What is Special Monthly Compensation?
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides tax-free compensation to veterans for disabilities, diseases, or injuries from active military service. The most recognized type of compensation is Disability Compensation, paid to veterans with disabilities from a service-related disease or injury.
But what if a veteran lost a limb, sight, speech, hearing, or mobility? Enter Special Monthly Compensation, an added compensation (paid in addition to Disability Compensation) for serious disabilities like amputation, paraplegia, or organ failure.
Special Monthly Compensation (SMC) benefits can be paid to veterans, their spouses, surviving spouses, and parents. It is sometimes called "aid and attendance," when it is paid to spouses, as it is designed to compensate for the care that they provide to the veteran or the regular help needed from another person for the veteran’s daily activities.
SMC is one of the most complex VA programs around. Even experts in veterans' benefits can find it vexing. This article provides a brief introduction to the SMC program -- but it can't explain every detail. Consider speaking to an experienced military law attorney with VA disability experience for specific guidance.
Disabilities that May Qualify for SMC
Here are some (but not all) of the disabilities the VA considers for SMC benefits:
- Loss, or loss of use, of a hand or foot
- Loss of sight of an eye (having only light perception)
- Deafness of both ears (having absence of air and bone conduction)
- Loss, or loss of use, of a reproductive organ
- Immobility of a joint or paralysis
- Inability to communicate by speech (complete organic aphonia)
- Complete loss, or loss of use, of both buttocks
- Loss of a percentage of tissue from a single breast, or both breasts, from mastectomy or radiation treatment
The VA will pay higher rates for combinations of these disabilities. There are also higher payments, for instance, for various combinations of severe deafness with bilateral blindness.
SMC Levels and Categories
There are more than 50 levels of SMC divided into 9 letter categories: K, L, M, N, O,-P, R, S, and T which are based, in part, on the percentage disability rating as determined by the VA. If you receive SMC, the VA will tell you which of these SMC categories you qualify for. If this wasn't enough, some of the letter categories also have in-between levels, which are shown by a "½" symbol after the letter.
Many of the eligibility requirements use specific technical language that may be difficult to understand. After your eligibility level is determined, you or your attorney will review the SMC rate tables. Once again, an expert in VA benefits may be needed to figure the level for which you qualify.
Applying for SMC
Your regional VA office is your source for information about applying for SMC. In determining qualifications for SMC, the VA must review the medical evidence regarding the loss or loss of use and then make a decision regarding the level of SMC to be paid.