For more information, contact: Audry Ricketts (South Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs) at 605-773-8242 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Fall is here and it’s time for all of us to pull out the “fall cleaning checklist.” For most of us, that means raking the leaves, washing windows, checking the weather stripping and caulking, cleaning the gutters, replacing the batteries in the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and getting the snow blower prepped for winter.
For veterans, it’s a good time to locate your discharge papers and have them recorded at your county register of deeds office. We highly recommend that veterans have their discharge papers recorded in case the originals are ever lost, damaged, or destroyed. The register of deeds will retain an image of the veteran’s discharge papers in perpetuity on their secure database. Only the veteran, immediate family member, authorized agent by written request, or the director of the department of veterans’ affairs can request copies of these documents.
Discharge papers are highly valuable to veterans because they are required to prove eligibility for healthcare benefits, pension, compensation, education for veteran or dependents, headstones, burial benefits, veteran identification cards, employment, and membership into veterans’ service organizations.
Discharge papers have a wealth of information contained on them, such as: date and place of entry into active duty, date and place of release from active duty, address at the time of entry and separation, last duty assignment and rank, military job specialty and education, total creditable service, foreign service, type of separation, and a listing of all decorations, medals, badges, citations, and campaign awards.
The time to locate this very important document is now rather than wait until it is needed. It is also important that your family know where it is. Often, claims for veterans or survivor benefits are unnecessarily delayed because the veteran or family cannot locate a copy of the discharge papers.
While at the courthouse recording your discharge papers, stop in to visit the county veterans service officer. A list of VSO’s and their office addresses can be found at: https://vetaffairs.sd.gov/veteransserviceofficers/locatevso.aspx. The recent passage of the PACT Act has expanded VA health care and benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances and our VSOs can answer questions veterans have.
Greg Whitlock, Secretary
South Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs