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 quantity (qty) 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 allow 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.
What is Special Monthly Compensation (SMC)?
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 healthcare services. This can include issues like Traumatic Brain Injuries, amputations, loss of use of body parts, and much much more. Below we’ll get into it. 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.
Common Disabilities that May Qualify for Special Monthly Compensation
These disabilities may qualify a veteran for Special Monthly Compensation but they are not limited to just these:
- Loss or loss of use of a hand or foot
- Immobility of a joint or paralysis
- Loss of sight of an eye
- Loss or loss of use of a reproductive organ
- Complete loss or loss of use of both buttocks
- Deafness of both ears
- Inability to communicate by speech
- Service-connected paraplegia with a complete loss of bowel and bladder control
- Service-connected disability rated at 100 percent or be housebound, bedridden or in need of aid from another person
- There are different categories that determine the type and amount of Special Monthly Compensation. Each one has different requirements for the kind of conditions that qualify for Special Monthly Compensation under that category. A condition must first be service-connected by the VA to qualify for Special Monthly Compensation.
There are different categories that determine the type and amount of Special Monthly Compensation. Each one has different requirements for the kind of conditions that qualify for Special Monthly Compensation under that category. A condition must first be service-connected by the VA to qualify for Special Monthly Compensation.
What are the different levels of SMC?
Once you have received your rating decision from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, and see that you have been awarded service connection with a 100% rating for your disability, you may think that there are no more benefits to seek. However, there is another type of VA benefit to which you may be entitled known as Special Monthly Compensation.
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). These basic levels are meant to provide veterans with basic needs while they progress throughout the higher range of benefits (levels L through 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, total 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 (amputation), as explained here.
Difference between 100% VA Rating and SMC Benefits
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 $3,332.06 per month, but at the highest level of SMC benefits for aid and attendance, the special monthly compensation rate would be over $8,100 per month. Special monthly compensation ratings can make up for a veteran’s inability to work.
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. 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 medical 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 for any loss of use. 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.
How VA assigns SMC Levels
There are different levels of SMC that the VA may award to former military service members. These include:
- SMC-K and Q: These are SMC rate payment variations.
- SMC-L through O: These SMC levels apply to specific conditions and situations (SMC-M too). You can view these conditions here.
- SMC-R: This applies to veterans who need assistance from another person to fulfill their basic daily needs.
- SMC-S: This applies to veterans who are unable to leave their homes due to their disabilities.
Depending on the level of SMC a veteran is entitled to, it could equal a significant increase in monthly compensation benefits (see the current rate table on the VA’s website).
Special Monthly Compensation Level R1 vs R2
Levels R1 and R2 are both determined based on the level of care that a veteran will require.
Level R1 is assigned if the level of aid and attendance can be offered by a family member or friend (non-professional).
Level R2 is given if the aid and attendance must be provided by a licensed medical professional or someone working on behalf of a licensed medical professional.
Who is entitled to Special Monthly Compensation?
SMC is available for veterans who are housebound or who are in need of regular aid and attendance. Unlike the disability rating schedule, SMC is not meant to compensate a veteran for the effects that his or her disability has on earning potential, but rather for non-economic factors such as personal inconvenience, social inadaptability, or the profound nature of a disability.
One type of SMC which is particularly advantageous to veterans is SMC(s). SMC(s) is available to veterans who:
- have a 100 percent rating and an additional disability rated at or combining to 60 percent or more, or
- who are substantially confined to his or her dwelling or immediate premises as a result of a service-connected disability.
The current SMC-S rate for veterans without dependents is $3,486.65 per month. This rate increases depending on the veteran’s marital status and other circumstances.
Housebound status is the main criteria that apply to SMC-S. Veterans who are housebound may live at home or in a care facility. Veterans who qualify for SMC-S may also be in a hospital ward. Typically, veterans who are housebound are unable to leave their dwelling due to their service-connected disabilities. This is typically a permanent circumstance.
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. This may apply to veterans who are bedridden or have serious disabilities due to a traumatic brain injury. 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 family member 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.
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