A NOTE ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
As a veteran with a service-connected disability, you may be entitled to other special monthly compensation (SMC) from the VA, such as an allowance for being housebound.
A housebound allowance is a form of SMC the VA provides to veterans as an added benefit because their disability confines them to their home. This benefit is separate from the compensation the VA provides veterans who are unable to work due to their service-connected disability. Rather, housebound benefits are given to acknowledge the challenges your disability adds to your life.
Housebound benefits are more common in cases of total and permanent disability that limit your movements (e.g., amputations, loss of organs, terminal diseases like cancer). The amount of your potential housebound allowance depends on factors like your marital status and the number of dependents.
This article will review the important details of SMC for housebound allowances in 2021. You’ll learn the requirements for eligibility, common qualifying disabilities, the application process, and how these benefits differ from the SMC benefits for aid and attendance.
In This Article About Housebound Disability Benefits for Veterans
- Some Background on SMC Benefits for Veterans
- Understanding SMC Benefits for Housebound Veterans
- The Difference Between Housebound and Aid and Attendance Benefits
- Getting Help with Your Claim for VA Housebound Compensation
Some Background on SMC Benefits for Veterans
Before explaining the specifics of the SMC for housebound allowances, you may be wondering about SMC in general and how it differs from your VA disability rating. As stated above, SMC is a type of benefit for veterans that is separate from the compensation you receive based on your disability rating.
Veterans familiar with the disability rating process are often surprised to learn they can receive SMC benefits on top of the compensation for their 100 percent rated disability. While this article focuses on SMC for housebound veterans, the VA provides SMC to veterans for several other reasons. Many of these benefits are for the loss of function of extremities and other senses (e.g., loss of vision or sight). A complete list of the disabilities and circumstances that might warrant SMC benefits, along with their requirements, can be found in Section 3.350 of Title 38 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).
The underlying purpose of SMC benefits is to allow you to purchase the equipment, tools, services, and other amenities needed to live a comfortable and fulfilling life despite your disability.
Understanding SMC Benefits for Housebound Veterans
The requirements, application process, and other rules of SMC for housebound veterans can be complex and difficult to understand. This section provides some general information that can start you on the path to understanding if you’re eligible for housebound SMC.
How Do You Qualify for the Housebound Allowance?
To receive SMC for being housebound, you must meet the two requirements set forth in Section 3.350(i) of the CFR. The first requirement is to have a 100 percent rated service-connected disability.
The second requirement can be met in any one of two methods. The first is to have an additional disability rated at 60 percent that is distinct from your 100 percent rated disability. This means the two disabilities cannot involve the same anatomical segments or bodily systems. For example, a spinal fusion rated at 100 percent and back arthritis rated at 60 percent would likely not qualify because the two conditions involve the same anatomical segments – the back.
You can qualify for SMC housebound benefits if you have a 100 percent rating through Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU). However, the disabilities used to establish your TDIU must not include the 60 percent rated disability used to meet the second requirement for SMC housebound.
Another method to fulfill the second requirement is to be permanently homebound because of your disability. The rules explain that you are considered permanently homebound if your disability directly and substantially confines you to your dwelling or immediate premises. Additionally, the VA will only consider you permanently homebound if it is reasonably certain that your disability and resulting confinement will continue for the rest of your life.
Common Disabilities that Might Qualify You for SMC Housebound Allowance
If you already receive VA disability benefits but think you may qualify for SMC housebound allowance, then you may need to review your disability ratings. Conditions often associated with SMC housebound benefits include:
- Conditions that affect the nervous system, like multiple sclerosis and traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- Musculoskeletal conditions, such as back injuries, spinal fusion, bulging disc, and degenerative disc disease.
No explicit rules exist that limit your eligibility for SMC housebound benefits to certain conditions or disabilities. Instead, what matters is having one or more disabilities that meet the rating requirements and make you permanently housebound.
How Housebound Allowances are Calculated and How Much You Can Get in 2021
The VA reviews the amount of money you receive for various SMC benefits every year to adjust for changes to the cost of living and inflation. If qualified for SMC housebound benefits, your monthly compensation depends on your marital status, parents, and if you have dependents.
The VA publishes updated rating tables for you to see your expected housebound benefits for 2021 depending on your specific circumstances. The VA also maintains records of the rates for prior years – from 2018 to 2020. The benefits for SMC housebound are classified as SMC Level S. There are two tables with ratings – one is for veterans without dependent children and the other table includes dependent children. Generally, the more dependents you have, the greater your benefits will be.
For example, if you have no children, spouse, or parents, your housebound benefits in 2021 would be $3,521.85 a month. On the other hand, if you have a child, a spouse, and two parents, you can receive $4,107.33 per month. The VA adds an amount to your base monthly compensation for each additional child you have under the age of 18 ($87.17 per child). Amounts are also added if you have children over the age of 18 provided they are enrolled in a qualifying education program. Your SMC housebound benefits might also increase if your spouse receives SMC for aid and attendance.
You can use the rating table published by the VA to determine your potential housebound benefits. You can also use our disability calculator to estimate your monthly VA disability benefits separate from your SMC. Together, these figures can show you what your total monthly VA compensation might look like.
The Woods and Woods Ultimate Guide to TDIU
The big deal about a TDIU ruling is that you jump from a 70% VA Rating to get the monthly payment equal to a 100% Rating.
Applying for SMC Housebound Allowance
The administrative process for claiming your SMC housebound benefits is similar to that of VA disability benefits but involves a different VA form and some added information. The VA does not specify how long the process will take but generally reviews applications in the order they are received.
To apply, you must submit a completed VA Form 21-2680 to your nearest Pension Management Center. The form will ask for various information about you and the benefits you seek. You will also need help from your doctor to complete the section that describes your disabilities and how they qualify you for homebound benefits (i.e., what disabilities cause you to be permanently homebound). This may include information about the assistance you need to leave your house or the number of hours you are confined to your bed.
Additional information beyond what is asked in Form 21-2680 may also be needed to supplement your application. This might include:
- Doctor reports recommending the need for housebound care
- Details of your daily activities
- Explanations of what disabilities affect your ability for self-care
Seeking professional help with your application can be beneficial in complex cases to ensure your circumstances are accurately represented in the information provided on the application.
Veterans who can’t hold down a steady job that supports them financially (known as substantially gainful employment) because of their service-connected disabilities are eligible for TDIU if they have:
- At least one service-connected disability rated at 60% or more disabling OR
- Two or more service-connected disabilities with at least one rated at 40% or more disabling and a combined rating of 70% or more
Is It Possible to Lose Your Housebound Allowance?
For most veterans, SMC housebound benefits are given as a result of permanent and total disability. In those cases, SMC housebound benefits will generally not end. However, if the disability that qualifies you for housebound benefits is not permanent, your benefits may eventually end.
The VA periodically reviews claims for disability benefits to determine if the prior rating of the disability is still accurate. However, stabilized ratings are given after you’ve had your rating for at least five years. A stabilized rating means the VA will not reduce your disability rating without a medical exam showing sustained improvement. This can be an important timeline to monitor if your SMC housebound benefits are not based on permanent disabilities.
Talk to Us About Your Claim: (866)232-5777
The Difference Between Housebound and Aid and Attendance Benefits
Aid and attendance benefits are another form of SMC benefit for veterans that are often mentioned in the same conversation as housebound benefits. You receive these benefits if your disability prevents you from being able to care for yourself properly, which necessitates the help of nurses or other in-house assistance.
The application process for aid and attendance benefits also requires completing the VA Form 21-2680. However, the requirements to qualify for aid and attendance benefits differ from those of housebound benefits, as discussed below. The main takeaway is that, unlike housebound benefits, you do not need to have a disability rated at 100 percent to qualify for aid and attendance.
Your aid and assistance benefits are determined using the same SMC rating table used for housebound benefits. Although aid and assistance benefits are classified as SMC Level R benefits. Again, the amount of your compensation will depend on your marital status, parents, and number of dependents.
That said, note that you can only receive housebound benefits or aid and attendance benefits, but not both.
Here, one of our VA disability lawyers talks about what we do when we appeal your case to the Veteran’s Administration.
How Do You Qualify for Aid and Attendance Benefits?
You can qualify for SMC aid and attendance benefits through several methods based on the nature of your disability. Usually, one of the following events must be true to qualify for aid and assistance:
- You need help from another person to perform daily tasks such as eating, cleaning yourself, and getting dressed.
- Your illness causes you to spend most of your day in bed.
- You live in a nursing home because your disability has caused loss of your mental or physical abilities.
- You have limited vision, meaning 5/200 or less in both eyes even with glasses, or you have a concentric contraction of your visual field of five degrees or less.
If you need regular aid and assistance, then you can qualify for the standard SMC benefit for aid and assistance. If you need a higher level of care, you may be able to get a higher amount of aid and assistance benefits. To qualify for the higher benefit, you must show that without the higher level of care, you would require hospitalization, nursing home care, or other residential institutional care.
SMC Aid and Attendance is Not the Same as the VA Caregiver Stipend
A common source of confusion for veterans is the difference between the SMC aid and attendance compensation and the VA stipend that family caregivers receive.
Under the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC), you can appoint a family member over the age of 18 to be your primary family caregiver. Primary family caregivers will receive education, training, a monthly stipend, and other resources to support their care for you.
To qualify for the PCAFC benefits, you must be a veteran with a VA disability rating of at least 70 percent. Plus, the disability must be connected to your active-duty service that occurred after September 11, 2001, or before May 7, 1975. You must also have been discharged from the U.S. military and require six months or more of continuous care from another person.
Here is a video of one of our Veterans Disability Lawyers teaching you how to use our VA Disability Combined Ratings Calculator.
Getting Help with Your Claim for VA Housebound Compensation
If you receive VA disability benefits for service-connected medical conditions that confine you to your home or require help from other people to care for yourself, then you may be eligible for SMC housebound or aid and assistance benefits. SMC housebound benefits will be in addition to your 100 percent rated disability benefits.
However, the VA will not retroactively pay SMC housebound benefits to you from the date you first qualified for them. This means you should inquire about SMC housebound benefits as soon as you think you may be eligible to maximize your benefits.
These benefits can provide a great source of extra income to purchase equipment, services, or make other changes to your home that can bring comfort to your life. Overall, housebound benefits exist in recognition of the challenges your disability may cause and are meant to help ease them.
Woods & Woods is a family-owned law firm whose attorneys and staff are available to assist you with your application for SMC housebound benefits or other VA disability benefits. If you were recently denied a claim for SMC housebound benefits or other disability benefits, the attorneys at Woods & Woods are also experienced in guiding veterans through their appeal options.
At Woods and Woods, the Veteran’s Firm, we’ve helped thousands of veterans with their VA disability applications and appeals. We’ve been adding staff and lawyers during the Covid pandemic to better serve disabled veterans in difficult times.
Call us today to discuss your VA disability appeal or your first application. The call is free and we won’t charge you a single fee until we win your case. We even pay for the postage for all of the documentation you send to our office. You can look for a VA disability attorney near you or call us and join the thousands of veterans living off of VA disability thanks to Woods and Woods.
Talk to Us About Your Claim: (866) 232-5777
Unless you have a permanent rating, the VA can lower or even take away your VA disability benefits. If your rating is given a permanent distinction, you don’t have to go back for any more exams or re-assessments. Once we look over your case and know that you should get a permanent and total rating, we’ll fight for it. We won’t charge you a dime until we win.
Yes, you can. If your disability isn’t severe enough to get a high rating, but you still need help in your home, you may be one of the many veterans that receive SMC with a 0% VA rating. Erectile dysfunction and several mental health conditions all work that way, among other disabilities.