and other variables.

When you are engaged in pre-need planning with a state-run veteran cemetery or a private cemetery, be sure to ask 12 important questions about veteran burial benefits including free gravesites for veterans and related issues:

  1. Does the facility or the state require a vault or grave liner? Who pays for the liner?
  2. For private cemeteries, does a “free gravesite for veterans” require any additional purchase requirements of any kind including the purchase of a second gravesite for another loved one?
  3. For state cemeteries, will veterans with any discharge (other than dishonorable) get burial benefits or is the cemetery restricted to those with Honorable discharges only?
  4. How far in advance should pre-need appointments be made?
  5. How soon can arrangements be made once the veteran has passed away?
  6. For private cemeteries, what is the cost of having a spouse interred next to the veteran?
  7. If an additional gravesite is required, where is the site and how much is the fee?
  8. Check on any local restrictions on the headstone or marker on the grave?
  9. Is there an additional cost for the placement and maintenance of a free government headstone/grave marker?
  10. It is best to make pre-need arrangements in advance, but pre-need discussions usually do not include the physical reservation of a plot or place of interment. Is this true of the cemetery you’ve selected?
  11. Is there a comparison available between state veteran burial benefits offered in your state and the VA equivalent?
  12. Are there any residency requirements for veteran burial benefits at a private cemetery?

Information For Those Who Wish To Be Buried Overseas

The American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) is a U.S. government agency responsible for 24 overseas military cemeteries. However, most of these honor servicemembers serving in World War One and World War Two.

You can search the ABMC database for those honored in these cemeteries, but the ABMC official site does not list ongoing programs or services for those who wish to be buried overseas in such facilities.

New Rules for VA Loan Limits

The VA home loan benefit is one that most consumers would be thrilled to have; a mortgage loan with no down payment, no VA-required mortgage insurance, and the lower interest rates commonly associated with government-backed home loan programs.

The VA loan program has weathered many difficult times including the housing crisis of 2008, for much of the agency’s existence, the fundamentals of the VA mortgage program have not seen dramatic changes.

VA loan program rules are often adjusted or modified by legislation, changes to the program itself, and to accommodate changes in the industry.

Of the most significant changes to the program, some of the biggest come not as a result of legislation directly aimed at helping veteran mortgage loan applicants, but as a consequence of legislation addressing a need among Vietnam-era service members. One of those was the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019.

VA Loan Program Changes: A Summary

The “Blue Water Act” makes some important changes to the VA home loan program. Some of them are alterations to help pay for some of the measures required by the act, others are procedural changes, while still others are fundamental alterations to the basic structure of VA loans. The changes include:

    • Purple Heart recipients are now exempt from paying the VA loan funding fee the same as those who receive or are entitled to receive VA compensation.
    • No upper loan limit on VA mortgages as of 1 January 2020.
    • An increase in the VA Loan Funding Fee for all non-exempt borrowers.

Agent Orange And “Herbicide Exposure”

The need for the legislation arises from large numbers of claims associated with Agent Orange or other herbicides that may have been used during the Vietnam War.

Agent Orange was used during the conflict as a means to destroy crops, forest cover, and expose North Vietnamese troops (also known as the NVA or North Vietnamese Army) to American forces and those of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN).

Agent Orange, and likely other herbicides in use at the time in-theatre, contained a chemical known as dioxin which is known for causing birth defects, cancer, neurological, and even psychological problems.

To give you an idea of how wide-ranging the use of Agent Orange and dioxin was at this time, History.com reports more than 20 million gallons of Agent Orange were sprayed on portions of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos for a full decade between 1961 and 1971.

The use of Agent Orange created medical and psychological issues for a high volume of cases on both sides of the Vietnam conflict.

What Is The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019?

This legislation, signed into law in 2019 and effective starting in January of 2020, created relief for veterans with medical conditions presumed to have been caused by Agent Orange or “herbicide exposure” during service in Vietnam.

Specifically, “…a veteran who, during active military, naval, or air service, served offshore of the Republic of Vietnam during the period beginning on January 9, 1962, and ending on May 7, 1975, shall be considered to have been incurred in or aggravated by such service, notwithstanding that there is no record of evidence of such disease during the period of such service.”

This means that a veteran who files a VA medical claim “on or after” September 25, 1985, and before January 1, 2020, for a disease (covered by the legislation) and the claim “was denied by reason of the claim not establishing that the disease was incurred or aggravated by the service of the veteran” may be entitled to VA compensation for that claim.

This is true unless “there is affirmative evidence to establish that the veteran was not exposed to any such agent during that service.”

In short, those who served in Vietnam filing certain types of VA medical claims are presumed to have had exposure to Agent Orange or other herbicides and would have those claims approved for financial compensation from the VA.

How The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 Affects Your VA Home Loan Benefit

The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act is also known as House Resolution 299 and addresses a variety of Vietnam-era, Korean War-era, and Gulf War-era issues associated with VA medical claims. But the law also includes other items in the bill including a removal of VA loan limits for approved transactions, and an increase in the VA Loan Funding Fee.

Removal Of The VA Loan Guaranty Limit – No VA Loan Limits!

The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act Act amends existing VA program guidelines with changes designed to “expand maximum guaranty amounts for purchase, construction, and cash-out refinance loans greater than the Freddie Mac conforming loan limit”.

That means that if you apply for a home loan using your VA loan benefits, you can apply for a loan for the most expensive home you can find (assuming you have full VA home loan entitlement) and the VA guaranty of the loan is 25% of the loan amount with no down payment.

Essentially, there is no upper limit on the price of the home you wish to purchase using a VA loan as of the law’s implementation date of 1 January 2020. However, if the asking price and the appraised value of the home do not agree, the VA loan amount will be based on the lower of the two amounts.

The borrower cannot be required to proceed with the loan in such cases because when the VA loan amount is lower than the asking price, the borrower must pay the difference in cash and cannot finance that amount. That’s something a borrower may choose to do, but VA loan rules prohibit forcing the borrower to buy the home and pay that difference out of pocket.

VA borrowers who wish to use their entitlement to apply for home loans “equal to or less than $144,000 regardless of Freddie Mac” are not affected by the rule changes and should expect their transaction to be handled in the traditional way.

Loan limits still apply for those who have more than one active VA loan, only partial entitlement available or those who have defaulted on a previous loan.

The Purple Heart Exemption For The VA Loan Funding Fee

The VA Loan Funding Fee is an expense associated with VA mortgages which most veterans must pay unless they receive or are eligible to receive VA compensation for service-connected medical issues.

Thanks to House Resolution 299, those who still serve on active duty and were awarded the Purple Heart are now also exempt from paying the funding fee (as of 1 January 2020) the same as those who receive or are entitled to receive VA compensation for their service-related conditions.

The Resolution also provides for the first increase in the VA loan funding fee program in some time.

A Higher VA Loan Funding Fee Starting In 2020

The VA loan funding fee is on a sliding scale with the lowest fees reserved for first-time VA borrowers, and higher fees for those who have used VA loans before. Prior to the new law, VA loan funding fees for active duty military members buying for the first time were set at 2.15%, with a higher fee for subsequent use set for the same active duty buyer set at 3.3%.

Under the new law, the VA loan funding fee for an active duty first-time borrower is increased to 2.30% and the subsequent use fee set at 3.60%. Other VA loan funding fees are increased too; higher fees may apply for VA refinance loans and other transactions.

What You Need To Know About The VA Loan Limit Rules

VA loan rules under the “Blue Water Act” do remove the loan limits and permit a borrower to potentially buy a house with any price. But VA loan rules cannot compel the lender to approve the transaction in cases where the loan officer feels the borrower cannot realistically afford the mortgage. It will still be required of the borrower and lender alike to prove the loan is affordable and sustainable.

Borrowers will still need to financially qualify for the VA home loan, and lenders must still prove on paper that the loan is affordable. Just because some of the VA loan program requirements have changed does not remove the lender’s need for due diligence.

VA Compensation & Disability Pay

The Department of Veterans Affairs does not award compensation automatically, a review of the veteran’s health, medical records, medical history with the claimed condition, and related factors will all play a part in that review.

The veteran is responsible for scheduling a claims appointment. This can be done as part of final out processing, but may also be accomplished within a specified time frame after leaving military service.

Those applying for VA compensation benefits may also be eligible to sign up for VA healthcare benefits and a Veteran’s Health Identification Card. VA compensation for service connected medical issues is not necessarily tied with VA healthcare benefits, but if you have a VA rated disability you should definitely explore the options open to you under the VA health system.

What To Do When Applying For VA Compensation For Service-Connected Conditions

It is best to apply for VA compensation before your final out-processing appointment, but this is not always possible. In any case, service members will need to supply copies (not originals) of discharge paperwork such as the DD Form 214 for active duty military members, medical records, supporting documentation for the medical claim, and a completed VA Form 21-526.

Depending on the type of claim you are making, it may be necessary to get supporting evidence that shows how your condition affects your ability to work, socialize, pursue hobbies, etc. This may come in the form of medical records, but also personal statements from yourself, family, co-workers, etc.

You may also need to show how your condition has worsened over time. All medical records pertinent to the condition, and even those that are not, should be submitted as evidence.

Keep in mind that your family status may play a role in how the VA approaches your compensation claim. If you are awarded a VA disability rating of 30% or higher, changes in your family status may result in changes to your payments.

Never pass up the opportunity to get additional consideration for your condition, especially if you are entitled to more from the VA as a result of having a family.

You will be required to notify the Department of Veterans Affairs in such cases; changes to your claim or payments of the claim in these circumstances are never automatic.

Service Connected Disability Explained

The Department of Veterans Affairs official site describes VA Disability Compensation as a benefit paid to qualifying veterans “disabilities that are the result of a disease or injury incurred or aggravated during active military service.”

VA rules also allow for compensation “for post-service disabilities that are considered related or secondary to disabilities occurring in service and for disabilities presumed to be related to circumstances of military service” even in cases where such issues are not discovered until after the veteran has retired or separated from the military.

Depending on the nature and severity of the conditions evaluated by the Department of Veterans Affairs, you may be entitled to a monthly payment based on the VA disability percentage rating assigned to your condition.

Some medical conditions can only warrant a 10% rating (such as tinnitus or other hearing-related issues), while others may be rated as much as 50% or higher depending on the condition. Servicemembers with dependents may receive additional consideration for higher VA disability payments.

Getting Help With Filing And Tracking VA Claims

You do not have to apply for VA medical benefits or compensation alone; there are many agencies known as Veterans Service Organizations or VSOs that are authorized to act on your behalf to file with the government. This may be especially important for those who have fears that their medical claims may be denied, or for those who have been denied and want to file an appeal.

Who are these VSOs? There are too many to list comprehensively but the most highly visible include AMVETS, the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), DAV, and others. Help may also be available from your state government; check the state department of veterans affairs (not the same as the federal-level Department of Veterans Affairs) to see what services may be offered to veterans who need VA claims assistance.

The VA official site has a list of accredited Veteran Service Organizations you can use to find help filing your VA claim or appealing a VA decision to deny your claim.

VA Disability Ratings: Subject To Review And Not Always Permanent

The Department of Veterans Affairs reserves the right to change VA disability rating schedules, screening requirements, and even revisit the VA award itself to see if the condition has improved or gotten worse over time.

In some cases you may get a letter from the VA instructing you to participate in a re-examination of your claim; in others the veteran herself may wish to have the claim reviewed. This is especially true in cases where the veteran feels the condition is not improving or getting worse.

Do not skip the re-examination process. Doing so may subject you to a more arbitrary decision from the VA.

VA Loans: Why Are They So Powerful Today?

The VA home loan program has been around for seven decades. This long-cherished benefit has backed more than 24 million military mortgages since 1944.

But in many ways, it’s more important today than ever before.

Many lenders tightened their lending requirements after the housing market collapse. Access to credit is starting to loosen, but it’s still tough for many service members and veterans to secure a conventional mortgage.

That’s a big reason why the historic VA loan program is experiencing a resurgence. VA purchase loans have increased eight years in a row, with younger veterans and service members leading the way.

To be sure, VA loans aren’t automatically the best fit for every veteran. But they feature significant benefits that can make homeownership possible for those who might otherwise struggle to secure financing.

Here’s a look at four reasons VA loans are so powerful in today’s housing market.

1. Flexible requirements

VA borrowers don’t need a sky-high credit score to secure a mortgage. Lenders are generally looking for a credit score of about 620, which is considerably lower than what you’ll typically need for conventional financing.

VA lenders can also have flexible benchmarks when it comes to your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, which looks at the relationship between your monthly income and major expenses. While the VA wants to see a DTI ratio of 41 percent or less, some lenders may allow a higher percentage for otherwise qualified borrowers.

VA borrowers can typically look to secure a new mortgage just two years removed from a foreclosure, short sale or bankruptcy.

2. No mortgage insurance

On top of that, all FHA borrowers and conventional buyers who can’t put down 20 percent are required to pay for mortgage insurance. That can add a couple of hundred dollars to your monthly mortgage payment.

Conventional borrowers can often get out from under their mortgage insurance once they’ve built up about 20 percent equity in the home. But FHA borrowers now pay their mortgage insurance for the duration of their mortgage term, which is often 30 years.

Despite the $0 down payment, VA loans don’t come with or require mortgage insurance. That’s a huge benefit that helps veterans stretch their buying power.

3. Rates and closing costs

Contrary to common misconception, interest rates on VA loans are competitive with conventional mortgage rates, if not consistently lower. That’s another potential cost-savings benefit for VA homebuyers. Lower rates can mean lower monthly payments.

The VA also limits what veterans pay in closing costs. In fact, VA borrowers are flat-out barred from paying some costs. Sellers can pay all of a buyer’s mortgage-related closing costs and up to 4 percent of the purchase price in concessions, which can cover things like prepaid property taxes and homeowners insurance.

There’s no guarantee a seller will pay some, all or any of your closing costs. But these protections and benefits help put VA borrowers in a great position to get the most from this increasingly powerful loan option.

4. Zero down payment 

Being able to purchase a home without making a down payment is a tremendous benefit for military borrowers.

Many homebuyers must spend years saving enough money to cover the usual minimum down payment for conventional (5 percent) or Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans (3.5 percent). On a $300,000 purchase, you’re talking about a nest egg of $15,000 for conventional and $10,500 for FHA.

VA borrowers don’t need to come to the closing table with that kind of cash. That allows veterans and service members to get into homes sooner.