Special Monthly Compensation
Special Monthly Compensation
What is Special Monthly Compensation (SMC)?
Special Monthly Compensation (SMC) is a type of service-connected tax-free compensation benefit that can be paid to veterans, their spouses, surviving spouses, and parents. For veterans, SMC is a higher rate of compensation paid due to special circumstances such as the need for aid and attendance by another person or by specific disability, including, but not limited to, the loss or loss of use of extremities, blindness, etc. There are multiple levels of compensation depending on a veteran’s conditions and the limitations caused by those conditions. Importantly, veterans do not have to apply for SMC benefits, meaning there is no specific form that a veteran needs to fill out in order to raise the issue before VA. Instead, when reviewing a veteran’s claim for benefits, VA should consider if he or she is entitled to SMC and grant the benefit if it is warranted.
SMC rates, with the exception of SMC(K), are paid instead of a veteran’s VA disability rating, not in addition to their disability compensation.
SMC Rates: K through T
SMC(K) compensates veterans for the loss of use of an organ or body part such as a creative organ, reproductive organ, vision or eyesight, breast tissue, etc. Veterans can receive SMC(K) in addition to their monthly disability compensation regardless of their disability rating. SMC(K) can also be added to other SMC rates as long as the veteran’s other SMC-qualifying condition is not the same as the one that SMC(K) is awarded for.
Importantly, SMC(K) does not require amputation of a limb. In this case, loss of use occurs when a part of the body would function equally as well with an amputation or with use of a suitable prosthesis. This is determined based on the actual function of the hand (i.e. grasping, manipulation of fingers) or foot (balance, movement, etc.).
Effective December 1, 2018, the monthly compensation rate for SMC(K) is $110.31.
SMC(L) compensates veterans who experience the loss or loss of use of both feet, or loss or loss of use of one hand and one foot. Veterans can also receive SMC(L) if they have blindness in both eyes (meaning vision at 5/200 or worse), are permanently bedridden, or require regular aid and attendance.
If a veteran requires regular aid and attendance (A&A), it means that he or she requires regular assistance form another person to complete activities of daily living. This person does not have to be a medical professional, and the aid they provide does not have to be constant, just regular. Some factors that would play a part in a veteran requiring regular A&A include the following:
- The inability to dress oneself
- The inability to keep oneself clean and presentable
- Frequent need to adjust a prosthetic device(s), which cannot be done without aid
- The inability to feed oneself
- The inability to go to the bathroom alone
- Requiring care and assistance to protect the veteran from dangers in their daily environment
The monthly compensation rate for SMC(L) is currently $3,864.90.
SMC(L1/2) represents an increase in severity of the amputation and/or loss of use (e.g. above vs. below the knee amputation). The conditions regarding loss or loss of use of limbs in the SMC(L1/2) category cause loss of use above the knee or elbow. Examples of conditions that qualify for SMC(L1/2) benefits include: loss of use of one foot and loss of use of the other knee; loss of use of one knee and loss of use of one hand; amputation of one foot and amputation of the other knee; etc. The rate of compensation for a single veteran without dependents SMC(L1/2) is $4,064.70.
Veterans may be entitled to SMC(S) in two ways: (1) if they have a total rating for one disability, or total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU) on the basis of one disability, and if they then have another disability, or multiple disabilities, that combine to 60 percent or more disabling; or (2) if they are housebound due to their disabilities. Here, housebound status is when a veteran’s conditions render him or her permanently unable to leave the house at all. The current amount of monthly compensation for SMC(S) is $3,476.65.
SMC (M), (N), (O) and Their Intermediate Rates (i.e. between (M) and (N))
Similar to SMC(L), these SMC rates compensate veterans for various combinations, and severities, of loss or loss of use of their extremities, blindness, blindness together with deafness, and many combinations of these. Monthly compensation rates are as follows:
- SMC(M) – $4,265.31
- SMC(M1/2) – $4,558.37
- SMC(N) – $4,852.09
- SMC(N1/2) – $5,137.51
- SMC(O/P) – $5,423.45
SMC(R-1) and (R-2)
To be eligible for SMC(R-1), veterans need to be eligible for (O) and in need of regular A&A. The main difference between (R-1) and (R-2) is that to be eligible for (R-2), a veteran must require A&A from a licensed medical professional. For (R-1), regular A&A can be performed by someone who is not a licensed medical professional, while (R-2) requires professional care. The 2019 compensation rates for SMC (R-1) and (R-2) are $7,749.68 and $8,889.08, respectively.
SMC(T) compensates veterans who suffer from a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). To receive SMC(T), veterans must meet the following criteria:
- The veteran needs regular A&A for the residuals of TBI;
- The veteran is not eligible for a higher level of A&A under SMC(R-2); and
- The veteran would need hospitalization, nursing home care, or other residential institutional care without in-home A&A
SMC(T) is codified under 38 CFR § 1114(t) because veterans with TBI usually do not meet the strict requirements for SMC(R-2), but still need the same higher level of care than that covered by regular A&A because of their TBI residuals. Additionally, the symptoms and severity of TBI can vary widely between veterans, which can make it difficult for veterans with TBI to be clearly eligible for the various levels of SMC.
The monthly compensation rate for SMC(T) is the same as the rate for SMC(R-2).