Lately we’ve been getting a lot of questions about Special Monthly Compensation (SMC). Veterans are wondering if they qualify and if they can get Special Monthly Compensation in addition to their disability compensation. In this blog we’ll define Special Monthly Compensation and provide a list of questions that you should consider before applying.
What is Special Monthly Compensation?
Special Monthly Compensation is authorized by statute under certain circumstances in addition to your service-connected disability compensation. Remember to get disability compensation from the VA, you have to meet the service requirement, you must have a medical diagnosis, and you must have a connection between your service and the diagnosis. Special Monthly Compensation is an amount of money that the government pays because you have suffered some kind of anatomical service-connected disability.
This applies to Veterans who have lost a limb, eye(s), or have suffered an injury that has caused them to be bedridden or so helpless to be in need of regular aid and attendance. To qualify for this benefit, you must require more assistance than you can afford with your current disability compensation.
There are two basic rates for SMC. There is the additional allowance which is called the R1 rate. That rate is approximately $8,900 for a single Veteran. If you have a dependent, the R1 rate is approximately $9,700. The R2 rate is for more severe cases and pays $10,000 for a single Veteran and $10,900 for a Veteran and dependent. The R2 rate is for more severe cases, and so that’s why it pays more.
What Are Your Needs?
We first need to consider your needs for aid and attendance. Recall that aid and attendance is generally a pension for Veterans who were honorably discharged, have a medical issue, and meet certain income and asset requirements. But for Special Monthly Compensation, that income and asset criteria doesn’t apply. It only considers your need for assistance with activities of daily living, also known as ADLs.
Can you feed yourself? Can you dress yourself? Can you prepare food? And we’re not talking about putting something in the microwave or just opening a can of soup. Preparing food includes going to the grocery store, bringing the groceries into your home, cooking, and cleaning.
If you are permanently bedridden, you obviously need someone to do that. You may not be permanently bedridden, but you are so helpless that you can’t stand behind a hot stove and cook. If you can’t drive, you’ll need someone to go to the grocery store and shop for you. Even if you have an artificial limb that helps, you still need assistance with activities of daily living.
Activities of daily living would also include medication management and financial management. If you need help getting and administering your medicine or paying your bills, you could qualify. You don’t have to need assistance with every single activity of daily living to qualify for Special Monthly Compensation. But as a general rule, you must require assistance with two of the five.
The VA is looking at particular functions that you cannot perform as a result of your injury or disability. Maybe you’re not bedridden but you have a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and have frequent seizures. That would prevent you from driving to get groceries or medication. If you have a TBI, you may also have PTSD or paranoia which prevents you from being outside your home. In that case your disability largely impacts your life so that you need regular aid and attendance.
Questions to Ask Yourself
1. Who is your caregiver? If it’s your spouse or partner, you’re more likely to be awarded the R1 rate. But if you need a level of care greater than your spouse can provide, you may qualify for the R2 rate.
2. Have you applied for the Family Caregiver Program? Here the VA is looking at who is providing your care. Is it a spouse or a licensed healthcare professional?
3. What kind of assistance do you need? The VA wants to know how many activities of daily living you’re not able to perform alone. These include bathing, grooming, dressing, cooking, feeding yourself, medication management, financial management, etc.
4. How does your current caregiver help you with activities of daily living? The VA wants to know the level of assistance you’re currently receiving compared to the level of care you actually need.
5. What do your treatment records show?
6. What’s your level of impairment?
7. Does the evidence show that you require only limited assistance? SMC is only for Veterans with moderate to severe needs for assistance.
8. Has your condition somewhat resolved itself?
9. Did you have an examination? If the VA hasn’t given you an examination for housebound status, we should probably get one done.
The VA is going to use all the evidence provided which includes doctors notes, medical records, etc. They’ll review all this evidence and hopefully resolve any doubt in your favor. But we need to make sure that the evidence reflects your current situation and your need for assistance.
The need for occasional assistance is not enough. We need to prove that you need consistent and regular care. If you’re currently receiving care from a home health professional, we need to prove that they constantly have to help with your activities of daily living. That is the key to getting an SMC award. Your needs must consistently be attended on a daily basis in order to qualify.
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