Starting a VA Claim in South Dakota
The process of applying for benefits can begin from any location in the country, regardless of where you served. Most South Dakota Veterans actually served outside of the state, but this does not have an impact on where you file your claim from. You can apply directly online through the VA’s website, or get help from a local Veterans Service Organization (VSO) that specializes in filing initial claims.
To get started, you need to complete VA Form 21-526EZ (a VSO can help with this), or apply online through the VA eBenefits portal. You can also submit VA Forms 21-4142 and 21-4142a if you want the VA to assist in gathering medical evidence on your behalf, which they are required to do at your request. Additional forms that you may need to submit as part of your package include forms for PTSD stressors (0781 or 0781a) and/or Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (21-8940 and 21-4192). Once completed, these forms can be submitted to the VA to begin the disability eligibility process.
As with all states, Initial claims in South Dakota can take a long time to process, although they can be expedited for certain reasons, including terminal illness, Veteran age over 75, homelessness, or financial hardship. It is very common for it to take 4-6 months before receiving a decision back from the VA regarding your initial claim.
It is a good idea to put in an initial claim as soon as possible to establish an early effective date. Once set, the effective date will not change regardless of how long it takes to fully settle a claim, which may last several years depending on the individual claims. The importance of the effective date is that the Veteran is entitled to back pay at the monthly rate they are entitled to reaching from the final decision date all the way back to the effective date. So if you first filed in May, 2014, and finally got your appropriate rating in May, 2019, you would receive 5 years worth of payments in a lump sump that would be the equivalent to having been rated correctly on the day you first filed your initial claim.
You should also know that the effective date can be lost if you don’t maintain appeals for your claims. For example, if you have one year to file a notice of disagreement but miss the deadline, you may be forced to reopen your claim leading to a new effective date. This is one reason it is so important to appeal decisions thoroughly, to keep the effective date in place and get all the compensation you are entitled to. See below for additional information about appealing VA decisions in South Dakota.
Each individual disability claim has its own effective date based on when it was first claimed, so an early effective date for a claim based on knee pain will usually not apply to a gastrointestinal claim initially filed years later.