VA Special Monthly Compensation: 
Table of Contents:

Eligibility
Benefits and Services
Getting Benefits and Services

Eligibility

Special Monthly Compensation (SMC) is very difficult to understand – even experts in veterans benefits can find it confusing. So you are not alone if you find the SMC program difficult to figure out. This article introduces the SMC program. However, it cannot explain every detail. For additional questions, see the Vets101 article on Getting Local Help to find a qualified representative.

There are about 60 levels of SMC divided into 9 letter categories: -K, -L, -M, -N, -O, -P, -R, -S, and -T. If you get SMC, the VA will tell you which of these categories of SMC you qualify for. Some of the letter categories also have in-between levels, which are shown by a “½” symbol after the letter. Here we’ll introduce the basic eligibility requirements for the main categories of SMC benefits.

Many of the eligibility requirements use specific technical language that may be difficult to understand. You may need to talk to an expert to figure out exactly what level you qualify for.

Eligibility for Specific Levels of SMC
To receive an SMC (k) award you must have one of the following:

Anatomical loss (or loss of use) of:

One hand
One foot
Both buttocks (where the applicable bilateral muscle group prevents the individual from maintaining unaided upright posture, rising and stooping actions)
One or more creative organs used for reproduction (absence of testicles, ovaries, or the creative organ, ¼ loss of tissue of a single breast or both breasts in combination) due to trauma while in the service, or as a residual of service-connected disabilities
One eye (loss of use includes specific levels of blindness)

Complete organic aphonia (constant loss of voice due to disease)
Deafness of both ears that includes absence of air and bone conduction

To receive an SMC (l) award you must have one of the following:

Anatomical loss (or loss of use) of:

Both feet
One hand and one foot

Blindness in both eyes with visual acuity of 5/200 or less
Permanently bedridden
Regular need for aid and attendance

To receive an SMC (m) award you must have one of the following:

Anatomical loss (or loss of use) of:

Both hands
Both legs at the region of the knee
One arm at the region of the elbow with one leg at the region of the knee

Blindness in both eyes, having only light perception
Blindness in both eyes resulting in the need for regular aid and attendance

To receive an SMC (n) award you must have one of the following:

Anatomical loss (or loss of use) of both arms at the region of the elbow
Anatomical loss of both legs so near the hip that it prevents the use of a prosthetic appliance
Anatomical loss of one arm so near the shoulder that it prevents the use of a prosthetic appliance, along with the anatomical loss of one leg so near the hip that it prevents the use of a prosthetic appliance
The anatomical loss of both eyes, or blindness in both eyes that includes loss of light perception

To receive an SMC (o) award you must have one of the following:

Anatomical loss of both arms so near the shoulder that it prevents the use of a prosthetic appliance
Bilateral deafness (both ears) rated at least 60% disabling, along with service-connected blindness with visual acuityof 20/2000 or less in both eyes
Complete deafness in one ear or bilateral deafness rated at least 40% disabling, along with service-connected blindness in both eyes that includes loss of light perception
Paraplegia-paralysis of both lower extremities, along with bowel and bladder incontinence
Helplessness due to a combination of loss (or loss of use) of two extremities with deafness and blindness, or a combination of multiple injuries causing severe and total disability

To receive an SMC (p) award you must have one of the following:

Anatomical loss (or loss of use) of a leg at or below the knee, along with the anatomical loss (or loss of use) of the other leg at a level above the knee
The anatomical loss (or loss of use) of a leg below the knee, along with the anatomical loss (or loss of use) of an arm above the elbow
The anatomical loss (or loss of use) of one leg above the knee and the anatomical loss (or loss of use) of one hand
Blindness in both eyes, meeting the requirements listed for SMC (l), (m) or (n)

To receive an SMC (r) award you must:

Be receiving the maximum SMC (o) benefits and require:

Aid and attendance, or
Aid and attendance of another person without which you would require hospitalization, nursing home care or other residential type care

To receive an SMC (s) (Housebound) award, you must either:

Meet all of the following:

You have a service-connected disability rated at 100%
You have a qualifying, additional service-connected disability (or disabilities) that is completely separate from the first disability and is independently rated at 60%
You are approved for VA disability compensation

OR

Be housebound:

Your disabilities must directly cause you to be substantially confined to your home and the immediate premises or, if you are in an institution, to the ward or clinical areas
Also, it must be reasonably certain that your disability or disabilities and confinement will continue for the rest of your life

To receive an SMC (t) award you must:

Need regular Aid and Attendance (A&A) for the residuals of (results of) Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Not be eligible for a higher level of A&A under SMC (r)(2)
Need hospitalization, nursing home care, or other residential institutional care without in-home A&A

Eligibility for Aid and Attendance

Usually, you may qualify for regular Aid and Attendance (A&A) benefits based on any of the following circumstances:

You need the regular help of another person to perform everyday living activities, adjust prosthetic devices, or protect yourself from the hazards of your daily environment. Even if you are able to perform some of those functions, you may still be able to qualify for A&A, because the VA will consider the particular personal functions that you are unable to perform in connection with your condition as a whole.
You are bedridden because your disability (or disabilities) requires you stay in bed, not because of any treatment you have had, such as surgery; OR
You are a patient in a nursing home because of a mental or physical incapacity; OR
You are blind, or so nearly blind as to have corrected visual acuity of 5/200 or less, in both eyes, or have concentric contraction of the visual field to 5 degrees or less.

For more information on disabling conditions that the VA considers for A&A, read the glossary entry for Disabling Conditions Relevant to Aid & Attendance.

When you apply for A&A, your evidence must show that you actually need personal assistance from others. But you don’t need to show that you need it all the time, just that you need it regularly.

Certain spouses may also qualify for A&A benefits. If you are a veteran with a 30% or greater combined VA service-connected disability rating, and your spouse needs the aid and attendance of another person, you may be entitled to get a spouse-related A&A payment.

Usually, if you get VA disability compensation and you qualify for A&A benefits, the VA will pay you at the SMC-L rate instead of your normal monthly disability compensation. There are exceptions to this, which can sometimes get you even more compensation. These exceptions can be read in the glossary entry for Exceptions to the SMC-L Rate for Aid & Assistance. If the VA finds you eligible for SMC-L, your monthly compensation from the VA will come on or about the first day of each month and will not be subject to federal or state taxes.