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February 9, 2022

Are You Eligible for Special Monthly Compensation?

Are You Eligible for Special Monthly Compensation? (and 2022 SMC Rates) 

Special monthly compensation (SMC) is a special form of VA disability payment intended to help veterans, spouses, surviving spouses, or parents that have certain needs or disabilities.

Veterans who receive a VA disability rating are most often given a rating between 0% and 100%. This is known as a schedular rating, with conditions in the disability rating schedule assigned a specific percentage (ratings) that reflect the severity of the disability. Each 10% increment in the veteran’s overall disability rating (along the way from 0 to 100) corresponds to an increase in tax-free monthly compensation.

Many veterans awarded service connection with schedular (10%-100%) rating assume that there are no further benefits available to them. However, the VA acknowledges that some disabilities and/or financial needs deserve compensation greater than what a schedular rating can offer—even if you have a 100% rating. That’s where SMC comes in.

Let’s take a closer look and answer some of the most-asked questions surrounding special monthly compensation!


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What is VA Special Monthly Compensation?

According to the VA, “Special Monthly Compensation (SMC) is an additional tax-free benefit that can be paid to veterans, their spouses, surviving spouses, and parents with certain needs or disabilities.”

This can be due to special circumstances like the need for special care or loss of a limb, for example.

Special monthly compensation for spouses and surviving spouses is often called Aid and Attendance (A&A) and is paid depending on the level of A&A needed.


How do you qualify for monthly compensation?

The VA should automatically award special monthly compensation to qualifying veterans–you don’t have to apply.  The VA is supposed to consider SMC when deciding a claim, and if the medical evidence in the claim indicates that they are, the VA should award it. This is not true in all cases. Aid and Attendance, for example, has to be applied for by the veteran

In the event that this doesn’t happen—if you’re denied SMC in error or not granted the full amount of SMC benefits you believe you’re entitled to—you may be entitled to retroactive benefits. You can submit an appeal if you feel you qualify but aren’t receiving SMC.


What conditions qualify you for SMC?

The VA assigns SMC levels based on very specific conditions or circumstances. Some of the disabilities that can qualify for SMC include (but are not limited to):

  • Paralysis
  • The loss of one or both eyes
  • The loss of a hand or foot (or effective loss of use)
  • Deafness in one or both ears
  • The loss of vision in one or both eyes
  • The need for daily assistance with basic needs (like bathing, dressing, and taking medication)
  • Being permanently bedridden
  • The loss of the ability to speak
  • The loss (or loss of use) of a reproductive organ (or “creative organ” in VA documentation.)
  • A traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Statutory housebound

How much is special monthly compensation?

SMC MAILBOX

There are several compensation levels for SMC that vary depending on your qualifying level.

It’s important to remember that in most cases, most SMC levels replace your regular monthly disability payments. If you qualify for SMC, you will only receive the SMC rate each month.

Exceptions to this are:

  • SMC-K. If you qualify for SMC-K ($118.33/month in 2022), the amount is added to your regular VA disability compensation.
  • Spouses receiving Aid and Attendance.
  • SMC-L thru SMC-S for each additional child under age of 18, or each additional child over age 18 in a qualifying school program. These are added to your monthly disability compensation payments.

How are SMC levels assigned?

SMC is split into different levels. These levels help determine the type and amount of SMC that you receive. Each level has different qualification requirements.

You must first establish entitlement to basic Special Monthly Compensation before being considered for higher rates of SMC.

  • Level K may apply if you lost the use of an extremity or organ (such as the loss of use of a foot, or erectile dysfunction).
  • Levels L through O cover very specific disabilities and situations. There are extremely detailed and sometimes complex lists of disabilities and degrees of those disabilities for these levels, so it’s best to consult the VA’s lists and get help understanding your eligibility. (We offer a FREE VA Claim Discovery Call to see if we can be of support.)
  • Level R may apply if you need assistance with activities of daily living (like bathing, or dressing, for example).
  • Level S may apply if your service-connected disabilities keep you from leaving your house.
  • Level T may apply if you suffered a traumatic brain injury.

Notes on Category K

SMC-K is the only level that can be given in addition to other categories, and is added to the monthly amount for any other qualifying category. SMC-K may also be added to a veteran’s standard disability pay.

Category K offers additional money for conditions that qualify under L through O. Category K gives extra Special Monthly Compensation based solely on the loss of (amputation or removal) or loss of use of a body part or function. This is in addition to:

  • Regular VA Disability compensation, even if you do not qualify for any other type of special monthly compensation. (The total amount of compensation received cannot exceed the amount of compensation given for Category L.)
  • SMC under Categories L through N 1/2, as long as it doesn’t add up to be more than the amount given under Category O.
  • Category S
  • Category R—IFthe condition that qualifies for Category K is not the same condition that qualifies for Category R. If Category K is added to Category R, the total Special Monthly Compensation cannot be more than the highest amount given for Category R1.

Category K can be given even if the condition does not qualify for any other special monthly compensation. A single amount is given for each body part that is lost or cannot function. You can have as many Category K amounts as you have qualifying conditions—as long as the total SMC does not exceed the limits noted above.

Notes on Special Monthly Compensation Level R1 vs R2

Levels R1 and R2 are determined based on the level of care that a veteran requires. 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 assigned if the aid and attendance needs to be provided by a licensed medical professional.

Special Monthly Compensation Category S 

Special monthly compensation under Category S will be given to a veteran who has at least one condition rated at 100%, AND:

  • is completely and permanently housebound because of service-connected condition(s), meaning that the veteran cannot leave his or her place of residence at all—whether his or her own home, an institution, or a care facility), and this is expected to last for the veteran’s lifetime.

OR,

  • has another condition rated at least 60% (or a group of conditions together rated at least 60%) that are unrelated to the 100% condition. To be unrelated, the 60% condition(s) must affect different body systems or body parts than the 100% condition.

This SMC is given instead of SMC Categories L through O.

Does PSTD qualify for SMC? 

Many veterans wonder if mental health conditions, particularly PTSD or depression, qualify for SMC.

If a veteran receives a 100% rating for a mental health disability and has another service-connected disability rated at 60% or higher—or if the veteran is permanently housebound by reason of any service-connected disability or disabilities—the veteran is entitled to SMC-S pay.


What is the VA SMC rate for 2022?

The Social Security Administration determined in October 2021 that the 2022 cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) would be 5.9 percent—the largest increase since 2009’s 5.8 percent COLA adjustment. The 5.9 percent increase was reflected in all VA disability payments beginning December 31, 2021.

The VA special monthly compensation rates for 2022 are listed below (single veteran, no dependents). If you qualify for multiple levels of SMC (with several different disabilities or disabilities of varying degrees), the VA will pay you at the level with the highest rate.

SMC Level2022 Monthly Compensation Amount
K$118.33*
L$4,146.13
L ½$4,360.47
M$4,575.68
M ½$4,890.07
N$5,205.17
N ½$5,511.35
O/P$5,818.09
R-1$8,313.61
R-2/T$9,535.91
S$3,729.64
T$9,535.91

You may qualify for additional special monthly compensation rates if you have eligible dependents, including:

  • A spouse in need of Aid & Attendance
  • Dependent parents
  • Children under the age of 18
  • Children between the age of 18 and 23 who are in school
  • A child who was permanently disabled before the age of 18

.  Veterans with dependents should be sure to check out the VA payment variations.


Is Special Monthly Compensation permanent?

While it’s uncommon for the VA to award SMC and later take it away, it’s possible. This would only occur if your service-connected disabilities improved to a level that no longer qualifies you for SMC. However, many of the disabilities that first entitle a veteran to SMC tend to be extremely severe and permanent.


Is Aid & Attendance the same as SMC?

SMC

Aid and Attendance (A&A) is a type of compensation for veterans who need assistance performing daily tasks, such as bathing or dressing, for example. Aid and Attendance is also specifically a type of SMC that compensates service-connected disabled veterans needing this daily assistance. This may include veterans who are immobile or disabled due to a traumatic brain injury (TBI), for example.

Aid & Attendance SMC (SMC-R/R-1/R-2) should not be confused with the VA’s Caregiver Support Program, which provides a monthly stipend to the primary family caregivers that meets the eligibility requirements for that program.

It’s important to know that a caretaker assisting a veteran doesn’t have to be a medical professional. A caretaker could be a spouse, parent, child, friend, neighbor or anyone who provides regular assistance with everyday tasks.

SMC is compensation you deserve for severe disabilities.

There are many scenarios that may qualify a veteran for special monthly compensation. It’s special compensation that is specifically awarded for the most severe of disabilities. And while SMC should be awarded by the VA automatically, it’s important to be educated about these benefits to ensure you’re getting all that you deserve.


Get help with your claim—and the compensation you deserve.

Most veterans are underrated for their disabilities and therefore not getting the compensation they’re due. At VA Claims Insider, we help you understand and take control of the claims process, so you can get the rating and compensation you’re owed by law.

Our process takes the guesswork out of filing a VA disability claim and supports you every step of the way in building a fully-developed claim (FDC)—so you can increase your rating faster!

If you’ve filed your VA disability claim and have been denied or have received a low rating—or you’re unsure how to get started—reach out to us! Take advantage of a FREE VA Claim Discovery Call. Learn what you’ve been missing—so you can FINALLY get the disability rating and compensation you deserve!

We’ve supported more than 15,000 veterans to win their claims and increase their ratings. NOW IT’S YOUR TURN.


About the Author

About VA Claims Insider

VA Claims insider is an education-based coaching/consulting company. We’re here for disabled veterans exploring eligibility for increased VA disability benefits and who wish to learn more about that process. We also connect veterans with independent medical professionals in our referral network for medical examinations, disability evaluations, and credible independent medical opinions and nexus statements (medical nexus letters) for a wide range of disability conditions.

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