Why VA Loans Get Denied: Underwriting Rejection Rates & Tips

by | VA Loans | 1 comment

Navigating the VA loan process can feel like a daunting journey, especially when you’re aiming for that dream home. While VA loans offer significant benefits for veterans and active military members, including no down payment and no private mortgage insurance, they’re not immune to denials in underwriting. Understanding the frequency and reasons behind these denials can arm you with the knowledge to better prepare your application.

The truth is, VA loan denials do happen during the underwriting stage, but they’re not as common as you might think. The key to successfully securing a VA loan lies in knowing what underwriters are looking for and how to present your financial situation in the best light. Let’s dive into the specifics of VA loan underwriting denials, shedding light on how often they occur and how you can navigate the process with confidence.

Understanding VA Loans

VA loans, designed specifically for veterans and active military members, stand out due to their unique benefits. Unlike conventional loans, VA loans provide the opportunity to purchase a home with no down payment, which significantly reduces upfront costs. Furthermore, you’re not required to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI), a common expense for borrowers who put down less than 20% on other types of loans. This exemption translates into considerable savings over the life of the loan.

The Department of Veterans Affairs backs VA loans, offering a guarantee to the lender in case of borrower default. This guaranty reduces the risk for lenders, often resulting in more favorable terms and interest rates for you. Additionally, VA loans come with limits on closing costs, further protecting borrowers from high expenses at the time of purchase.

Eligibility for a VA loan depends on specific service criteria, including length and period of service. Generally, those who’ve served 90 consecutive days during wartime or 181 days during peacetime, as well as those with more than six years in the National Guard or Reserves, qualify. Certain surviving spouses are also eligible.

The underwriting process for VA loans, while thorough, is designed to accommodate the financial situations of veterans and active military members. Underwriters assess your credit, income, and debt, alongside the VA’s guidelines, to ensure you can afford the home. Despite the streamlined process and flexible guidelines, denials can occur if the underwriting findings reveal financial instability or discrepancies.

By understanding these key components of VA loans, you’re better equipped to navigate the application and underwriting process. Keeping your financial information accurate and up-to-date maximizes your chances of approval, allowing you to take full advantage of the benefits these loans offer to veterans and their families.

The Loan Approval Process

After getting a grasp of the basics of VA loans, including eligibility and the benefits attached, it’s crucial to delve into the loan approval process. This journey from application to final approval involves several key steps, and understanding these will help you navigate the path with more confidence.


Firstly, obtaining pre-approval from a lender is a significant initial step. This involves submitting financial documents, such as W-2s, tax returns, and pay stubs, for a thorough review. Pre-approval not only gives you a clear idea of your budget but also demonstrates your serious intent to sellers.

Property Appraisal

Once you’ve found a home and are under contract, the property will need to pass a VA appraisal. The appraisal ensures the property meets minimum property requirements set by the VA, concerning safety, sanitation, and structural integrity. Unlike a traditional home inspection, this appraisal protects the lender by ensuring the property’s value meets or exceeds the loan amount.


The underwriting phase is where many applicants feel the tension, as this is where loans can get denied. However, understanding what underwriters look for can alleviate some of this stress. They scrutinize your income stability, debt-to-income ratio, and credit history closely. The VA’s leniency with credit scores compared to traditional loans does not mean they overlook financial responsibility. Underwriters also verify your eligibility for a VA loan during this phase, ensuring all service requirements are met.

By ensuring your finances are in order, choosing the right property, and understanding the importance of each step in the VA loan process, you’ll improve your chances of smooth sailing through the loan approval process. Preparedness and compliance with each step’s requirements are key to successfully securing a VA loan.

Statistics on VA Loan Denials

Understanding the frequency of VA loan denials during the underwriting process is crucial for veterans and active military members considering this financial path. Recent data reveals that VA loans boast one of the lowest denial rates among all mortgage types, a testament to the effective design of VA loan requirements and the Department of Veterans Affairs’ support. However, denials do occur, with rates fluctuating based on various factors including credit scores, debt-to-income ratios, and issues related to the property appraisal.

In a recent year, the denial rate for VA loans was approximately 9.8%, significantly lower than the denial rates for conventional loans, which stood at around 14.5%. This discrepancy underscores the VA’s commitment to assisting veterans and active military members in achieving homeownership. The primary reasons for denials include credit history, insufficient income relative to debt, and the property failing to meet the VA’s Minimum Property Requirements (MPRs).

Among the reasons listed, credit history issues are the most common cause for denial, highlighting the importance of financial readiness when applying for a VA loan. The VA doesn’t set a minimum credit score requirement, but lenders typically look for scores of 620 or higher. As for debt-to-income ratio (DTI), the VA recommends a maximum DTI of 41%, but exceptions can be made with strong compensating factors.

Property-related issues, though less frequent, pose a unique set of challenges. The VA appraisal process is rigorous, ensuring that homes funded by VA loans are safe, structurally sound, and of sufficient value. Issues that can lead to denial include significant safety hazards, structural damage, or valuation discrepancies.

By understanding these statistics and common denial reasons, you can better prepare for the VA loan application process. Ensuring your financial health, choosing the right property, and meeting all VA loan requirements will increase your chances of approval and pave the way toward homeownership.

Top Reasons for VA Loan Denials in Underwriting

After understanding the VA loan process, its benefits, eligibility criteria, and the statistical advantage of approval rates over conventional loans, it’s crucial to delve into why some applications still face denials during the underwriting phase. Identifying these reasons equips you with the knowledge to navigate potential obstacles effectively.

  1. Insufficient Credit Score: VA loans boast more lenient credit requirements than many conventional loans, yet lenders often seek a credit score of at least 620. If your score falls below this threshold, your loan may not pass underwriting.
  2. High Debt-to-Income Ratio: Lenders analyze your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) to ensure you can comfortably manage monthly mortgage payments alongside your existing debts. A DTI higher than 41% might lead to a denial unless you have strong compensating factors such as a large reserve of cash.
  3. Employment and Income Stability: Your ability to prove stable and reliable income can be a deciding factor. Frequent job changes or income inconsistency could raise concerns during the underwriting process, potentially leading to loan denial.
  4. Property Issues: The VA has strict guidelines about the properties it will finance. Problems identified during the VA appraisal, such as safety and health hazards or structural issues, might require repairs before loan approval. If these issues aren’t resolved, denial is likely.
  5. Eligibility Issues: While the VA provides flexibility, there are strict rules regarding who qualifies for a loan. Factors such as the length of military service or discharge conditions might affect your eligibility.
  6. Underwriting Errors or Oversights: Sometimes, denials occur due to errors in the application or overlooked information. Ensuring accurate and complete documentation can help avoid such issues.

Understanding these common pitfalls enhances your preparation for the VA loan application process, increasing your likelihood of approval. By addressing potential issues early on, you can navigate the underwriting phase more smoothly, moving closer to securing your new home.

How to Increase Your Chances of VA Loan Approval

Building on the understanding of common denial reasons in the VA loan process, such as credit history issues and debt-to-income ratios, bolstering your VA loan approval chances pivots on addressing these factors head-on. Implementing strategic steps can significantly sway your application towards a favorable outcome.

  1. Improve Your Credit Score: Prioritize clearing outstanding debts and making regular, timely payments. Check credit reports for errors and dispute any inaccuracies. Even a modest increase in your credit score can enhance your loan eligibility.
  2. Lower Your Debt-to-Income Ratio (DTI): Paying down high-interest debts, like credit card balances, can lower your DTI. This demonstrates to lenders your ability to manage loan payments effectively alongside your existing financial obligations.
  3. Stabilize Your Employment: A steady job history indicates reliable income, a criterion lenders closely examine. If you’re eyeing a career change, it might be prudent to wait until after your loan closes.
  4. Select VA-Approved Properties: Focusing on properties that meet VA guidelines avoids complications during the appraisal and underwriting processes. VA-approved homes must be structurally sound, safe, and sanitary.
  5. Save for Closing Costs and Emergencies: While VA loans offer the benefit of zero down payment, preparing for unforeseen expenses and saving for closing costs can position you as a well-prepared borrower.
  6. Consult a VA Loan Specialist: Leveraging the expertise of professionals who specialize in VA loans can provide guidance tailored to your specific situation, helping navigate intricacies of the VA loan process.

Each step reinforces your financial stability and readiness, addressing lenders’ primary concerns during underwriting. Adhering to these practices not only elevates your profile as an applicant but aligns with the overarching goal of securing a VA loan, marking a significant stride towards homeownership.


Securing a VA loan may seem daunting, but understanding the common pitfalls and how to navigate them can significantly improve your chances. Remember, the key is in preparation and addressing the factors underwriters scrutinize most. By focusing on improving your credit score, managing your debt-to-income ratio, ensuring employment stability, choosing the right property, and saving for potential closing costs, you’re not just ticking boxes for approval. You’re also setting yourself up for a stronger financial future. Don’t hesitate to seek advice from VA loan specialists who can provide tailored guidance to your unique situation. With the right approach, you’ll find that securing a VA loan is not only possible but could be smoother than you anticipated.


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