Basic VA compensation is designed to compensate the veteran for reduced earning capacity with the maximum compensation for a single veteran without dependents being $2769 per month for a veteran who is rated 100% disabled. While this amount is certainly helpful to a disabled veteran, we are often approached by veterans for whom this amount falls short of providing the care they need. In addition, some disabilities affect more than a veteran’s ability to earn. Recognizing these shortcomings in the compensation system, the VA regulations do provide for compensation above and beyond 100% in specific circumstances. This type of compensation is called special monthly compensation and is often referred to as SMC.
SMC’s are not based on a disability’s effects on earning but, rather, are designed to compensate a veteran for non-economic factors such as personal inconvenience, social inadaptability, or the profound nature of a disability. For instance, SMC’s may be available to veterans with disabilities which involve the loss of a limb, loss of vision, loss of hearing, or erectile dysfunction. It is important to note that while loss of a limb qualifies for SMC, a veteran may also qualify for SMC for loss of use of a limb. For instance, if a veteran cannot balance or step off of his foot, he may have lost the use of that foot so as to qualify for an SMC. Similarly, if a veteran cannot pick up objects with his hand or write with a pen, he may qualify for an SMC for loss of use of that hand.
SMC’s are identified by letters ranging from (k) to (s), and while the SMC(k) ratings provide only an additional $99 per month, some of these SMC’s provide substantial support above and beyond the amount awarded for a 100% disability.
One SMC that we are commonly asked about is entitlement to aid and attendance. This SMC is available for veterans who, due to their service connected disabilities, need assistance in tending to their daily needs. Depending on the level of care the veteran needs, this SMC can provide anywhere from an additional $677 per month to an additional $5156 per month. This is, then, a significant benefit to the veteran and his family.
What does it mean to need aid and attendance? If the veteran regularly needs someone to help him with dressing and undressing, bathing, taking care of personal hygiene, or making sure that he does not injure himself, he may qualify for this SMC. It is important to note that the person providing this care does not necessarily have to be a medical professional. Even if this care is provided by a family member or neighbor, the veteran may still qualify for aid and attendance benefits. Where the care of a medical professional is required, the veteran may qualify for special aid and attendance benefits which provide increased compensation.
The VA is supposed to consider whether a veteran is entitled to SMC benefits whenever the evidence in his claims file indicates that he is entitled, even if he has never formally requested such benefits. Sometimes, however, this can be overlooked. You know your disabilities and your limitations better than anyone else, so it is important that you be aware of what may be available to you so that you can make the VA aware of the benefits to which you are entitled.