What is Special Monthly Compensation and do you qualify for it?
You fought for your country. You incurred a number of conditions because of your service. After service, you fought to continue working. Eventually, you were unable to keep working. You then sought out disability benefits, and the VA denied those benefits. Yet again, you fought for your rating. Finally, the VA granted you a 100 percent rating for your conditions. You are done. Right?
A recent discussion on a veterans’ forum highlighted just how little is understood about the VA benefits process, and what is available to those veterans who suffer from severe and debilitating disabilities. The VA provides numerous ratings above and beyond a 100% disability rating. However, it is one of the most misunderstood and misapplied rules in the VA’s arsenal. The rating criteria can be misunderstood even amongst legal professionals. These ratings are Special Monthly Compensation (SMC) benefits. Today, we will focus on a few of the more common levels of SMC that you are likely to see when appealing to the VA as well as the requirements for each.
What is Special Monthly Compensation?
While the rating schedule is meant to compensate veterans for their reduced earning capacity, a 100 percent rating does not always compensate a veteran for what his conditions entail. Special Monthly Compensation addresses non-economic factors such as personal inconvenience, social inadaptability, and disabilities of a profound nature. SMC provides additional compensation to a veteran at a much higher rate that is available with schedular ratings.
Things get more complicated from here.
There are numerous levels of Special Monthly Compensation available. The VA currently recognizes SMC-K through SMC-T. To further complicate matters, the levels of SMC-K, SMC-Q, and SMC-S are standalone. To complicate things further, the VA offers SMC-L through SMC-O/P in half step intervals. SMC-R has two levels. If we take this a step further, SMC-R is actually a significantly higher level than SMC-S. Confused yet? If not, you are doing better than numerous legal professionals.
For our purposes, we are going to cover some of the basics, SMC-K and SMC-S. These are two of the most common types we see in our practice.
How Do I Qualify for Special Monthly Compensation?
Anatomical loss OR loss of use of a number of a number of individual facilities is the basis for SMC-K. Here is a short, non-exhaustive, list. Loss or loss of use of:
- One or more creative organs,
- A foot,
- A hand,
- Both buttocks,
- One eye caused by blindness with only light perception, and
- Deafness of both ears.
Most commonly in practice, we see SMC-K granted for loss of use of a creative organ. In non-VA speak, this means a male veteran suffers from erectile dysfunction or other sexual disability secondary to a service-connected condition. In the case of a female veteran, loss/removal of, or dysfunctions affecting the uterus or ovaries. If you suffer from “loss of use of a creative organ” as secondary to a service-connected condition, you should receive SMC-K.
The second type of Special Monthly Compensation we see regularly is SMC-S, also known as “Housebound Status.” A veteran shows entitlement to housebound status when he:
- Has a service connected disability that is rated as total, AND
- Has additional disabilities rated at 60 percent or more, OR
- By reason of veteran’s service connected disability or disabilities, is permanently housebound.
What does all this mean for a veteran?
The veteran must have one disability rated as total and additional disabilities equaling at least an additional 60 percent. A service connected disability that is rated as total is a 100 percent rating. The 100 percent rating can be either schedular or TDIU. The veteran must then have additional disabilities which combine to at least 60 percent. A few examples may be helpful here.
Example 1 – Veteran entitled to SMC-S:
Veteran has a 70 percent rating for PTSD and TDIU granted for the same. In addition to his PTSD, he has ratings of 40 percent, 20 percent, and 20 percent. The disability picture is as follows:
- PTSD 70% with entitlement to TDIU (i.e. a total rating),
- 40% Disability 2,
- 20% Disability 3,
- 20% Disability 4
The veteran has PTSD which is totally disabling in the eyes of the VA and additional ratings equaling 60%. VA math will be discussed in a separate post. For today’s purposes, the three additional ratings combine to 61.6 percent and round to 60%. The veteran is entitled to SMC-S because he has one disability which is totally disabling with additional ratings equal or great than 60 percent.
Example 2 – Veteran not entitled to SMC-S:
For this example, we will use the same veteran as above. However, we will remove entitlement to IU and add an additional rating at 50%. The disability picture is as follows:
- 70% PTSD,
- 50% Disability 2,
- 40% Disability 3,
- 20% Disability 4, and
- 20% Disability 5.
In the eyes of the VA, the veteran’s combined rating is 94 percent. The veteran is entitled to a 90 percent combined rating. The veteran, according to VA standards, is not totally disabled nor is he entitled to SMC-S under the schedular requirements.
The above examples do not consider the second half of the regulation. If a veteran is substantially confined to his dwelling or immediate premises as a direct result of his service-connected disabilities he is still entitled to “housebound” status.
What Does it Mean?
As noted above, Special Monthly Compensation is one of the most confusing areas of VA law. It takes an experienced hand to recognize when it is available and when it is being applied incorrectly. Based upon the current VA compensation rates the veteran in Example 1 is entitled to a payment of $3,328.70 per month without dependents. The veteran in Example 2, however, would only receive $1,783.68 per month.
Congratulations if you have achieved a 100 percent rating in your fight with the VA! You have won a victory that many people have trouble achieving. However, 100 percent is not the end all of VA compensation. There are numerous levels above a 100 percent rating and a number of ways to get to those levels. Today’s article discusses some of the more common levels of Special Monthly Compensation. It is important to have competent representation in this arena because as the levels increase, the complexity of the regulations also increases.
Article by: Nicholas Simpson