South Dakota State Veteran Benefits


We endeavor to keep this information current, but it is subject to change without notice.


Free Tuition for Veterans

The State offers free tuition at state institutions of higher learning to honorably discharged military residents who saw service after August 1, 1990 and who received a campaign, expeditionary, or service medal for combat operations…if they are not eligible for a federal education benefit such as the GI Bill. For each month of qualifying service, the veteran can receive one free month of schooling. Program stipulates a minimum of one academic year and a maximum of four.

Free Tuition for Dependent Children

Children under 25 years who had a South Dakotan military parent killed in active service may qualify to attend a state-funded learning institution without paying tuition. The qualifying veteran parent needed to be a resident for six months or more, right before entering the military.

Reduced Tuition for South Dakota National Guard

The Mount Rushmore State has elected to offer Guard members half-price tuition at public colleges. Undergraduates get a maximum of 128 credits and 32 graduate credits under the reduced tuition program.

Free Tuition for Some National Guard Dependents

Resident children under 25, whose resident Guard parent died (or became 100% disabled) as a result of their National Guard service, can receive an education at state colleges without paying tuition. This benefit extends to the spouse or surviving spouse as well.


Veterans get federal and state employment preference for all public jobs including local municipalities and school district jobs.  Preference points are added after the Veteran passes any required examination. Provided the veteran meets the minimum qualifications, he or she will be interviewed for the open position. 

An eligible disabled veteran who cannot work because of disability can assign his or her hiring preference points to the spouse. Similarly, a surviving spouse of an eligible veteran can receive the preference points for which the deceased veteran would have qualified.


Property Tax Exemption

South Dakota offers a property tax exemption to veterans who have physically lost their legs or the use of their lower extremities. The exemption also applies to any Veteran who is permanently and totally disabled with service-connected disabilities. Should they pass, their spouses remain eligible for the property tax exemption unless they elect to remarry.

South Dakota Veterans Bonus

The State pays a bonus of up to $500 to military personnel if they entered the military as a South Dakotan resident and meet other qualifications. For example, they must have been legal residents for at least six months immediately before going on active duty, and they must have served with these special considerations and timelines:

  • August 2, 1990 to March 3, 1991 – No exclusions; all service eligible for bonus
  • March 4, 1991 to December 31, 1992 – Service must be in a hostile area, qualifying for SW Asia Service Medal
  • January 1, 1993 to September 10, 2001 –Service in a hostile area; qualifying for campaign or service medals 
  • September 11, 2001 forward – [OIF/OEF] No exclusions; all service eligible for bonus


Hunting & Fishing Licenses

Veterans who are residents of the Mount Rushmore State who meet other criteria can get a 4-year hunting and fishing license by paying only an administrative fee. To qualify, veterans must be entitled to receive VA Special Monthly Compensation, be former POWs, receive Social Security Disability payments, or have a VA service-connected disability rating of least 40 percent.

Active duty military residents serving outside state can hunt and fish without a license when they’re home on leave. If they specifically wish to hunt migratory birds, they must still purchase a stamp. 

State Park Admission

South Dakota resident veterans who would qualify for free hunting and fishing licenses by virtue of being a former POW, receive special VA Compensation and the like, are also eligible for free state park access with one exception: Disabled veterans must be 100% disabled (instead of 40%). With that one exception, qualifying veterans receive free state park admission and they only pay half price for camping and electric hookups.


The Michael J. Fitzmaurice State Veterans Home, located in Hot Springs, is the only such facility in the State. Admission requires the veteran applicant to either be a resident of South Dakota or to have been one in the past five years. He or she must also have an honorable discharge or be the spouse of such a veteran. 

The home cannot provide assisted living services, so applicants must be able to care for themselves or need long-term nursing care.  Married couples apply for admittance together, unless the veteran requires nursing care. Independent living and nursing care residents pay differing rates based on level of care and level of assets with $50,000 being the benchmark.


South Dakota has no state veterans’ cemeteries, but they host three national cemeteries:

  • Black Hills National Cemetery in Sturgis
  • Hot Springs National Cemetery in Hot Springs
  • Fort Meade National Cemetery in Fort Meade

Neither Fort Meade or Hot Springs is accepting new burials except for subsequent interments of veterans or eligible family members.  This leaves the veterans cemetery in the Black Hills the main option. Eligibility follows national guidelines.

Burial Allowance

The State may pay up to $100 to defray some of the costs associated with burial or funeral expenses of any honorably-discharged veteran, spouse, or surviving spouse if the immediate family or the deceased’s estate lacks the funds to pay.  

Headstone Setting Fee

If the Veteran was a resident for at least a year before death, or a year before he or she entered military service, South Dakota can pay $100 for setting a government headstone or marker.



You can find more information regarding these benefits and other programs at the South Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs website.