Veterans Can Get More than a 100% Disability Rating
Have you heard of an SMC rating that works in addition to your VA Disability Rating? SMC stands for Special Monthly Compensation. An SMC can be granted for a number of reasons that may not have a direct service connection. While VA Disability ratings come according to the loss of the ability to work, an SMC rating is given in relation to the difficulty of living a normal life. The VA might give you a rating of 70% on your right leg because of an injury that prevents you from working, but an SMC rating would be given because the loss of your right-hand makes it difficult for you to bathe yourself.
You don’t have to have a 100% disability rating to start looking into Special Monthly Compensation (SMC) for serious disabilities. While a veteran may receive an 80% Disability rating based on his or her injuries, if those injuries put them into the right category of being homebound or requiring daily assistance at home, they can apply for SMC.
How do I Apply for SMC? Is it Separate from VA Disability?
It is separate, but they are all wrapped up together. The VA is supposed to infer from your disability claim that you are homebound or have lost the use of your right hand. They don’t always infer that, though, and overlook the fact that you might be permanently homebound from the things you are applying for. We specifically declare on your application that you are homebound or have completely lost the use of your right and left feet from your diabetes that is service-connected. We also include the application for SMC because we build the strongest case for you that we can. Make sure you know if you can try to get SMC or not. Some VSOs assume that veterans don’t need the housebound classification because they were able to make it into the office to apply. We all know that just because someone makes it into an office doesn’t mean it was easy.
When you go through your application and appeal process with us, we will ask you and your family and friends a lot of questions to figure out if SMC would be a good fit for you. We never assume that you would want to miss out on any claim that you earned during active duty.
How Can I Use My SMC Money?
Special Monthly Compensation funds are used to help disabled veterans lead normal lives. The money can be used for in-home help that is not a medical professional but is classified as “Aid and Attendance.” This includes paying for a care provider or family member to come and do laundry, clean house, help with bathing or using the restroom, and even feeding. The various SMC ratings range from a veteran not being able to dress herself because of an amputation up to a man being permanently bedridden. These funds are not based on income loss due to disability, but quality of life needs. If the quality of life can be improved for a veteran that has gone blind, the VA wants to help out (if the right paperwork is filed.)
Sometimes the funds aren’t used to pay for an in-home aid, but to pay for equipment or assistive technologies in the home. Tools or helpers to work with a veteran maintaining good personal hygene, dressing, or feeding themselves are all included. There is no reason for a disabled veteran to suffer socially or practically in their home with these programs in place.
What Types of Disabilities Qualify for Special Monthly Compensation (SMC)?
There are various lists of disabilities to be found all over the internet. A brief overview includes
- loss of a hand or foot
- loss of the use of a hand or foot (it’s still there, but it has no functions as if it were amputated)
- blindness in one or both eyes
- deafness in one or both ears
- being permanently unable to leave your bed
- loss of the ability to speak
- loss or loss of use of a reproductive organ (also called ‘creative organ’ in VA documentation.)
The fact is, some of these come and go as laws are passed and additional technologies for care are developed. Every case is different, so you want to make sure you have a VA Disability experienced doctor review your claim.
Doesn’t My Disability Have to Be Service Related to Get SMC?
No, you can get SMC from a secondary-connected disability. If you have lost your vision due to service-connected diabetes, it doesn’t matter if you had perfect vision the whole time you were in active duty and never had an injury. Because you sacrificed for your country and something happened that eventually led to your blindness, the VA wants to help you live as much of a normal lifestyle as possible. If you have Parkinson’s (which is now a presumptive condition from being at Camp Lejeune) you can apply for Special Monthly Compensation to aid you in your quality of life as you live with Parkinson’s. If you were in Vietnam and you lose your eyesight or have your feet amputated as a result of diabetes, you can claim SMC funds to get help living a normal life at home. Even if it is advised that you have regular supervision at home as a result of a secondary service connection, you should apply for SMC in order to pay for that in-home care. These are not in-home medical staff, which would fall under your medical coverage, but non-medical help to improve your quality of life.
Does PTSD Qualify Me for SMC?
It’s hard to answer that question directly. We need to do a holistic review of your case. Special Monthly Compensation is sometimes related to quality of life measures, such as what you are able to do at home. For PTSD to come into play, there would have to be other mental health ratings claimed as well as physical restrictions. If an anatomical loss or loss of abilities amplifies the symptoms of PTSD, it would come into consideration while applying for VA SMC.
What is Involved in a Housebound Status SMC-S Rating?
If you are substantially confined to live at home because of your VA disabilities, you might qualify for SMC Housebound status. It doesn’t mean you have to be fully bedridden and it doesn’t mean that you aren’t ever allowed to leave. There is reasonable understanding that you can make it out to a doctor’s appointment if necessary, but Special Monthly Compensation for the Housebound typically means that you aren’t leaving home much. If there is certainty that you are going to have your disability without recovery for the rest of your life, you are considered housebound.
What is SMC-K? What is SMC-S? Why Are There So Many?
Each letter designation represents the injury or disability associated with the SMC claim that is awarded. SMC is the housebound classification. SMC AA means that the veteran requires Aid and Attendance. SMC K is for people that have lost use of or completely lost an appendate or organ such as a hand or an eye. The “1/2” (one-half) designation is used to explain how much as been lost. These ratings are based on how many joints are missing. For example, a missing hand above the wrist but below the elbow is 1/2, but a missing arm above the elbow (missing both elbow and wrist) adds up to 1. The amounts for all of these ratings can be found on the VA Compensation Ratings chart for SMC. You’ll also see that the special monthly compensation rates vary based on other individual cases such as marital status, if you are caring for parents or dependants, etc.
Remember that SMC claims are additional benefits to what you would get for your standard VA disability compensation. You won’t get any retroactive pack pay for this segment, but you will start getting it monthly whenever the VA approves your SMC claim.
You can also get more than one SMC claim. Be sure that whoever you are working with to file your claim knows this. Many people think that once you get one SMC classification, that is enough and you don’t need to get more, but when we file your claim we work to get you all of the benefits that you sacrificed so much for.
So a Veteran can Receive More than 100% Disability?
Yes, all of these ratings are in addition to whatever your normal VA disability rating is. When your disability rating is calculated, it is considered separate from whether or not you qualify for SMC. Sometimes people assume that if you are applying for VA Disability and your rating states that your right arm and left hand are missing you automatically get SMC. The thing is, the VA is reviewing hundreds of appeals every day and if you aren’t explicit in your application, you can be overlooked. Since there is a 12-18 month wait on appeals and a 5-7 year wait on getting an appeal in front of a judge, you want to make sure you get it all right on the first try.
The amount that you get varies widely on what classification you are in and the other people in your household. A veteran that lives alone might get $5,055.60 per month for SMC-N1/2 but a veteran that is married and is taking care of her parents might get an additional $500 per month. Instead of just filling out the form and sending it in, make sure you do a comprehensive assessment of all of your conditions and needs. Preparing a strong case will help ensure that you aren’t struggling unnecessarily down the road.
Can I see a list of all SMC eligible disabilities?
You can see the exhaustive list here from the VA, but you’ll want to go over it with an experienced VA Disability Lawyer to see what items might be service-connected to your conditions.
What forms do I fill out for SMC?
You’ll need to add the VA Form 21-526EZ to your application to be considered for SMC benefits. Just filling in the blanks might not be enough, though, so make sure you look at that form in the context of your complete application.