VA pays Special Monthly Compensation to a veteran who lost, or lost the use of, specific organs or body parts due to military service. Loss, or loss of use, means amputation or no effective remaining function of an extremity or organ. (For more details see our video on SMC.)
VA considers the following disabilities for Special Monthly Compensation (SMC):
- Loss, or loss of use, of a hand or foot
- Immobility of a joint
- 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
If you have more than one of these disabilities, you will receive more compensation based on your specific combination of disabilities.
If you have a service-connected disability at the 100% rate, additional SMC payment can be considered if you meet one of the following criteria:
- Require the aid and attendance of another person (A&A)
There are several categories of Special Monthly Compensation (SMC-K, SMC-L, SMC-M, etc.) which affect the monthly payment rate. For the most part, these ratings depend on the type of injury as opposed to the percent of loss of use.
Special Monthly Compensation Rates are paid 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.
SMC Categories & General Qualifications
Here are the categories and the general qualifications for each SMC category: (For a detailed description of how the VA determines each category go to https://www.va.gov/disability/compensation-rates/special-monthly-compensation-rates/)
Category K. SMC-K is the basic level of SMC and it applies when you have anatomical loss or loss of use of the following:
- One or more loss of use of a reproductive organ
- One foot or one hand
- Both buttocks
- One eye
- Hearing (deafness of both ears)
- Speech (aphonia)
- One or both breasts for a female veteran (this includes partial anatomical loss as well such as breast tissue)
You may receive one to three SMC-K awards.
Category L applies in cases of amputation or loss of use of both feet below the knee or both hands below the elbow, or a combination of conditions (e.g. amputation of one foot and loss of use of one hand), partial blindness, or are permanently bedridden, or require daily help with basic needs (like eating, dressing, and bathing (Aid and Attendance).
Category L1/2 applies in cases of amputation or loss of use of the leg to the knee and/or the arm to the elbow, total blindness is one eye and near-total blindness in the other eye, or a combination of blindness and leg amputation.
Category M applies in cases of a amputation of a leg to the hip or an arm to the shoulder, when you cannot wear a prosthetic device; blindness in both eyes that requires the you to have someone help with your basic needs (eating, using the restroom, dressing, etc.); or blindness in one eye and the physical loss of the other eye; deafness in both ears, or a combination of these disabilities.
Category M1/2. This category is essentially the same as M, but has an added A&A requirement.
Categories N through O apply when you have had more than one amputation and are unable to wear a prosthetic device or have total blindness combined with the physical loss of an eye or deafness, or a loss or loss of use of a hand or foot. (The separate levels—N, N1/2, and O—represent increasing levels of severity a veteran’s condition.)
Category R (Aid and Attendance). You are entitled to A&A benefits if you have a Category L through O disability which requires daily help in areas like dressing, cleaning, grooming, and frequent prosthetic adjustments. 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 given if the aid and attendance must be provided by a licensed medical professional or someone working on behalf of a licensed medical professional. To qualify for R2, the VA must determine that the veteran would have to be hospitalized or put in a nursing home (or other institution) if the veteran did not have professional care at home.
Category S (Housebound Benefits) applies if you are completely and permanently housebound and have one disability rated at 100%, or a 100% disabling condition and a 60% disabling condition or group of conditions that together rate 60%. These two disabilities must affect different parts of the body.
Category T (Traumatic Brain Injury). You are eligible for Category T brain injury benefits if you would be institutionalized without A&A care and are ineligible for Category R benefits.
Qualifying for Higher SMC Compensation
You may qualify for higher levels of SMC compensation if you have eligible dependents. Eligible dependents include:
- A spouse
- 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