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Does A Serious Disability Entitle Me to Additional Compensation from the VA?

Posted by Gregory M. Rada | April 14, 2021 | Firm News

Veterans who lost or lose of the use of specific organs or body parts due to their military service might be entitled to Special Monthly Compensation (SMC) benefits. Furthermore, additional SMC benefits are permitted for veterans who are rated at the 100 percent rate and meet one of the following criteria: housebound, bedridden, or requires the regular aid and attendance of another person to assist in activities of daily living.

SMC benefits are paid in addition to a veteran’s disability compensation payments. And while disability compensation payments are predicated on the average reduction in earning capacity, Special Monthly Compensation benefits are meant to provide additional compensation based on noneconomic factors such as personal inconvenience, social inadaptability, or the profound nature of the disability.

WHAT IS CONSIDERED LOSS OF USE? 

Loss of use means amputation or no effective remaining function of an extremity or organ. A veteran with any of the following disabilities may be entitled to Special Monthly Compensation: 

WHAT IF I HAVE A COMBINATION OF THESE DISABILITIES

If you have more than one of the disabilities listed above, the VA will pay higher SMC rates, in specific monetary increments. The VA sets these additional rates in an effort to compensate veterans with particularly challenging circumstances as a result of their service-connected injuries. 

For example, if you have or loss of use of your feet, legs, hands and arms, you will receive more SMC benefits based on your specific combination of disabilities. The VA also sets higher SMC payment amounts for various combinations of severe deafness with blindness in both eyes. You can also receive higher SMC rates if you are service connected for paraplegia, with complete loss of bowel and bladder control. 

If you have other service-connected disabilities that, when combined with any of the above, meet certain criteria, you may also receive a higher amount of SMC.

WHAT ARE SMC AID AND ATTENDANCE BENEFITS? 

Veterans who need the regular help of another person in order to carry out their activities of daily living may qualify for SMC Aid and Attendance (A&A) benefits. SMC A&A benefits are paid to veterans, their dependents, or survivors at rates higher than standard VA pension or VA disability compensation rates.

Veterans may qualify for SMC aid and attendance benefits if they require the regular assistance or supervision of another person to do their activities of daily living. These activities include but are not limited to: 

Furthermore, veterans may also qualify for SMC A&A benefits if their mental disability requires the regular care of another person in order to protect them from hazards in their daily environment, or if the veteran is “bedridden,” meaning that their medical condition is so severe that it requires the veteran to remain in bed. Note that a veteran experiencing a temporary, prescribed period of bedrest is not considered “bedridden” for the purpose these benefits. 

A veteran does not need to show that they need the aid and attendance of another person to accomplish all tasks of daily living – it may be enough that they need assistance with only one activity of daily living. Furthermore, it is not necessary that a veteran need constant aid and attendance – it is enough that they need aid and attendance on a regular basis.

DO I QUALIFY FOR SMC HOUSEBOUND PAYMENTS?

Veterans might be eligible for SMC housebound payments in two different situations. 

The first situation is where a veteran has a single service-connected disability rated at 100 percent and is permanently housebound. Veterans are considered to be permanently housebound when the veteran is substantially confined to their dwelling or home as a direct result of their service-connected disabilities, and it is reasonably certain that the disability will persist throughout the veteran’s lifetime. Fortunately, VA regulations do not define housebound as complete confinement to a veteran’s home. For example, the U.S. Court of Veteran’s Appeals has held the VA cannot rely on the fact that a veteran leaves their home for medical appointments as a sufficient basis to determine that the veteran is not “substantially” confined to the dwelling.

The second situation where a veteran can qualify for SMC housebound benefits is when the veteran has (1) a single disability “rated as total,” plus (2) other service-connected disabilities that combine to 60 percent or more. In this situation, a veteran does not actually need to be housebound. And the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veteran’s Claims has held that a total disability rating based on individual unemployability (TDIU) based on a single disability satisfies the meaning of “rated as total.” 

Note, you may not receive SMC A&A and SMC housebound benefits simultaneously. Monthly rates for these levels of SMC can be found here (https://www.va.gov/disability/compensation-rates/special-monthly-compensation-rates/).

HOW CAN I APPLY FOR SMC? 

Please contact our attorneys at After Service for additional information about applying for SMC benefits. We are happy to discuss the application or appeal process with you. Once you have completed an application for benefits, the VA must review related evidence to determine eligibility and make a decision regarding the level of SMC benefits.

Gregory Rada is a Veterans Benefits Attorney who practices Nationwide. He graduated from the University of Connecticut School of Law, and has been practicing law for six years. Gregory Rada believes in fighting for fellow veterans. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.