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Veterans Law

VA Special Monthly Compensation (SMC) Rates for 2020

Jenna Zellmer

July 23, 2020

Updated: November 20, 2023

VA Special Monthly Compensation (SMC) Rates for 2020

What is Special Monthly Compensation (SMC)?

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) pays special monthly compensation (SMC) to qualifying veterans with especially serious disabilities or combinations of disabilities.  The idea is that certain disabilities and combinations of disabilities are more debilitating than regular disability compensation rates account for.  As such, veterans may receive a higher rate of monthly compensation if VA grants SMC.

How to Qualify for Special Monthly Compensation (SMC)?

There are several ways to meet the criteria for SMC and the different types of compensation are split into levels:

  • Levels L through O list specific conditions and combinations of conditions that qualify a veteran to receive SMC. Level L contains the least severe of these conditions and therefore, the lower special monthly compensation rates of monthly compensation.  On the other hand, Level O contains more severe conditions and higher special monthly compensation rates of monthly compensation.
  • Level K provides SMC for veterans who experience a loss or loss of use of a body part(s) or function(s). For example, the loss or loss of use of a hand, foot, or creative organ would all qualify for SMC(k).
  • Level R provides compensation for veterans who need daily aid and attendance from another person. It is divided into Level R-1 and Level R-2, with the latter requiring regular aid and attendance from a healthcare professional.
  • Level S provides compensation for veterans who cannot leave the house
  • Level T is provided to veterans who suffer from traumatic brain injuries and require regular aid and attendance. SMC Levels R-2 and T provide the same monthly compensation rate.

Importantly, most special monthly compensation rates are given instead of the standard VA disability compensation rates, except for SMC(k).  Level K is given in addition to your standard disability pay.  Finally, to be eligible for any level of SMC, the condition you are claiming must be service-connected.

2020 Cost-of-Living-Adjustment (COLA)

As mentioned above, special monthly compensation (SMC) is a form of monthly compensation just like VA disability compensation.  Therefore, just as the VA disability compensation rates recently increased due to the 2020 cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA), so did the SMC monthly rates.  The COLA rate for 2020 was announced on October 10th, 2019; however, the increase did not go into effect until December 1, 2019.  Therefore, veterans should see a change in the amount of monthly compensation they receive.  While this year’s COLA was lower than it was in 2019, ranging closer to 1.6 percent, it still resulted in an increase in compensation benefits for veterans.

What Are VA’s Special Monthly Compensation Rates?

The table below represents the SMC rates for a single veteran without any dependents:

SMC LevelMonthly Compensation Amount
L ½$4,064.70
M ½$4,558.37
N ½$5,137.51


It is important to note that veterans may be eligible for higher SMC rates if they have qualifying dependents, including: a spouse, a child under the age of 18, a child between the ages of 18 and 23 and still in school, a child who was permanently disabled before the age of 18, or dependent parents.

To access the full SMC rate tables, visit VA’s website.

About the Author

Bio photo of Jenna Zellmer

Jenna joined CCK in January of 2014 as an appellate attorney, was named Managing Attorney in September of 2019, and now serves as a Partner at the firm. Her law practice focuses on representing disabled veterans at the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

See more about Jenna