SAA Approval Process


Public Law 111-377 was published in 2011. It implemented changes to the approval process for VA education benefits (Section 203 pertains). VA Education Service Policy Letter of October 2, 2013, further realigned approval authority for the VA and SAAs.

The Federal Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – Approval Authority
VA is responsible for program approval and changes impacting the following types of training or education:

  • Flight Training

The State Approving Agency (SAA) – Approval Authority
The SAA has new or revised program approval jurisdiction at the following:

  • Accredited and Non-Accredited Programs
  • On-The- Job Training/Apprenticeship Programs
  • High Schools
  • Licensing and Certificates

The SAA is responsible for the approval of ALL NEW schools, training facilities and non-governmental testing organizations.

The following explanation pertains to the approval of programs for which the New Mexico State Approving Agency is responsible.
The New Mexico State Approving Agency (SAA) evaluates, approves, and monitors certain academic institutions, schools, and programs. For veterans or other eligible persons to use the GI Bill® when participating in a program of study, the program must lead to educational, vocational, and/or professional objectives. The GI Bill® may be used for an undergraduate or graduate degree, a vocational certificate or diploma, a high school diploma, or GED (General Education Development certificate). Types of training that may be approved include high school equivalency diplomas, advanced flight training, correspondence training for college work only, or programs leading to a license or certificate required to practice a vocation or profession.
The GI Bill® also can be used for apprenticeship or on-the-job (OJT) training. Contact the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions for information.
The SAA operates under a contract with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as part of the New Mexico Department of Veterans Services (NMDVS) and is located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The New Mexico SAA is under the administration of the VA Regional Processing Office (RPO) in Muskogee, OK.
The Purpose of the New Mexico SAA
SAA responsibilities under federal law are as follows:

  • Inspect, approve and supervise applicable schools and inspect the academic records of GI Bill® recipients.
  • Identify education and training programs, and licensing and certification tests that may be approved for veterans and other eligible persons at applicable schools and testing organizations.
  • Determine whether a school or testing organization complies with established standards, including the equitable treatment of veterans.
  • Identify waste, fraud, or other abuse by persons, practices, or policy connected with educational institutions, training establishments and testing organizations where veterans are using federal veterans’ education benefits.
  • Since the enactment of PL 111-377, SAAs now participate in VA Compliance Surveys (CS) at approved schools and training institutions. In conducting a CS, the SAA will ensure that schools and training institutions and approved programs, are in compliance with all applicable provisions of the laws administered by VA.

The SAA ensures that standards are set and maintained among applicable schools, training facilities and testing organizations prior to allowing veterans or other eligible persons to enroll and use their GI Bill® benefits. The process includes review of the following areas:

  • Academic and training programs or licensing and certification tests
  • Structural facilities, equipment and teaching resources used for education, training or testing
  • Faculty credentials and standards of employment
  • Ownership, leadership, and administration reputation and competence

Other services performed include:

  • Technical assistance regarding approval criteria or GI Bill® benefits
  • Workshops and school visits to train new certifying officials
  • Consumer protection for veterans as they use their VA benefits
  • Outreach services to interested groups and organizations
  • Liaison and referral to related agencies for GI Bill®  recipient assistance

The following veterans’ education benefits, administered by the VA, are available for eligible persons to use when enrolled in approved programs. There are also known by their chapter number within Title 38, USC:

The Approval Process for Schools & Programs
The chief administrative officer or other designated official must request an application for approval to train veterans and other eligible persons under Title 38, USC. The SAA will send an approval application packet or explain why the process should not be initiated. If requested, the SAA can provide assistance in completing the application.
If a school is a proprietary institution that is either for profit or non-profit, the school must be in compliance and good standing with the appropriate State of New Mexico licensing or approval agency. Schools that offer NCD programs only must have been in operation for two continuous years prior to being approved for the use of benefits. Rare exceptions to the two-year rule include federal government contracts, proximity to a military base, or when an approved NCD relocates less than 55 miles away from its initial location.
When the SAA has reviewed the application materials for completeness and compliance, it will make a preliminary decision as to the institution’s ability to be approved. If it is anticipated that the school can be approved, then the SAA will contact the school to set up an on-site approval visit. During the visit, the SAA consultant may inspect the school facilities, examine school records, review licenses or permits, interview students and faculty, and examine program documentation. If approval seems imminent, the SAA consultant may provide on-site training and technical assistance to the school official who will serve as the school’s point of contact for veterans’ education benefits. This person is designated by the VA as the School Certifying Official (SCO).
Following the approval visit, the SAA may recommend final actions to be completed by the school for approval. Upon acceptance of the SAA approval, the VA will send a copy of the approval data to the approved institution and the SAA as entered on the VA’s Web Enabled Approval Management System (WEAMS). The VA will also provide further instruction to the SCO for certifying enrollment for payment of educational benefits. This process generally takes 60-90 days depending upon the completeness of the application materials.
Schools, training facilities and testing organizations that are under the jurisdiction of the SAA for the approval of veterans’ education benefits may contact the SAA to begin the approval process.

Approved Programs in New Mexico – On the United States map, filter your selection by “Program Type,” then select NM.  You will be able to obtain a list of the most currently approved programs in the state. Click here.

SAA Director Marilyn Dykman served in the U.S. Army for eight years as a UH-1H helicopter pilot—then transferred to the Coast Guard, where she became our nation’s first female Hispanic and minority pilot, retiring as a Lieutenant Commander. “Mandy” came to the NMDVS after serving as the Director of the Veterans Resource Center and VA School Certifying Official at the University of New Mexico. She can be contacted at or (505) 383-2418.

State Approving Agency
5201 Eagle Rock Ave, Suite 2A
Albuquerque, NM 87122
Telephone: (505) 383-2431
Fax: (505) 383-2413
SAA E-mail

Marilyn Dykman
SAA Director
Phone: (505) 383-2418
Email: Marilyn Dykman

Nancy Soto
Program Specialist
Phone: (505) 383-2431
Email: Nancy Soto