A Comprehensive Guide to VA Special Monthly Compensation (SMC)

When a Veteran receives a rating decision and is granted disability compensation, they are assigned a rating percentage of up to 100%.  That percentage determines how much of a monthly payment the Veteran will receive, along with how many dependents they have, plus other factors.

However, sometimes even a 100% rating is not enough compensation.  This may be due to catastrophic injuries a Veteran received while in service, which significantly reduce their earning capacity.  Losing one or more limbs, blindness, traumatic brain injuries, paralysis, and other profound injuries can lead to an additional monetary award known as Special Monthly Compensation (SMC).

What is the VA Special Monthly Compensation?

SMC is awarded to Veterans that have suffered severe disabilities, severely disabled Veterans who are housebound, or those who need regular aid and attendance or daily healthcare services.

SMC is an additional tax-free benefit that can be paid to Veterans, their spouses, surviving spouses, and parents.  For spouses and surviving spouses, this benefit is commonly referred to as aid and attendance and is paid based on the need for assistance by another person.

A condition must first be service-connected by the VA to qualify for SMC.  Detailed SMC ratings are based on the type of disability, which then determines a specific added amount that can be awarded.  These ratings are assigned letters based on the type of SMC-qualifying disability.

Basic levels range from K to S and are also used as building blocks to higher SMC levels running from L through O.

For example, SMC-K is a basic level of SMC, and it applies when you have anatomical loss or loss of use of a reproductive organ, one foot or one hand, both buttocks or one eye.

The SMC-L category includes the 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.

Detailed charts assign dollar amounts based on the rating letter and the number of dependents a Veteran has.  For example, in 2023, a Veteran assigned an SMC-L rating with no dependents can qualify for $4,146.13 per month, while a Veteran with an SMC-N rating can receive $5,205.17.

If your spouse receives Aid and Attendance benefits or you have more than one child, you may qualify for additional monthly payment amounts.

SMC compensation may end up being less if you receive military retirement pay, disability severance pay, or separation pay or if you’re incarcerated in a federal, state, or local facility for more than 60 days for conviction of a felony.

Annual cost-of-living adjustments ensure SMC payments maintain a recipient’s purchasing power and keep up with inflation.

Eligibility Criteria for VA Special Monthly Compensation

Some of the most qualifying disabilities for SMC payments include:

  • Loss or loss of use of a hand or foot
  • Immobility of a joint or paralysis
  • The loss of sight in one or both eyes
  • Loss or loss of use of a reproductive organ
  • Complete loss or loss of use of both buttocks
  • Permanently bedridden
  • Deafness in both ears
  • Inability to communicate by speech
  • Service-connected paraplegia with a complete loss of bowel and bladder control
  • Needing daily help with basic needs (like eating, dressing, and bathing), also called “Aid and Attendance”

Each lettered category has different requirements for the kind of conditions that qualify for Special Monthly Compensation under that category.

There are different levels of SMC.  A Veteran must first establish they are entitled to basic Special Monthly Compensation before being considered for higher rates of SMC.

Some of the basic levels of SMC are loss or loss of use of a creative organ, loss or loss of use of a hand or a foot, total blindness of one eye, deafness of both ears, loss of voice, housebound, or aid and attendance.  Also, there is a difference between the loss of use and the loss of the body part itself (amputation) and in other similar situations.

Different Types of VA Special Monthly Compensation

There are several types of SMC that a Veteran can receive.  They include:

Aid and Attendance (A&A) Benefit.  Aid and Attendance is an SMC award for those who need the “aid and attendance” of another person for their routine daily living activities permanently.  SMC can then be awarded to alleviate the need for a caretaker.  The caretaker does not have to be a medical professional but can even be a family member helping with everyday tasks.  Some of the factors the VA considers as daily tasks that would qualify the Veteran for additional compensation are the inability to dress or undress, bathe, take care of one’s personal hygiene, feed oneself, or avoid injuring oneself with everyday tasks.

Housebound Benefit.  If a Veteran is service-connected at the 100% rate and meets one of the

Criteria for being housebound, bedridden, or requiring the aid and attendance of another person, an additional SMC payment may be awarded.

Special Monthly Compensation for Loss of Use.  Loss, or loss of use, means amputation or no effective remaining function of an extremity or organ. The VA considers the following disabilities for SMC Los of Use payments:

  • Loss, or loss of use, of a hand or foot
  • Immobility of a joint
  • Paralysis
  • Loss of sight of an eye (only seeing light)
  • Loss, or loss of use, of a reproductive organ
  • Complete loss, or loss of use, of both buttocks
  • Deafness of both ears (no air and bone conduction)
  • Inability to communicate by speech (complete organic aphonia)
  • Loss of a percentage of tissue from a single breast, or both breasts, from mastectomy
  • or radiation treatment

The VA will pay higher rates if you have more than one of these disabilities. For example, if you have loss, or loss of use, of your feet, legs, hands, and arms, you will receive more compensation based on your specific combination of disabilities.  There are also higher payments for various combinations of severe deafness with blindness in both eyes and service-connected paraplegia, with complete loss of bowel and bladder control.

Understanding VA Special Monthly Compensation Ratings

SMC rates vary based on the unique circumstances of a Veteran’s disability, the type of care they need, and their dependent situation.  There are several permutations the VA uses to address all of these variables.

For example, the SMC-L through SMC-N rating chart looks like this.

Basic SMC Rates
Dependent status SMC-L (in U.S. $) SMC-L 1/2 (in U.S. $) SMC-M (in U.S. $) SMC-M 1/2 (in U.S. $) SMC-N (in U.S. $)
Veteran alone
(no dependents)
4,146.13 4,360.47 4,575.68 4,890.07 5,205.17
With Spouse
(no parents or Children)
4,331.91 4,546.25 4,761.46 5,075.85 5,390.95
With Spouse and 1 parent
(no Children)
4,481.01 4,695.35 4,910.56 5,224.95 5,540.05
With Spouse and 2 parents
(no Children)
4,630.11 4,844.45 5,059.66 5,374.05 5,689.15
With 1 parent
(no Spouse or Children)
4,295.23 4,509.57 4,724.78 5,039.17 5,354.27
With 2 parents
(no Spouse or Children)
4,444.33 4,658.67 4,873.88 5,188.27 5,503.37
Added Amounts
Dependent status SMC-L (in U.S. $) SMC-L 1/2 (in U.S. $) SMC-M (in U.S. $) SMC-M 1/2 (in U.S. $) SMC-N (in U.S. $)
Spouse receiving Aid and Attendance 170.38 170.38 170.38 170.38 170.38

The different levels of SMC that a Veteran is entitled to correspond to a different level of VA disability compensation well above the 100% rating to make up for the Veteran’s inability to work.  For example, a single Veteran rated at 100% receives $3,332.06 per month, but at the highest level of SMC benefits for aid and attendance, the special monthly compensation rate would be over $8,100 per month.

Recent Updates and Changes in VA Special Monthly Compensation

The 2023 VA disability pay rates were effective December 1, 2022, with a year-over-year increase of 8.7% based on the latest cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).

How To Apply For VA Special Monthly Compensation

It is presumed that when a Veteran files a disability claim, they are seeking the maximum benefit allowed by law that corresponds to their disability.  As a result, SMC is not a benefit a Veteran has to formally request for higher compensation ratings.  The VA is supposed to consider if SMC is warranted if the medical evidence in the claims file indicates that they are.

This is why gathering the most complete evidence and documentation at the outset is critical.  Veteran Ratings has considerable experience in guiding Veterans who need to assemble medical records, military records, and any evidence to prove eligibility for a 100% disability claim and added SMC payments.

Working with our consultants and network of medical professionals, we can also provide input to help Veterans as they complete and submit VA Form 21-2680 (Examination for Housebound Status or Permanent Need for Regular Aid and Attendance) and other related documentation as part of their submission process.

Appeals and Reviews for VA Special Monthly Compensation

Although the VA is supposed to presume a Veteran is seeking the maximum benefit allowed by law that corresponds to their disability, this does not always happen.  The best way to avoid this is to build the best possible submission package at the outset with guidance from one of Veteran Ratings’ consultants.  We have a 95% success rate, saving valuable time and creating peace of mind through financial security for deserving Veterans.

When a Veteran is erroneously denied SMC benefits or not granted the full amount of SMC benefits they are entitled to, they could be entitled to retroactive benefits or even make a claim for a clear and unmistakable error.

If your claim is denied, you will receive a denial letter from the VA on how they reached their decision.  From this, you can decide if an appeal is warranted and what new evidence is required for submission, which you must do within one year after you get the decision letter.

Due to the complex nature of supplemental claims and appeals, Veteran Ratings and our consulting partners only guide current clients.

How Veteran Ratings Can Help

Submitting a VA disability claim can be complicated especially when a claim should include SMC benefits.  Filing an incomplete claim on your own can cause extended delays.  However, when you get guidance from Veteran Ratings, our consultants, and a network of medical professionals, we can greatly increase your chances for a first-time approval.

Our consulting partners have successfully helped over 20,000 Veterans get important benefits at the highest possible rating.  When you let us guide you, you’ll save time and gain peace of mind knowing you are documenting your best chance for approval.

FAQs About VA Special Monthly Compensation

Can I receive Special Monthly Compensation in addition to other VA benefits?

Yes, but be aware that the amount of SMC benefits you receive may be offset or less depending on what those other benefits are and how much they pay you.

How long does it take to receive a decision on a Special Monthly Compensation claim?

As of June 2023, the VA estimates it takes just over 100 days to receive a decision for disability claims.  However, from our experience guiding other Veterans, you can expect a decision to take much longer in many instances.

Can my Special Monthly Compensation rating be increased over time?

You can file a claim for increased SMC disability compensation if you have a rated service-connected disability that’s gotten worse. You’ll need to submit up-to-date medical evidence that shows your disability has gotten worse or your dependent situation has changed with a request to review your current status to see if you’re entitled to a change in the rating category and the amount you can receive.

Can Special Monthly Compensation be transferred to a spouse or dependent?

If you’re the surviving spouse, child, or parent of a service member who died in the line of duty or the survivor of a Veteran who died from a service-related injury or illness, you may be able to get a tax-free monetary benefit called VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (VA DIC).

Get In Touch

If you are struggling with your VA disability rating or want to learn more about our service, please get in touch with our Veteran Ratings team.

Don’t hesitate! We are happy to answer any of your questions and provide guidance for your unique case.

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