Do you have a debilitating or painful skin condition? If so, as a vet you’ve probably wondered if it would be possible to receive a VA Disability rating for compensation.
The short answer is, yes, there are instances where the VA will award a compensation rating for skin conditions.
However, because skin conditions are almost impossible to receive an exact categorization due to the numerous causes and symptoms, receiving a rating can be complicated. Often, the cause of the skin condition cannot be determined. Due to this, there is rarely a definite, final definition given for each condition.
Therefore the VA will rate the condition according to the code that “best” defines it, whether it is exact or not.
Skin conditions are rated under 38 CFR 4.118, with the Diagnostic Codes 7800-7833.
Even though the cause of most skin conditions can be hard to determine, it is still necessary to establish the Direct Service Connection proving your condition began because of injuries or incidents during your time of service.
To do this, make sure you receive a current diagnosis of the skin condition, the evidence of the service incident, and the opinion of the physician connecting your skin condition to the service incident.
It can be more difficult to do this with skin conditions than with other, more obvious disabilities, meaning it is very important to have the proper evidence submitted in your claim.
Skin Conditions Qualified for VA Compensation
On average, the skin conditions most likely to receive a rating from the VA are as follows:
- Scars. This may surprise many veterans, but it is possible to be rated for scars received from burns, surgery, gunshot wounds and other injuries. The rating will be determined based upon the size and placement of the scar. Additionally, the scar may also be eligible for a separate rating for any pain it inflicts.
- Dermatitis or Eczema. These terms apply to a broad range of chronic skin disorders. They are often characterized by the experience of itchy, scaly rashes that result in itching, oozing, cracking or bleeding. Steroids and drugs acting on the immune system, often that come with side effects, are usually what is prescribed for treatment. The ratings for these conditions will be determined based on how frequently medication is needed to control outbreaks, as well as the percentage of the body affected.
- Psoriasis. This is a long-term skin condition that causes the skin cells to grow too quickly. It can result in thick, white, red, or silvery patches of skin, which can also become inflamed and flaky skin. It’s believed this is caused by an overreaction of the immune system.
- Chloracne. The rating for this will be determined by how deep the acne is as opposed to how superficial. Deep acne has more inflammation and visible infection and is the only acne that can receive a compensatory rating.
- Chronic Hives. These are pale red, itchy bumps on the skin caused by allergic reactions or various other causes. To be considered chronic they must occur for at least twice a week for more than 6 weeks.
- Vitiligo. A condition where the cells that give the skin color die off. This leads to the skin having a bleached-looking, lighter color.
- Primary Cutaneous Vasculitis. A condition where the small blood vessels near the skin burst. This makes the skin turn red or purple because of bleeding.
- Lupus. With Lupus, the immune system attacks the skin and can cause tearing, scarring, and severe sores. Most often, these will occur on the head near the ears, eyes, nose, lips, and cheeks.
- Skin Infections. There are also a number of skin infections that can qualify for a compensation rating included, but not limited to: dermatophytosis (ringworm), New World mucocutaneous leishmaniasis, Old World mucocutaneous leishmaniasis (“Oriental Sore”), Erythema multiforme and toxic epidermal necrolysis (infection that attacks the skin and can cause organ failure).
How the VA Rates Skin Conditions
The following is the breakdown of how the VA will determine a compensatory disability rating for various skin conditions:
- 0%- requires no more than topical therapy over a 12-month period along with at least one of the following: characteristic lesions covering less than 5% of the entire body; characteristic lesions involving less than 5% of exposed areas affected; or rate as disfigurement of the head, face, or neck, or scars, dependent on the predominant disability
- 10%- involving at least one of the following: lesions involving under 20%, but at least 5%, of the entire body, or, under 20% but at least 5% of exposed areas affected; intermittent systemic therapy including, but not limited to, phototherapy, corticosteroids, biologics, retinoids, photochemotherapy, psorale with long-wave ultraviolet A-light (PUVA), or other immunosuppressive drugs required for less than a total of 6 weeks over the past 12 months.
- 30%– requiring at least one of the following: characteristic lesions involving 20-40% of the entire body, or 20-40% of exposed areas affected; systemic therapy including, but not limited to, phototherapy, corticosteroids, biologics, retinoids, photochemotherapy, PUVA, or other immunosuppressive drugs needed for 6 weeks or more, although not constantly, over the past 12 months.
- 60%- requiring at least one of the following: characteristic lesions involving more than 40% of the entire body or more than 40% of exposed areas affected; or constant or near-constant systemic therapy including, but not limited to, phototherapy, corticosteroids, biologics, retinoids, photochemotherapy, PUVA, or other immunosuppressive drugs required over the past 12 months.
(Systemic therapy is defined by the VA as any treatment injected, taken orally, through the nose, or anally. Topical therapy is defined by the VA as any treatment applied directly to the skin)
Things to Remember
Remember, due to the difficulty in determining a definite cause or definition for skin conditions, your rating will be determined by an estimation. In other words, this means an educated guess determines the rating for your skin condition. This is especially true in determining the percentage of skin affected by the condition.
Finally, there are numerous skin conditions not covered in this article. If you are suffering from a condition that you did not see listed, do not consider that discouragement from placing a claim with VA. It is still possible to receive a compensatory rating even for issues not described here.
If you are looking at this list and realizing that you have not applied for a VA disability compensation but you know that you should be rated, this is the fastest way to get what you legally deserve!