VA Disability Appeals in South Dakota
All of the 70,000 Veterans in South Dakota’s should receive the benefits that they earned while in the service, including compensation for any service-connected disabilities that impair their ability to work. The Census Bureau estimates that 20% of these Veterans have a service-connected disability rating, slightly above the 17% national average. However, there are many more South Dakotans who suffered disabling injuries in service yet do not have a VA disability rating or the compensation that comes with it.
At Berry Law Firm we represent Veterans from coast to coast and everywhere in between. We fight for Veterans’ disability appeals at every VA Regional Office in America, and take significant pride in defending Veterans’ rights. If you have been denied VA benefits, or received an inadequate rating or effective date, you could benefit from the help of a South Dakota VA-certified disability advocate. The following article is meant to help you understand the Veterans’ disability benefits process 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.
Even the most thoroughly prepared claim for benefits may not yield the desired result for a Veteran’s initial disability benefits claim. When initial claims are denied, given a lower-than-expected rating, or applied to an incorrect effective date, you can appeal the decision.
There are several different ways to appeal a ruling based on what you believe the VA’s error was. Berry Law helps Veterans cut through the red tape and file high quality appeals that have helped Veterans recover over $100 Million in backpay owed to them by the government. Do not assume that your VA disability claim is invalid just because the first person to review your file did not agree with you.
We have attorneys and advocates in various locations throughout the US, but the location of your attorney does not actually impact the process because all claims are Federally adjudicated. Berry Law has helped Veterans in South Dakota, and each of the other 49 states, along with Veterans living abroad. Our headquarters is right next door in Nebraska, so it is easy to visit, although we have helped thousands of Veterans without requiring them to travel outside their home.
Some appeals processes can last years, but as long as you have preserved your effective date by keeping appeals open, you are entitled to back pay for the whole period of the process.
Most appeals begin with filing a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) with your VA Regional Office. The Regional Office in South Dakota is located at: 2501 W. 22nd St. Sioux Falls, SD 57105. This NOD form notifies the VA that you disagree with the decision that has been made. An NOD can simply state “I disagree and would like further review”, or can include substantial amounts of supporting evidence. Under new processes established in 2019, there are additional ways to get your case quickly reviewed.
The Sioux Falls Regional Office traditionally responds to NODs with a Statement of Case (SOC), which outlines of the case and is sent to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA). The BVA will conduct their own review to reach a decision. If you feel that the BVA has made an incorrect ruling, the next step is to appeal to the CAVC.
If you would like help appealing a VA decision in South Dakota please reach out to us for more information and a free consultation.
Not every South Dakota VA disability attorney is equally equipped to help you bring firepower to your appeal. If you would like to use an attorney, you should pick one that will stick with you for the duration of your case, and who has represented Veterans with every type of appeal. A lengthy history of practicing Veterans law is a good indication that a Law Firm will not abandon you in the middle of an appeals process. Some firms only recently added Veterans Appeals to their Social Security practice and are not invested in actually helping Veterans.
The most difficult trait to evaluate is how effective your lawyer will be at presenting your case with research, evidence, and arguments. While number of years of practice can serve as a proxy, it’s hard to gauge work product until it’s done. Testimonials and reviews can provide additional insight that may help you determine how well the firm has done for other Veterans.
You may also want to focus on attorneys who have actually served in the military. Utilizing a South Dakota VA appeals lawyer who has actually served in the military can facilitate better communication and eliminate the need to explain your military experiences to someone without similar experience. Having shared military values with your law firm can make the process more comfortable and less stressful. Will your law firm understand the intense stress of combat?
Finally, consider the values of the firm to see if they align with your own. This is a law firm that you may be tied to for a decade so be sure that they will be a good partner.
Berry Law Firm was established by Vietnam Veteran John Stevens Berry, Sr. While in Vietnam, Berry successfully defended the Green Berets in a highly publicized murder case, earning him significant national praise. While developing a criminal defense practice, he also represented many Veterans on a pro bono basis against the VA. The firm is now run by John S. Berry, Jr., who retired as a Lieutenant Colonel from the National Guard, after serving in both Bosnia and Iraq during Active Duty periods. John has built a Firm that lives on military tradition and values.
In our ranks are Veterans from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. We have attorneys hailing from each branch, and feature both Officers and Enlisted, who left the service ranking between E2 and O6. Our Veterans have served in Vietnam, Bosnia, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, at sea, and elsewhere around the world, and combined have earned hundreds of awards, ribbons, and commendations for their service. We also have Reservists and National Guardsmen still wearing the uniform. The firm has also received numerous civilian awards for service to Veterans and the community.
We bring both our passion for the military and our passion for the law to help South Dakota Veterans with their legal needs.
Berry Law Firm helps Vets from all over South Dakota, including in:
VSOs in South Dakota
Many Veterans utilize VSOs to file initial claims. The VA recognizes some VSOs to help prepare and present claims to the VA.
Local chapters in South Dakota include:
VFW Posts in South Dakota
American Legion Posts in South Dakota
Some of the VA locations in South Dakota are:
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