You have been battling with the VA for months, if not years. You have seen numerous Rating Decisions, filed Notices of Disagreement, submitted additional evidence, received Statement(s) of the Case, and sometimes even Supplemental Statement(s) of the Case. Finally, you have a decision that awarded service connection and got the right disability percentage. Done Right? For many, the answer to the question presented is a resounding, “YES.” But, for others, there may still be benefits left on the table to which you are entitled. These additional types of compensation are available if you meet certain criteria. They are as follows:
- Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU);
- Combat Related Special Compensation (CRSC); and
- Special Monthly Compensation (SMC).
This article will give a brief overview of what each is and how to begin the process of getting these benefits.
TDIU is in the same vein as standard disability payments from the VA in that it is based upon their impact on your ability to work. TDIU is easy to think of as disability “gap insurance.” Unlike compensation for a particular disability, TDIU views the individual as more than the sum of their individual disabilities, and instead looks at their capacity to “maintain substantially gainful employment.” Substantially gainful employment is a fancy way of saying that the veteran is able to earn more in a year than the individual poverty line as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2016, the poverty threshold is $12,486. If a veteran is working, but his earnings do not exceed that threshold, he is not maintaining substantially gainful employment for VA purposes. It is worth noting, that there are exceptions to this rule.
The Court of Appeals for Veterans’ Claims has previously ruled that a request for TDIU is not a standalone claim for benefits, but is “part of an initial claim for VA disability compensation” or “a particular type of claim for increased compensation.” Rice v. Shinseki. However, despite this ruling that TDIU should be considered, many times, a veteran must file a VA Form 8940 to start the claim for this increase in his benefits.
The second type of compensation in addition to the standard compensation schedule is Special Monthly Compensation (SMC). There is a multitude of SMC types available, and today’s article will only discuss one, SMC(s). SMC(s) is available to veterans who has (1) a 100 percent disability rating and another disability (or disabilities) at or combing to 60 percent or more. (TDIU will count for this requirement, but the underlying disabilities cannot be used to reach the additional 60 percent needed.) OR (2) The veteran is substantially confined to his dwelling or immediate premises as a result of a service connected disability.
The VA should not combine the housebound requirement to the “100 + 60” explained above.
As with TDIU, SMC should be considered with a veteran’s initial claim for the highest rating possible, but is often overlooked. Therefore, there is no additional form on which to request SMC. If you have a 100 percent rating and additional ratings totaling 60 percent, but have not been considered for SMC, you should probably appeal the decision. Also remember, VA math is sometimes tricky. We have a calculator that can help add things up properly.
The final type of special compensation to discuss is Combat Related Special Compensation, CRSC. CRSC was created for veterans with specifically “combat-related” disabilities. It is a tax free entitlement that is paid along with any retired or disability pay a veteran may already be receiving. Please note that CRSC is not a VA benefit and is provided by the Department of Defense. To qualify for CRCS, a veteran must:
- Be entitled to and/or receiving military retired pay (this includes those who have been medically retired)
- Be rated at least 10 percent disabled by the VA
- Waive your VA from retired pay
- File a CRSC application with your Branch of Service.
When applying for CRSC, injuries which may be considered combat related are:
- Incurred during armed conflict,
- The result of hazardous duty,
- Caused by instrumentalities of war, or
- Incurred during simulated war.
If CRSC is granted, DFAS will audit the veteran’s account to determine if he has retroactive benefits due to him.
Hopefully you have found this article to be both informative and helpful. Thank you for your service.