If you served in the military and returned home with a service-connected health condition, injury, or disorder, you likely applied for disability benefits from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). If your application was accepted, you received compensation based on a percentage ranging from 0–100, and this percentage reflected the severity of your injury; how significantly you were disabled by it; and the level of your vocational limitations.
However, some veterans suffer injuries and conditions, such as the loss of a limb or blindness, which are significantly more serious and create additional disabling conditions. These conditions can have severe, adverse effects on a veteran’s socioeconomic state. To help meet the needs of veterans who have specialized health circumstances, the VA makes available a special monthly compensation award (SMC).
Unlike VA disability, which helps pay for lost wages or lost economic opportunities, the SMC provides financial support for veterans who've lost the use of a body part or whose injury or illness is a severe inconvenience in their life. If you believe you qualify for an SMC, it may be beneficial to hire a VA disability lawyer who can help you with the claims process to receive this additional monetary award.
What Is the VA Special Monthly Compensation Award?
When a veteran is seriously disabled, the VA offers the SMC because the monetary amount provided by the standard percentage rating isn’t enough to cover his financial needs.
The VA provides an SMC Rates Table, with categories L through S, which defines the amount of money a veteran can receive. Each letter has different requirements for the type of medical issues that qualify under that category.
There are some important things to remember about the SMC award:
- All SMC rates are given instead of the standard VA disability rates—not in addition to those rates.
- Category K is the only category given in addition to your standard disability pay.
- All SMC is tax free.
- A condition or an injury must be determined to be service-connected to qualify for any category.
- SMC benefits can be paid to veterans, their spouses, surviving spouses, or parents.
What Types of Conditions Qualify for the SMC?
There are various types of conditions, illnesses, and injuries that qualify for the SMC, and this can include a combination of different categories. Here's a brief look at the general types of conditions:
- Loss or the loss of use of limbs, hands, feet, and/or reproductive organs
- Aphonia—the inability to speak
- Loss of bowel and bladder control
- Being permanently housebound
- Need for regular aid and attendance with activities of daily living or a higher level of care
However, in each category, there are more specific details of the conditions that qualify for the SMC in that area. For example, here's a look at some of the eligible conditions under category M:
- If both hands have been amputated below the elbow
- If there's a loss of use of both hands
- If both knees have been amputated
- If one elbow and one knee have been amputated
- If one foot has been amputated, and one leg has been amputated so close to the hip that it’s not possible for the veteran to wear a prosthesis
- If there’s a loss of use of one foot and amputation of one arm close to the shoulder, making it impossible to wear a prosthesis
- If there's blindness in both eyes requiring the need for regular aid and attendance
Each category may include terminology that’s not entirely clear, or you may think it means something it doesn’t. To better understand the conditions that qualify for an SMC, here are some important definitions that help explain that terminology:
- Loss of use. This means the body part is unable to function any better than if it were amputated and the veteran is using a prosthetic device. For example, it’s considered loss of use if you’re unable to balance on a foot or you can’t hold an object in your hand.
- Permanently bedridden. This is not a temporary condition where a doctor may have prescribed periods of bed rest—meaning you can still get out of bed at some point. Permanently bedridden means your condition is so serious, you can’t get out of bed.
- Aid and attendance. This means your condition requires regular supervision by another person or facility—either a family member, an in-home nurse, or a nursing home. If you're hospitalized, this doesn't qualify under the term aid and attendance.
How We Can Help
If you’re a veteran with a service-connected injury and want to determine if you qualify for an SMC, you should contact the VA disability attorneys at Cuddigan Law. We can help you understand the complex ratings for this financial award and answer your questions. To discuss your situation, start an online chat on our website today.