SMC Claims

VA Special Monthly Compensation Claims | Get Legal Help Today

Legally reviewed by Brendan Garcia , Owner and Lead Attorney

Veterans with severe disabilities may pursue special monthly compensation (SMC) claims through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in order to collect disability benefits. However, obtaining SMC benefits can be complicated for a former servicemember, especially if they need to appeal one or more denials.

It may be in your best interest to discuss your claim with a VA-accredited attorney before filing so you can increase your chances of success. If VA denied your SMC claim, a skilled attorney from the experienced team at VetLaw can help you achieve a positive outcome in your case.

What Is Special Monthly Compensation?

In some cases, 100% disability compensation is not enough to provide a quality standard of living to disabled veterans and their families. Special monthly compensation (SMC) is a tax-free benefit that can be paid to Veterans, their spouses, or surviving spouses and parents in addition to regular VA disability benefits. This higher rate of compensation is awarded in special circumstances and is based on the severity of the veteran’s disability. For spouses and surviving loved ones, VA special monthly compensation is oftentimes referred to as aid and attendance.

Special monthly compensation is designed to provide financial support for veterans who struggle with conditions that reduce their overall quality of life. These benefits can be used to afford a special vehicle to transport mobility equipment, compensate caretakers, purchase electronics to help with communicating, or modify the home to accommodate a veteran’s disability, for instance. Ultimately, these additional benefits can be life-changing for veterans and their families.

How to Apply for Special Monthly Compensation

To apply for special monthly compensation, a completed VA Form 21-2680 should be filed with your regional Pension Management Center. Your attorney can help you identify your VA Pension Management Center and submit the relevant forms to apply for SMC. On this form, you will be required to include personal details and contact information as well as a medical examination to determine if the veteran is housebound or requires the aid and attendance of another person. This examination must be completed by a doctor, physician assistant, or advanced practice registered nurse.

Including evidence to support your claim for special monthly compensation is important. Medical evidence such as doctors’ notes, diagnostic tests, and treatment records may all be helpful. Statements detailing the veteran’s daily routine and how they get around their community can also be beneficial to your application, as well as information about their disability impacts their ability to complete day-to-day activities like bathing or eating.

What Are the Different Levels of SMC Benefits?

There is a common misconception that securing a service connection with 100% disability rating is the highest level of VA disability benefits available to veterans and their families. Special Monthly Compensation is an important type of benefit that you may be entitled to, and within this benefit system there are various different levels assigned to compensation rates. VA Special Monthly Compensation rates are split into a few different categories.

Level S – Housebound Benefits

This level establishes compensation for veterans who are fully housebound, meaning they are unable to leave their home or care facility without difficulty and are expected to remain in this condition for the rest of their lives. This level is also reserved for veterans who meet statutory housebound status, or in other words have a single service-connected condition at 100% and additional and unrelated service-connected conditions that add up to 60% disabling. One example is a veteran who has a disability rating of 100% for PTSD as well as one or more physical conditions that when combined equal at least a 60% rating. These conditions are unrelated and will qualify the veteran for the Level S special monthly compensation rate.

Level L – Basic Aid and Attendance

This level compensates veterans in need of basic aid and attendance, or in other words at the minimum compensable level when veterans require assistance with activities of daily living. Some of the examples include medication management, assistance with leaving the home, help with dressing and bathing, or other basic daily needs.

Level R – Aid and Attendance

In contrast, Level R is the most advanced level, reserved for veterans with the highest need. This level is broken down into two categories, R1 and R2.  Level R1 is generally paid to veterans who can receive in-home care from family members or other non-licensed professionals while Level R2 is for veterans who require skilled care from licensed healthcare professionals.

Level T – Traumatic Brain Injury

Veterans who experience chronic symptoms related to a traumatic brain injury may be eligible for VA Special Monthly Compensation under Level T if they require aid and attendance and do not qualify for level R2. An additional requirement is that the veteran would require hospitalization, nursing home care, or other residential institutional care without regular in-home assistance. Level T provides the same amount of monthly compensation as Level R2.

Levels M through O – Intermediate Levels of Aid and Attendance

Levels M through O are designed for veterans who fall somewhere between the SMC-L and SMC-R (or SMC-T).  There are very specific requirements to receive these levels of aid and attendance, and typically require more than one very serious disability including amputations, blindness, and/or total deafness.

Level K – Additional Compensation

Special monthly compensation at the K level is sometimes called an add-on benefit because it can be added to any other rating, even one that is noncompensable. This rating is assigned to veterans who have lost the use of a body part or function. This compensation is granted in addition to regular VA disability benefits, SMC under Level L through N ½, SMC Level S, and SMC Level R, in certain cases. One common example is a veteran who is service-connected for erectile dysfunction.

Qualifying for SMC Benefits

VA awards SMC to veterans with certain disabilities. It is a tax-free benefit that is awarded in addition to a former servicemember’s compensation for their service-connected disabilities. Circumstances which may qualify a veteran for special monthly compensation include:

  • Loss or loss of use of a body part
  • A combination of certain service-connected conditions rated at levels above 100 percent disability
  • Being housebound
  • Requiring the aid and attendance of another
  • Total deafness
  • Blindness

Veterans do not have to specifically request special monthly compensation when they apply for disability benefits because the VA presumes that all applicants are seeking the maximum amount of compensation available based on the severity and scope of their conditions. However, if the VA denies SMC benefits to a qualifying veteran, it may be in their best interests to consult one of VetLaw’s dedicated attorneys who can assist them with filing effective appellate claims.

How Can You Qualify for the Different Levels of SMC Benefits?

The level of SMC benefits that you qualify for will depend entirely on the nature of the disability or disabilities and your ability to move freely around your community. If you are housebound and unable to leave your home, care facility, or hospital ward, then you likely qualify for SMC benefits. Even If you are not housebound, you can still qualify for SMC benefits if you need the assistance of another person to perform activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, or medication management.

The VA will then determine which level of SMC benefits you qualify for based on the unique nature of your disability. If you suffer from a traumatic brain injury, for instance, Level T compensation may be the right fit. If you experienced a loss of limb or the use of an extremity or organ, on the other hand, you may be eligible for Levels L through O and/or Level K compensation.

Supplemental Evidence

Veterans should be proactive when seeking special monthly compensation and are advised to submit any relevant evidence which supports their claim. A qualified lawyer from our firm can help gather a former servicemember’s medical records to include in their SMC claim. Moreover, medical experts may be needed to examine a veteran’s condition and give an informed opinion to the VA based on their professional training, experience, and evaluation.

A former servicemember’s loved ones are also encouraged to send statements to the VA detailing the amount of care the applicant requires as a result of their service-connected injuries. Veterans should submit as much positive evidence as possible to the VA when filing SMC claims.

What Should You Do If Your Request for Special Monthly Compensation Is Denied?

If your request for Special Monthly Compensation is denied, or if you believe that you were rated incorrectly, it is important to appeal the decision as soon as possible. An experienced attorney can help you navigate the appeals process and ensure that you receive the proper rating that accurately reflects the seriousness of your disability. At VetLaw, we will review your claim, assemble all necessary evidence to prove the severity of your condition, and advocate on your behalf until you receive the Special Monthly Compensation that you and your family deserve.

Receiving Back Pay

If a veteran does not receive special monthly compensation when they apply for VA benefits, a successful appeal may entitlement them to back pay of the compensation they should have received while their claim was pending. A VA-accredited attorney can help a former servicemember calculate the back pay they may be entitled to.

Seek Out an Attorney for Assistance with Filing Special Monthly Compensation Claims

VetLaw’s qualified legal team can assist a veteran with appealing denied special monthly compensation claims. If you are still preparing your initial application for benefits, a lawyer from our firm can advise you on what evidence to include.

Having legal representation can make a substantial difference in obtaining special monthly compensation. For advice on how to initiate the process or help with appealing a rejection from the VA, schedule a consultation with our firm as soon as possible.