Special Monthly Compensation From A to Z

What is SMC?

Special Monthly Compensation or SMC is extra compensation for disabled veterans, which is paid in addition to standard VA disability compensation. SMC is for veterans who have incurred the loss or loss of use of specific organs or extremities. Loss, or loss of use, is described as either an amputation or, having no effective remaining function of an extremity or organ.

There are several sub-categories, or VA SMC codes, which affect the monthly payment rate. They are described in detail below.

The VA will automatically add any SMC pay to your monthly VA disability pay if you qualify for it. You do not have to apply. However, if you feel that you qualify and you are not receiving, contact the VA by phone at 1-800-827-1000.

2019 VA disability compensation pay rates are shown here.

 

Overview:

The VA pays veterans additional compensation for even more serious disabilities. The basic idea is that the VA wants to give additional disability pay in cases where the disability is so severe that the regular ratings and monthly compensation aren’t enough. For example, the loss of one arm and a leg is more serious than just the loss of one arm.

Special Note: All VA SMC codes are given instead of the standard VA Disability Rates, except for Category K. Category K is given in addition to your standard disability pay. All Special Monthly Compensation is tax-free, just like normal VA disability pay.

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.

Once you know what category of Special Monthly Compensation you qualify for, you can find the exact monetary amount you’ll receive for that category by scrolling to the bottom of this post. These are the 2019 SMC rates.

Before we discuss the different categories and conditions that qualify for Special Monthly Compensation, here are a few important definitions:

– Loss of use means that the body part cannot function any better than it would if it were amputated and a prosthetic device used. Basically, if the hand cannot grasp objects or if the foot cannot push off or balance, it would be considered loss of use. If a leg is shortened by 3 ½ inches or more, it is also considered to be loss of use of that foot.

– Aid and attendance mean that the condition is so severe that it requires regular (not necessarily constant) supervision by another person. This person could be a family member, home nurse, or nursing home facility. Hospitalization does NOT qualify as aid and attendance. If a condition qualifies for aid and attendance, it is not rated at all on the VA, but is rated entirely on the Aid and Attendance section below.

– Permanently bedridden means that the condition is so severe that the individual cannot get out of bed. This does not include periods of bed rest prescribed by a physician since the individual could still actually get out of bed. If an individual is permanently bedridden, then they qualify for rating as Aid and Attendance, but unlike Aid and Attendance, the rating continues even if they are hospitalized.

 

SMC-L through SMC-O:

A few guidelines before jumping into the categories:

1.) Only one Special Monthly Compensation rating can be given for Categories L through O. Category L is the lowest Special Monthly Compensation, and Category O is the highest. Pick the highest category that best fits the conditions. (Remember to check Category K, below, because even if your condition doesn’t qualify under Categories L through O, you might still qualify under K. Category K also gives ADDITIONAL money for conditions that qualify under L through O, so make sure to check it out.)

2.) Once the proper category is determined, if there are additional conditions rated by the VA that are not taken into consideration under that category that are equal to a 50% rating without the conditions already listed in the category, then the category is moved up to the next ½ category. For example, let’s say an individual has both feet amputated (100% rating), arthritis in the wrist (30%), and asthma (30%). The amputated feet qualify for Special Monthly Compensation under Category L. The arthritis and asthma do not qualify for Special Monthly Compensation, but since together they equal a 50% rating (see the VA Math section to make sure you are adding the ratings together correctly—a 30% rating and a 30% rating equal a 50% rating, not a 60%), the Category L for the feet is pushed up to a Category L ½ (an L ½ would move up to M, etc.). The highest category for this principle is Category O. Nothing can be pushed up higher than O, so if it already qualifies for a Category O, then it cannot be raised further.

3.) Instead of a 50% rating, if the non-Special Monthly Compensation conditions together equal a 100% rating, then the category is moved up an entire step instead of a ½ step. So, if the arthritis and asthma equaled a 100% rating together, the Category L would move up to a Category M (or L ½ to M ½, etc.). Again, the highest category for this principle is Category O.

4.) If the conditions that qualify for Special Monthly Compensation are caused by a disease, then that disease cannot count as the 50% or 100% rating to increase the Special Monthly Compensation category.

5.) If three extremities (two legs and one arm, or one leg and two arms) qualify for Special Monthly Compensation, then the category for only two extremities is raised to the next ½ category. So, if a veteran has both feet amputated (Category L) and one hand amputation, then it would be rated under Category L ½.

6.) If separate conditions qualify for ratings under two or more different categories between L and N ½, then only one Special Monthly Compensation is given under Category O. A single condition can only be used to qualify under ONE category. For example, let’s say that a veteran has both feet (below the knee) amputated, Category L, and both hands (below the elbow) amputated, Category M. There isn’t a category that lists amputation of all four extremities (if it did, it would have to be rated there instead of Category O), so since these conditions qualify under two different categories, one Special Monthly Compensation is given under Category O.

One last thing to know: If it says “amputation of the knee”, it doesn’t necessarily mean that knee itself has to be removed. Basically, the requirement is that the amputation is at such a place that the use of the knee is impossible. So, technically, the leg could be amputated below the knee, but as long as the knee cannot be used at all, it qualifies as “amputation of the knee”. This goes for any joint.

Here are the VA SMC codes, broken out by category:

 

Category L (SMC-L):

The following conditions qualify for a rating under Category L:

– Amputation of both feet (below the knee)

– Loss of use of both feet (below the knee)

– Amputation of one foot (below the knee) and the loss of use of the other foot

– Amputation of one hand (below the elbow) and one foot (below the knee)

– Loss of use of one hand (below the elbow) and one foot (below the knee)

– Amputation of one foot (below the knee) and the loss of use of one hand

– Amputation of one hand (below the elbow) and the loss of use of one foot

– Blindness in both eyes

– Permanently bedridden

– In regular need of another person to help dress, clean, feed himself, and use the restroom (aid and attendance)

 

Category L ½:

The following conditions qualify for a rating under Category L ½:

– Amputation of one foot and amputation of the other knee

– Loss of use of one foot and amputation of the other knee

– Amputation of one foot and loss of use of the other knee

– Loss of use of one foot and loss of use of the other knee

– Amputation of one foot and amputation of one elbow

– Amputation of one foot and loss of use of one elbow

– Loss of use of one foot and amputation of one elbow

– Loss of use of one foot and loss of use of one elbow

– Amputation of one knee and amputation of one hand

– Amputation of one knee and loss of use of one hand

– Loss of use of one knee and amputation of one hand

– Loss of use of one knee and loss of use of one hand

– Blindness in one eye and total blindness in the other eye with only the ability to perceive light

– Blindness in both eyes and loss of use of one foot (rated by the VA less than 50%)

 

Category M (SMC-M):

The following conditions qualify for a rating under Category M:

– Amputation of both hands (below the elbow)

– Loss of use of both hands

– Amputation of one hand (below the elbow) and the loss of use of one hand

– Amputation of both knees

– Loss of use of both knees

– Amputation of one elbow and one knee

– Loss of use of one elbow and one knee

– Amputation of one foot and amputation of one leg so close to the hip that it is impossible to wear a prosthesis

– Loss of use of one foot and amputation of one leg so close to the hip that it is impossible to wear a prosthesis

– Amputation of one foot and amputation of one arm so close to the shoulder that it is impossible to wear a prosthesis

– Loss of use of one foot and amputation of one arm so close to the shoulder that it is impossible to wear a prosthesis

– Amputation of one foot and loss of use of one arm at the shoulder

– Loss of use of one foot and loss of use of one arm at the shoulder

– Amputation of one hand and amputation of one leg so close to the hip that it is impossible to wear a prosthesis

– Loss of use of one hand and amputation of one leg so close to the hip that it is impossible to wear a prosthesis

– Total blindness in both eyes with only the ability to perceive light

– Blindness in both eyes that requires the veteran to have someone help with his basic needs (eating, using the restroom, dressing, etc.)

– Blindness in one eye and the physical loss of the other eye

– Blindness in one eye and total blindness without the ability to perceive light in the other eye

– Blindness in one eye and total blindness in the other eye with only the ability to perceive light and total deafness in one ear

– Blindness in both eyes and deafness in both ears (rated by the VA 30% or more)

– Blindness in both eyes and amputation of one hand

– Blindness in both eyes and loss of use of one hand

– Blindness in both eyes and amputation of one foot

– Blindness in both eyes and loss of use of one foot (rated by the VA at 50% or more)

– Blindness in one eye and total blindness in the other eye with only the ability to perceive light and the loss of use of one foot (rated by the VA at less than 50%)

 

Category M ½:

The following conditions qualify for a rating under Category M ½:

– Amputation of one knee and amputation of one leg so close to the hip that it is impossible to wear a prosthesis

– Loss of use of one knee and amputation of one leg so close to the hip that it is impossible to wear a prosthesis

– Amputation of one knee and amputation of one arm so close to the shoulder that it is impossible to wear a prosthesis

– Loss of use of one knee and amputation of one arm so close to the shoulder that it is impossible to wear a prosthesis

– Amputation of one elbow and amputation of one leg so close to the hip that it is impossible to wear a prosthesis

– Loss of use of one elbow and amputation of one leg so close to the hip that it is impossible to wear a prosthesis

– Amputation of one hand and amputation of one elbow

– Amputation of one hand and loss of use of one elbow

– Loss of use of one hand and amputation of one elbow

– Loss of use of one hand and loss of use of one elbow

– Total blindness with only the ability to perceive light in one eye and the physical loss of the other eye

– Total blindness with only the ability to perceive light in one eye and total blindness without the ability to perceive light in the other eye

– Blindness in both eyes and total deafness in one ear

– Blindness in one eye and the physical loss of the other eye and total deafness in one ear

– Blindness in one eye and total blindness without the ability to perceive light in the other eye and total deafness in one ear

– Blindness in one eye and total blindness in the other eye with only the ability to perceive light and deafness in both ears (rated by the VA 30% or more)

– Total blindness in both eyes with only the ability to perceive light and the loss of use of one foot (rated by the VA less than 50%)

– Blindness in both eyes that requires the veteran to have someone help with his basic needs and the loss of use of one foot (rated by the VA less than 50%)

– Blindness in one eye and total blindness in the other eye with only the ability to perceive light and the amputation of one foot

– Blindness in one eye and total blindness in the other eye with only the ability to perceive light and the loss of use of one foot (rated by the VA at 50% or more)

– Blindness in one eye and total blindness in the other eye with only the ability to perceive light and the amputation of one hand

– Blindness in one eye and total blindness in the other eye with the only ability to perceive light and the loss of use of one hand

 

Category N (SMC-N):

The following conditions qualify for a rating under Category N:

– Amputation of both elbows

– Loss of use of both elbows

– Amputation of both legs so close to the hip that it is impossible to wear a prosthesis

– Amputation of one arm and one leg so close to the shoulder or hip that it is impossible to wear a prosthesis on either

– Amputation of one hand and amputation of one arm so close to the shoulder that it is impossible to wear a prosthesis

– Loss of use of one hand and amputation of one arm so close to the shoulder that it is impossible to wear a prosthesis

– Physical loss of both eyes

– Total blindness without the ability to see light

– Total blindness with only the ability to perceive light in one eye and the physical loss of the other eye and deafness in both ears (rated at 10 or 20% by the VA)

– Total blindness with only the ability to perceive light in one eye and total blindness without the ability to perceive light in the other eye and deafness in both ears (rated at 10 or 20% by the VA)

– Total blindness in both eyes with only the ability to perceive light and deafness in both ears (rated by the VA 30% or more)

– Blindness in both eyes to such a degree that the veteran has to have someone help with his basic needs and deafness in both ears (rated by the VA 30% or more)

– Blindness in one eye and the physical loss of the other eye and deafness in both ears (rated by the VA 30% or more)

– Blindness in one eye and total blindness without the ability to perceive light in the other eye and deafness in both ears (rated by the VA 30% or more)

– Total blindness in both eyes with only the ability to perceive light and the amputation of one hand

– Total blindness in both eyes with only the ability to perceive light and the loss of use of one hand

– Blindness in both eyes that requires the veteran to have someone help with his basic needs and the amputation of one hand

– Blindness in both eyes that requires the veteran to have someone help with his basic needs and the loss of use of one hand

– Total blindness in both eyes with only the ability to perceive light and the amputation of one foot

– Total blindness in both eyes with only the ability to perceive light and the loss of use of one foot (rated by the VA 50% or more)

– Blindness in both eyes that requires the veteran to have someone help with his basic needs and the amputation of one foot

– Blindness in both eyes that requires the veteran to have someone help with his basic needs and the loss of use of one foot (rated by the VA 50% or more)

– Total blindness with only the ability to perceive light in one eye and the physical loss of the other eye and the loss of use of one foot (rated by the VA at less than 50%)

– Total blindness with only the ability to perceive light in one eye and total blindness without the ability to perceive light in the other eye and the loss of use of one foot (rated by the VA at less than 50%)

 

Category N ½:

The following conditions qualify for a rating under Category N ½:

– Amputation of one elbow and amputation of one arm so close to the shoulder that it is impossible to wear a prosthesis

– Loss of use of one elbow and amputation of one arm so close to the shoulder that it is impossible to wear a prosthesis

– Total blindness with only the ability to perceive light in one eye and the physical loss of the other eye and deafness in both ears (rated by the VA 30% or more)

– Total blindness with only the ability to perceive light in one eye and total blindness without the ability to perceive light in the other eye and deafness in both ears (rated by the VA 30% or more)

– Physical loss of both eyes and the loss of use of one foot (rated by the VA less than 50%)

– Total blindness without the ability to see light and the loss of use of one foot (rated by the VA less than 50%)

– Total blindness with only the ability to perceive light in one eye and the physical loss of the other eye and the amputation of one foot

– Total blindness with only the ability to perceive light in one eye and the physical loss of the other eye and the loss of use of one foot (rated by the VA at 50% or more)

– Total blindness with only the ability to perceive light in one eye and total blindness without the ability to perceive light in the other eye and the amputation of one foot

– Total blindness with only the ability to perceive light in one eye and total blindness without the ability to perceive light in the other eye and the loss of use of one foot (rated by the VA at 50% or more)

– Total blindness with only the ability to perceive light in one eye and the physical loss of the other eye and the amputation of one hand

– Total blindness with only the ability to perceive light in one eye and the physical loss of the other eye and the loss of use of one hand

– Total blindness with only the ability to perceive light in one eye and total blindness without the ability to perceive light in the other eye and the amputation of one hand

– Total blindness with only the ability to perceive light in one eye and total blindness without the ability to perceive light in the other eye and the loss of use of one hand

 

Category O (SMC-O):

The following conditions qualify for a rating under Category O:

– Amputation of both arms so close to the shoulder that it is impossible to wear a prosthesis

– Hearing loss in both ears (only one ear has to be caused by military service) that is rated 60% or more by the VA, and blindness in both eyes

– Hearing loss in both ears (only one ear has to be caused by military service) that is rated 40% or more, and blindness in both eyes with only the ability to perceive light

– Total deafness in one ear, and blindness in both eyes with only the ability to perceive light

– Complete paralysis of both legs with the inability to control urination and defecation

– Physical loss of both eyes and deafness in both ears (rated by the VA 30% or more)

– Total blindness without the ability to see light and deafness in both ears (rated by the VA 30% or more)

– Physical loss of both eyes and the amputation of one foot

– Physical loss of both eyes and the loss of use of one foot (rated by the VA 50% or more)

– Total blindness without the ability to see light and the amputation of one foot

– Total blindness without the ability to see light and the loss of use of one foot (rated by the VA 50% or more)

– Physical loss of both eyes and the amputation of one hand

– Physical loss of both eyes and the loss of use of one hand

– Total blindness without the ability to see light and the amputation of one hand

– Total blindness without the ability to see light and the loss of use of one hand

 

Housebound Benefits (SMC-S):

Special Monthly Compensation under Category S is given if the veteran has at least one condition rated 100% and one or both of the following:

– The veteran is completely and permanently housebound because of his service-connected conditions, meaning that the veteran cannot leave his area of abode (this can include his own home, a hospital ward, or a care facility) at all, and this is expected to be the case for the rest of his life.

-OR-

– The veteran has another condition rated 60% that is unrelated to the 100% condition (They affect different body system, or are a different type of disability, etc. For example, they can’t both affect the arm.)

This Special Monthly Compensation is given INSTEAD of Special Monthly Compensation under Categories L through O.

 

Additional Pay (SMC-K):

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.

The following body parts can be rated under this category:

– Amputation of a hand

– Amputation of a foot

– Loss of use of a hand

– Loss of use of a foot

– Physical loss of one eye

– Total blindness in one eye to such a degree that the individual only has the ability to perceive light or less

– Physical loss of a creative organ, including ovaries, uterus, testicles, etc. If the loss of the creative organ was caused by an operation that was not performed by the DoD or VA or a referred physician, it does not qualify for rating unless the surgery was performed to correct a service-connected condition. For one testicle to qualify it must be one of the following: 1.) 1/3 the size of the other testicle, 2.) ½ or less the size of the other testicle and significantly harder or softer than the other, or 3.) tests prove that it is no longer producing sperm.

– Loss of use of a creative organ

– Inability to speak without the help of a prosthesis because of damage to the muscles or nerves that control the voice

– Complete deafness in both ears (must be both in this case, not just one). The VA rating for this condition must be 100% to qualify.

– Loss of use of BOTH buttocks (For “loss of use” in this case, the veteran must be unable to rise to his feet and remained balanced without using his arms or assistance, and the condition is rated at least 50% under VA code 5317.)

– Loss of 25% or more of breast tissue in one or both breasts combined, or after radiation treatment to the breast tissues

 

Aid and Attendance (SMC-R):

Category R is given to veterans who qualify for Special Monthly Compensation under Category O, or under Categories N ½ and K together, and who requires the help of another person (aid and attendance) every day. If the veteran’s condition does not qualify under these categories, even if aid and attendance is required, he does not qualify for Category R.

Additionally, a veteran only qualifies for Category R if he requires the help of another person every day to perform the following tasks:

– Dressing and undressing

– Cleaning and grooming

– Feeding

– Using the restroom

– Adjusting prosthetic or orthopedic appliances frequently. A veteran only qualifies for this if he is unable to adjust an appliance that most people could adjust on their own.

Another person does not need to be with the veteran at all times for him to qualify. He just has to be unable to perform the majority of the above activities without help every day.

A veteran can also qualify if:

– His disability, physical or mental, requires that another person regularly care for him to keep him from harming himself or others, intentionally or accidentally.

– He is bedridden. This means that his condition is severe enough that it requires him to always be in bed. He does not qualify if he chooses to remain in bed or if a physician prescribes him to a period of bed rest. It is also not enough for the veteran to just have to be in bed. To qualify for this special monthly compensation, he must also need the regular aid and attendance of another person.

Category R compensation is NOT given if the individual is hospitalized or in a care institution, only if they are being cared for at home. This is because the VA will already be covering the costs of hospitalization if a veteran is hospitalized for a service-connected condition. When the veteran is not hospitalized, however, this extra compensation helps support their need for daily care.

Note: There are two different things that the VA refers to as “Aid and Attendance.” Please note that the Aid and Attendance discussed here is only for veterans with service-connected disabilities. The VA also gives Aid and Attendance to veterans who receive pensions. That Aid and Attendance is similar but does have significant differences than the one described here.

Additional Category K Special Monthly Compensation can be given, but ONLY if it is based on a different condition than the one that qualifies him for Category R. For example, if the veteran has extremely severe dementia that qualifies him for aid and attendance under Category R, and he had one leg amputated, then the amputated leg does qualify for additional Special Monthly Compensation under Category K since it was not needed to qualify him for Category R.

There are two different levels under Category R: Category R1 and Category R2.

Category R1: For this category, the veteran must have to have someone helping him every day to perform the above tasks, but that person does not have to be a professional. They can be a family member, friend, etc.

Category R2: For this category, the person helping the veteran must be a licensed medical professional or someone working on behalf of a licensed medical professional. In addition, the VA must judge that the veteran would have to be hospitalized, put in a nursing home, or otherwise institutionalized if he did not have this professional-level care at home.

Note: The amounts shown in the Special Monthly Compensation Rates table for Categories R1 and R2 are the total amount the veteran receives each month if he qualifies for Category R. He does not also receive standard disability compensation or compensation for other categories (except Category K).

 

Category Q (SMC-Q):

Paid in place of a rate. The monthly amount is shown below.

 

Important Notes:

It is important to understand how all these categories work together.

A condition can only be categorized under ONE of the categories between L and O.

If a condition qualifies under Category S, then it is categorized just under S, and not under Categories L through O.

Category K can be given in addition to any category except Category R unless the condition that qualifies for Category K is not used to qualify for Category R. You can’t use the same condition to qualify for both Category K and Category R.

Category R is unique. It completely replaces any other rating for any condition. If you qualify for Category R, then you will only receive compensation for that category, and won’t receive any other disability pay from the VA, including the normal VA disability rating pay. The only thing you can receive in addition to Category R is Category K for entirely separate conditions.

 

2019 SMC Pay Rates:

Looking for the 2019 VA disability pay rates instead? Click here.

SMC-K rate: $108.57

Usually added to other rate or paid as the rate when percentage is zero.

SMC-Q rate: $67

Paid in place of a rate.

 

2019 SMC Pay Tables:

 

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