Special Monthly Compensation & Individual Unemployability

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Active military service is often closely linked to harsh conditions and environments. Trauma and chronic conditions that occur or develop during your active service can be qualified as service-related disabilities. Any veteran who gets disabled due to a service-related injury or syndrome is entitled to a monetary benefit called Disability Compensation.

However, there are scenarios in which a Veteran can be entitled to additional tax-free benefits paid monthly on top of their VA Disability Compensation. 

Unfortunately, most Veterans and their families remain unaware of all the legally and amply deserved compensations they are entitled to. Our mission is to support, assist and fully inform Veterans about such benefits and help them get the most out of the VA Disability Benefits and possible additional compensations.

In this article, we shall discuss two compensation scenarios – Special Monthly Compensation (SMC) and Individual Unemployability (IU), their conditions, rates, and things to consider before applying.

What is Special Monthly Compensation (SMC), and who is entitled to it?

As we have already mentioned, SMC is a benefit that a Veteran can receive in addition to their regular VA Disability Compensation. VA provides this compensation to those Veterans who have either entirely lost some body part or organ due to a service-related trauma or illness or lost their functionality.

In other words, we are talking about amputation, an injury, or another impact that leads to loss, immobility, or a permanent disfunction of a limb or an organ.

Here is a list of disabilities that, according to the VA, make a Veteran entitled to the additional SMC:

  • Amputation or immobility of any limb
  • Joint immobility
  • Loss of sign in one of the eyes
  • Anacusis (total deafness) of both ears
  • Reproductive dysfunction
  • Amputation or loss of use of both buttocks
  • Aphonia (inability to communicate through speech)
  • Amputation or loss of tissue in one or both breasts as a result of radiotherapy or mastectomy

What are the SMC rates in terms?

The SMC rates are usually determined by the standard VA Disability Rate System. However, there are cases of particularly severe or combined disabilities that simply cannot be entirely and fairly evaluated by the basic rating system. 

That is why VA determined several sub-categories for SMC. This classification is aimed to make the overall benefit calculation process most comprehensive and considerate.


  • Amputation or loss of use of both hands below the elbow or both legs below the knee, or a combination of such conditions (loss of one leg and one hand)
  • Partial blindness
  • Being bedridden to the extent that a Veteran need Aid and Attendance (A&A).


  • Loss or loss of use of a hand below the elbow and/or a leg below the knee
  • Loss of total blindness in one eye and partial blindness in another
  • Combination of limb amputation and blindness.


  • Amputation of an arm up to the shoulder or a leg up to the hip
  • Inability to use a prosthetic device due to any objective reason
  • Total blindness in both eyes
  • Total deafness in both ears
  • Combination of these disabilities.


  • All the disabilities mentioned for SMC-M if they don`t require A&A.

SMC-N to O

These categories are aimed at a total physical loss of one or both eyes or one of both ears with an inability to wear prosthetic devices and aid.

SMC-K (Special K)

This category provides additional benefits for those Veterans who qualify for categories from L to O, lost their eye or ear, and cannot wear a prosthetic device.

“Special K” comes in action when in addition to any of the disabilities mentioned above, a Veteran suffers from:

  • Reproductive dysfunction
  • Amputation or loss of use of both buttocks
  • Aphonia (inability to communicate through speech)


Applied to Veterans qualified for the L through O categories in case they need daily A&A. These additional benefits allow Veterans to afford daily in-home care for their domestic needs.


  • A Veteran is permanently housebound and has one 100% VA-rated disability.
  • One 100%-rated disability and one 60%-rated disability (or several disabilities that together rate 60%) affect different body parts.


  • Brain injuries that require the Veteran to be institutionalized, while they are not entitled to the SMC-R (Aid and Attendance)

Except for the actual disabilities and their combinations, the SMC rates depend on such factors as marital status, whether a Veteran has one or more children, is a single parent, etc.

As for 2022, a single veteran qualified for SMC-L can count on $4,146.13 in total VA Disability Compensation. The additional Special K rate is $118.33. However, the overall SMC benefit, including Special K, cannot exceed the amount of SMC-O.

As you see, the SMC categories have many factors that you need to consider applying for your compensation. Also, the rates may change from one year to another and depend on various factors. That is why it is essential to address professional assistance applying for them to ensure you receive all the benefits you are entitled to.

Individual Unemployability (IU) and Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability

IU is a particular VA Disability Compensation program that allows Veterans to receive a 100% compensation rate even if their service-related disability does not formally qualify up to this rate.

IU comes into action when a Veteran cannot apply for work or hold a permanent job due to their service-related disabilities. In this case, a Veteran may qualify for the Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU) and related compensation.

At the same time, if Veterans manage to get odd jobs, they still remain eligible for the IU compensations.

The terms of IU benefits are:

  • One disability rated 60% or more
  • Several disabilities with an overall 70% rate, while one disability rates at least 40%.

Even a working Veteran can qualify for IU

Although the IU compensation is technically reserved for veterans who cannot apply for or hold a permanent job due to their disabilities, there are cases in which a Veteran may still qualify for IU even if they have a job at the moment.

  • Sometimes employers voluntarily create workplaces in which veterans with disabilities can work comfortably. This practice is called Protected Work Environment. A Veteran who works at such a place is still entitled to the IU compensation as they would not be able to perform the same and make the same income under other conditions.
  • When a working Veteran earns below the federal poverty threshold, they are also entitled to the IU compensation.

TDIU is not a permanent status!

Many Veterans who initially qualify for the TIDU benefits and receive their IU compensations are unaware that VA can call their benefits off at some point.

It usually happens in the following cases:

  • If the Veteran`s condition improve with time and the rating drops below 60% for one disability and 70% for multiple disabilities
  • A Veteran can gain and sustain a job without any additional effort and adjustments from the employer`s side. In other words, a Veteran becomes employable.

How to apply for IU?

Applying for the TDIU and IU compensations, you should be prepared for a pretty long process that will require you to provide a lot of evidence of your current condition and its effect on your ability to get a sustainable income. 

It is a time-consuming process that requires a lot of patience and knowledge of the latest updates in the terms and conditions of the VA rates and compensations.

However, even if you are denied or stripped of your IU compensation after some time since the VA considers you “employable,” you can still argue your case in front of the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

Final Thoughts

We have highlighted SMC and IU as the most common tax-free VA compensation scenarios. The SMC benefits allow veterans with complex or combined disabilities to get the most out of the VA rating system and the benefits it offers. The IU program is aimed to help disabled Veterans make a decent income even if their disabilities prevent them from getting a permanent job but don`t qualify for the 100% VA rate.

In addition, VA provides compensations for surviving spouses, children, or parents of Servicemembers who died while on active duty, special circumstances benefits, etc.

Contact us today to learn precisely what benefits you or your veteran relative can apply and how to receive them. Our team will be happy to answer all your questions and guide you through the application process, considering the latest requirements and peculiarities of the VA Disability Compensation system. 

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