What is Special Monthly Compensation?
When receiving a rating decision and a grant of service connection for disability compensation, a veteran is assigned a rating percentage of up to 100% that entitles them to a monthly payment of a certain amount due to their disability related to their military service. Sometimes, however, even a 100% VA disability rating amount may not be enough compensation. For those situations, there are other VA benefits a veteran may qualify for provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs that allows them to receive compensation greater than the 100%. This is Special Monthly Compensation (SMC).
The rating schedule is meant to compensate veterans for reduced earning capacity due to their disability. SMC disability benefits are different because they are meant to compensate veterans for non-economic factors, such as personal inconvenience, social inadaptability, and the profound nature of the disability. SMC benefits provide additional compensation at a rate much higher than the 100% rate. SMC is reserved for veterans that have suffered certain severe disabilities, severely disabled veterans who are housebound, or in need of regular aid and attendance or daily health-care services. These rules and procedures for qualifying for SMC can be complicated, so here we will look at a general overview of SMC to make you aware that such benefits exist and that you may be entitled to them.
What are the different levels of SMC?
There are different levels of Special Monthly Compensation. First, there are basic levels, ranging from (k) to (s) that are the building blocks to the higher levels, ranging from (l) to (o). One must first establish entitlement to basic Special Monthly Compensation before being considered for higher rates of SMC. Some of the basic levels of SMC are loss or loss of use of a creative organ, loss or loss of use of a hand or a foot, blindness of one eye, deafness of both ears, loss of voice, housebound, or aid and attendance. There is a difference between the loss of use and the loss of the body part itself, as explained here. The different levels of SMC that a veteran is entitled to correspond to a different level of VA disability compensation well above the 100% rating. For example, a single veteran rated at 100% receives $2,906.83 per month, but at the highest level of SMC benefits for aid and attendance, the compensation would be $8,179.89 per month.
The VA has a duty to maximize a veteran’s benefits; they are supposed to render a decision that grants every benefit to which the veteran is entitled to. It is generally presumed that when filing a claim for disability, the veteran is seeking the maximum benefit allowed by law that corresponds to their disability. Therefore, SMC is not something a veteran has to formally request of the VA for higher compensation ratings. It is inferred when a claim for disability is submitted. The VA is supposed to consider it when making a decision on the claim, whether the veteran is entitled to SMC benefits if the evidence in the claims file indicates that they are. The VA often fails to do this though, so you will want to know when you are entitled to these benefits so you make sure the VA is not paying you less than you deserve. If a veteran is erroneously denied SMC benefits or not granted the full amount of SMC benefits they are entitled to, they could be entitled to retroactive benefits or even make a claim for clear and unmistakable error.
Aid & Attendance and other VA Special Monthly Compensation benefits
Aid and attendance is a type of SMC that provides additional compensation for veterans who need assistance in tending to their daily needs due to their service-connected disability. SMC can then be awarded, depending on the level of care the veteran needs, in order to alleviate the need for a caretaker. The caretaker does not have to be a medical professional, but can even be a member of the family helping with everyday tasks. Some of the factors the VA considers as everyday tasks that would qualify the veteran for additional compensation are the inability to dress or undress, bathe, take care of one’s personal hygiene, feed oneself, or being unable to avoid injuring oneself with everyday tasks. Housebound status is another example of a type of SMC that entitles a veteran to additional compensation when they are substantially confined to their home because of their service-connected disability, and it is reasonably certain that the disability will continue throughout their lifetime. Each of these types of SMC’s also has different levels that qualify veterans for different amounts of compensation.
Special Monthly Compensation is a difficult area of law with several different types of levels and requirements to consider before you can determine if you are eligible for these additional benefits. But if you are entitled to this additional compensation, you need to make sure you are receiving what you deserve from the VA. For more information on SMC, click here and here or visit the VA’s website.