SSA SCHOOL OFFICIALS FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1. What are the requirements that a school must follow when advertising a school or programs approved for the training of veterans and other eligible persons?
The advertising must not be “erroneous, deceptive, or misleading by actual statement, omission, or imitation” (CFR 21.4252(h)(1) and 21.4254(c)(10)). If it is, the SAA cannot award approval. Rather than saying a school or program is “VA Approved,” samples of correct statements are: ”Approved for Veterans Benefits by the State Approving Agency or VA,” or ”Approved for veterans training.” Although the VA issues payments to the veteran students, it is the State Approving Agency or the VA (after August 2011) that approves the school or program to train eligible persons.
2. Is the school Certifying Official required to monitor veteran-students’ attendance?
The Certifying Official is required to monitor and maintain records of attendance and academic progress. If a veteran-student violates either the attendance policy or the standards of (academic) progress policy, the Certifying Official has 30 days to take action specified in the policy and report the violation to the VA. (38 CFR 21.4254(c)(7)).
3. Do schools have to give credit for all previous education and training?
No, but schools must adhere to the following policy: A veteran-student must report all previous education and training. Schools must evaluate and grant credit, if appropriate**, with training time and tuition reduced proportionately with the VA and veteran student notified. (Accredited schools – 38 CFR 21.4253(d)(3), Non-accredited schools – 38 CFR 21.4254(b)(12) and 38 CFR 21.4254(c)(4)) ** The school evaluates and determines what previous education and training is appropriate for credit.
4. What is the difference between the SAA and the VA?
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) administers programs nationwide for veterans including education benefits. The New Mexico State Approving Agency (SAA), a section of the New Mexico Department of Veterans Services (NMDVS), approves appropriate schools and programs for GI Bill benefits in New Mexico on behalf of the VA while insuring compliance with established standards.
5. What are the requirements for approval of a new program?
Refer to Federal Codes: Approval of Courses (38 CFR 21.4254(c)) – Approval criteria of new programs (38 CFR 21.4251) – Approval criteria for schools that offer only non-college degree (NCD) programs
6. A veteran attending an approved program received a denial letter stating the calendar dates were not approved. What must I do so that the veteran can receive payment?
This may have happened because the VA was not notified of a change in an approved class date at the veteran’s school. Dates for all classes or programs must be submitted for approval. If approved dates are changed, the school must notify the SAA of the change. This information is then forwarded to the VA, which will update the On Line Approval File.
7. I received a federal check from the U.S. Treasury. What is it for?
The VA pays each school an annual reporting fee based upon the number of eligible persons who were enrolled at the end of the calendar year. This fee helps offset the costs associated with certifying the enrollment of eligible students. The VA pays $12 for each student enrolled under any of the chapters noted. The VA pays an additional $3, for a total of $15, if an advanced payment check was delivered on behalf of a student.
8. How does my school become approved for the first time for the training of veterans?
A school official should contact the SAA in writing to request approval for use of benefits by its veteran-students. The SAA will then send an application packet to the school. Upon receiving the school’s application, an SAA education consultant will contact the school to schedule a visit. In addition to conducting an on-site inspection of facilities and equipment to be used for instructional purposes, the consultant will review approval criteria, the application process, and record-keeping requirements with school officials. The facility’s publications and other supporting documentation will be requested for review during the on-site visit and permanent retention by the SAA.
9. Where do I send initial enrollment certifications for students applying for education benefits?
All VA forms related to student enrollments should be forwarded to the VA Regional Processing Office jurisdiction. For New Mexico, the address is:
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Regional Office
PO Box 8888
Muskogee, OK 74402-8888
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Regional Office
PO Box 8484
Muskogee, OK 74402-8484
10. How do I know if my program is approvable?
In general, an institutional program must lead to a vocational, educational, or professional objective as defined in VA guidelines. A consultant from this office will evaluate your program upon request to determine if it meets approval criteria outlined in the appropriate VA regulations.
11. We recently added a new staff member who will be responsible for certifying the enrollment of veterans. How do we get the new staff member listed as a certifying official?
The VA has a Designation of Certifying Officials Form (VA Form 22-8794) that must be updated if you wish to make changes (additions or deletions) in the certifying officials listed at your institution. You may contact the SAA or VA to secure a copy of the form. Complete it and return it to the SAA for processing.
12. I am a new certifying official. Will the SAA visit my school to provide assistance to me?
Contact the SAA to request assistance and orientation in training. Upon receiving a written request, the SAA will then coordinate with you to visit your school.
13. There has been a change in the certifying official at our institution. Who should be notified?
The SAA must be notified if there is a change in the approved certifying official. SAA will contact the school to update approval applications and then forward this information to the VA.
14. A veteran at my school is pursuing a dual degree. May this be approved?
Dual degrees must be approved by the SAA if the student will exceed the number of hours approved for a single degree. Requirements for completion of both degrees must be forwarded to the SAA.
15. Does the two year rule regarding period of operation apply to new degree programs we are adding?
The two year rule requires institutions to have been operational for two years before they can be considered for benefits approval. The two year rule only applies to programs at private schools which do not lead to a standard college degree (a.k.a. non-college degree (NCD) program).
16. A student at our institution has a bachelor’s degree and now wants to earn a teaching certificate. May the teaching certificate be approved?
Yes, the teaching certificate may be approved as a professional objective since it requires state licensure to practice the profession.
17. Where can I find our institution’s assigned facility code number?
The VA assigned facility code for each approved institution appears on the VA approval notice – OLAF Report VA form 22-1998, under facility codes. The facility code number is also on approval documents issued by the SAA. Additionally, the SAA can be contacted to obtain the number.
18. Our college offers programs at branch locations. Must these be approved by the SAA for veterans’ to attend and use their benefits?
All branch locations need individual approval of the SAA prior to certification of a veteran or other eligible person for benefits. Programs not currently approved for the main campus require approval. Variations from approved school catalogs or publications also require approval.
19. How long does it take to become approved?
Normally, a program is reviewed and action is taken within 30 days of the receipt of a complete application.
20. Does New Mexico approve on-the-job training programs?
Yes. If you hire individuals at your school or if your program is an apprenticeship (training 2 – 5 years) or an On-the-Job Training (usually 1 -2 years), you might qualify. If you are interested in becoming an approved on-the-job training program, contact SAA to obtain an application form or download an application from SAA Forms.
21. A veteran recently told me that he did NOT want to transfer any credit hours from his previous college. Does the veteran have an option?
No. A veteran must provide a record of all previous training. The school must maintain a written record which demonstrates that prior credit was evaluated, appropriate credit was granted, and the training period was shortened proportionately.
22. I am a new certifying official at a clock-hour school. What determines if my veteran students will be paid benefits on a full-time basis?
The VA has published requirements that specify what constitutes full-time enrollment at a clock-hour school. If laboratory instruction (practicum) predominates in the curriculum, the student must be in attendance at least 22 clock hours per week to receive full-time benefits. If theory (classroom-type training) predominates, a student must attend 18 clock hours per week. Benefits will be paid at a lesser amount in accordance with VA guidelines specified in 38 CFR 21.4270.
23. What types of programs or schools must receive approval?
Any educational institution that enrolls veterans or other eligible students in high school or post-secondary programs must be approved by either the VA or the SAA in order to have education benefits paid. Examples:
• Colleges and universities.
• On-the-Job Training (OJT).
• Occupational schools.
• Hospital training and residency programs.
• High school diploma, G.E.D., or post-diploma certificate programs.
24. Must I report any changes to my publications, programs, or policies to the SAA?
Yes, failure to report any changes could result in immediate suspension of enrollments and the interruption of benefits to veterans. Changes that must be reported:
• Education programs offered and policies or regulations described in official school publications.
• Programs leading to an educational or immediate vocational goal such as a degree, certificate, post-graduate residency, or non-collegiate technical or trade program.
• Policies on attendance, academic progress, evaluation or credit for prior education and training, and student conduct.
• Specific types of instruction such as television courses, independent study, practical training or internships, and distance learning.
• English-as-a-Second Language or other developmental programs.
• Programs of basic skills, remedial education, and refresher courses.
25. What is the role of the Veteran Coordinator/Certifying Official?
The certifying official, designated by a school or college, acts as that institution’s liaison with the SAA and VA. That individual is looked upon as the institution’s single point of contact. This person informs the SAA of any changes requiring approval. During site and compliance visits, the veteran coordinator/certifying official meets with the VA or SAA staff. Additionally, this individual will submit all veterans certifications, applications, and modifications.
26. How are approvals for testing agencies handled?
Testing agencies must complete the form Licensing & Certification Approval System (LACAS) (SAA) and send it to the SAA at the address below for approval consideration.
Adapted from DVA Wisconsin, SAA website: January 20, 2015
State Approving Agency
5201 Eagle Rock Ave, Suite 2A
Albuquerque, NM 87122
Telephone: (505) 383-2431
Fax: (505) 383-2413