Veteran Benefits in South Dakota
For the more than 72,000 veterans living in the state of South Dakota, their honorable service has earned them and their families a long list of benefits and services, at both a state and national level. Knowing how to access these can be bit daunting at times, but numerous helpful resources exist to make it easier.
If you are just beginning to learn about and access your benefits, or if you need help filing or following up on a claim, a great place to start is your nearest Veteran Service Officer (VSO). In South Dakota, every county employ a VSO, and each tribe may appoint one as well (known as a Tribal Veteran Service Officer or TVSO), with an office typically located at the county courthouse or tribal headquarters. There are also six state VSO representatives located in Sioux Falls at the VA Regional Office, as well as state employees located in Pierre at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Building.
These professionals are trained in state, local, and national veteran benefits, as well as the latest legislation affecting veterans, processes for filing claims, and ways to best work with other local networks and resources for South Dakota veterans.
VSOs and TVSOs are knowledgeable in veteran and dependent benefits including, but not limited to: GI loans, compensation, pensions, education, rehabilitation, medical and dental treatment, hospitalization or outpatient treatment, nursing home care, Social Security, alcoholism and drug dependency treatment, employment and unemployment, small business loans, corrections of military records, reviews of discharges, burial benefits, and the protection of veterans' and widows' preferences. You can use the South Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs online VSO/TVSO locator or call 1-877-579-0015 (toll free in South Dakota).
Accessing quality health care is always a primary concern for veterans and their dependents, and South Dakota is home to two main campuses for its U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Black Hills Health Care System. With a location in Fort Meade and in Hot Springs, the VA Black Hills Health Care System provides a wide range of primary and secondary medical and surgical care, Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Program (RRTP) services, and extended nursing home care and psychiatric inpatient services to South Dakota residents and their families. The VA Black Hills Health Care System also supports services at the Black Hills National Cemetery and the Veterans Outreach Centers (Vet Center) in Rapid City, Martin, and Sioux Falls, as well as eight community-based outpatient clinics spread across the state. Additionally, veterans near Sioux Falls can access care at the Sioux Falls VA Health Care System, which includes a 98-bed medical center and support to five nearby community-based outpatient clinics. For these larger facilities, veterans can typically take care of many administrative tasks online through their websites, including checking eligibility, scheduling or changing appointments, and learning about the billing process.
South Dakota currently offers a bonus of up to $500 for current or former eligible members of the Armed Forces who were legal residents of the state for no less than six months immediately preceding their period of active duty and who meet certain criteria, based on the conflict and timeframe of their service. You can check the criteria online or contact your local VSO or TVSO for more information and for an application.
For South Dakota veterans looking to enjoy the state’s recreational and outdoor features, you may be eligible for reduced or free entrance and licenses. For example, qualifying disabled veterans can purchase a $10 hunting and fishing card. Additionally, certain resident veterans may obtain free admission to any South Dakota state park and are eligible for a 50% discount on any camping fee or associated electrical fee. You can get more information online and application forms online, through your local park manager, or through the Game, Fish and Parks office in Pierre.
Senior veterans in South Dakota needing extended care and housing options, the state maintains the Michael J. Fitzmaurice State Veterans Home in Hot Springs. The facility covers more than 190 acres and maintains 52 beds, offering pharmacy services, speech/physical/occupational therapy services, 24-hour professional nursing care, recreation programs, meals, social services, spiritual guidance, transportation services, and a VSO. The facility features an independent living neighborhood as well as a nursing home facility. To be eligible, a veterans must be a resident of the state of South Dakota, or have been a resident in the past five years and discharged under honorable conditions; widows of eligible veterans are also eligible. You can pick up an application from your local VSO/TVSO or at the Veterans Home.
A veteran’s honorable service to his or her country earns full honors at the time of death at no cost to his or her family, including burial, perpetual care, a government headstone or marker, a burial flag, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate. Some veterans may also be eligible for Burial Allowances. For South Dakota residents, the state may pay $100 to help defray the burial and funeral expenses of any honorably discharged veteran or the wife, widow, or widower of a veteran when the estate, or immediate family, of the deceased is lacking in funds to pay the expenses (these funds cannot be paid to another government unit, and survivors must sign an affidavit). The state will also pay $100 towards the cost of setting a government headstone or marker at the grave of a veteran who was a resident of this state for one year preceding entrance into the military service or one year preceding death. Family members should contact their local VSO/TVSO for more information.
South Dakota is home to three national veterans cemeteries, in Black Hills, Fort Meade, and Hot Springs. The Black Hills location is the only national cemetery in the state with openings for interments. Additionally, State veterans cemeteries are located at the Veterans Home, in White River at the Sicangu Akicita Owicahe Veterans Cemetery, and in Kyle at the Lakota Freedom Veterans Cemetery.
South Dakota Veterans Benefit for Assisted Living
The Aid and Attendance pension benefit is available to South Dakota senior veterans and their spouses to help pay for senior care like assisted living, home care, or nursing home care. Here is more information on how the Aid and Attendance benefit helps South Dakota veterans.
Written by Megan Hammons