Lynne A. Valenti
Cabinet Secretary

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Legal Services for Older Individuals

Since 1975, the Older Americans Act has authorized funding for legal assistance.  As the state agency responsible for the administration of the Older Americans Act in South Dakota, the Department of Social Services’ Division of Adult Services and Aging recognizes the need to provide legal assistance specifically to individuals age 60 and older, with the greatest economic and social need.

An Adult Services and Aging staff member provides referrals, education, and awareness regarding abuse, neglect, and exploitation in addition to information about federal, state and local laws.

Types of Legal Assistance

Adult Services and Aging contracts with two legal service programs, East River Legal Services and Dakota Plains Legal Services, to provide legal assistance to eligible individuals.  Each legal service program has its own policy regarding the types of cases accepted. 

Legal service programs cannot accept fee generating cases and usually do not handle criminal cases.

The legal skills furnished by the programs include counseling and advice, negotiations, advocacy at administrative hearings, litigation and appeals.  The types of assistance available include the following:

Advance Directive
  • Informs those who care for individuals how they want to be treated in a medical crisis.
  • Creates draft documents to assist individuals and families in making health care decisions when unable to make them during a medical crisis.

Age Discrimination

  • Consult a lawyer to find out if legal rights have been violated due to denial of credit, insurance or employment because of age.

Consumer Issues

  • Provides advice on the meaning of legal terms, rights of the buyer, and warranties contained in purchase contracts.


  • Provides legal assistance to the individual who wants to file a petition for guardianship.
  • Ensures individuals are given notice and opportunity to be heard prior to appointment of a guardian.


  • Provides a lawyer for landlord tenant disputes, eviction, etc.
  • Help to start grievance procedures and inform a tenant of his or her rights to appeal.


  • Explains common insurance policy terms, such as: partial limitation, coinsurance, insurable interest, insurable value, waiting period and waiver.
  • Ensures the individual gets what he or she wants to purchase.

Public Benefits

  • Establishes an individual's eligibility for various government benefits, such as: Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Fuel Assistance, Food Stamps, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Unemployment Benefits and Worker’s Compensation.
  • Provide help with appealing denials, suspensions, refusals to pay claims, reductions in benefits or in checking clerical errors.


  • Prepare a will as well as inform the individual of the consequences of any decisions he or she may make.

Legal Service Programs

Contact Information

The Division of Adult Services and Aging does not directly provide legal assistance services. The Older Americans Act legal assistance in South Dakota is provided by the following contractors:

East River Legal Services
335 N. Main Avenue #300
Sioux Falls, SD  57104
(605) 336-9230
Dakota Plains Legal Services
PO Box 727
Mission, SD  57555
(605) 856-4444
Dakota Plains Legal Services also has branch offices in Pine Ridge, Eagle Butte, Fort Thompson, Rapid City, Sisseton and Fort Yates, N.D.