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February 10, 2023

How to Get a VA Rating for Scars: The Complete Guide for Veterans

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As a veteran, you may have experienced physical injuries that have left you with scars. Scars are the 7th most common service-connected VA disability, with nearly 1 million veterans who currently have a VA rating for scars.

Some common types of scars veterans experience include:

  • Burn scars caused by exposure to heat or fire
  • Surgical scars, a result of surgery or medical procedures
  • Trauma scars caused by physical injuries, such as cuts or abrasions
  • Keloid scars or raised and thickened scars that develop when the body overproduces collagen

Regardless of the type of scar, having a scar can be a source of physical and emotional distress. If you have a scar that is disfiguring, painful, or limits your ability to move, you may be eligible for a VA disability rating. 

In this post, we cover some key steps you can take to help you win a VA rating for scars and get the care you deserve for your service-related scars.


What is the VA rating for scars?

If you’re suffering from a service-connected scar, you could earn a VA rating for your scar from 10% to 80%. This depends on the location, severity, and symptoms you experience from your scar. 

The VA has two main methods they use to rate scars:

  1. The condition of your scars
  2. The disfiguring effect of your scars

You can sometimes qualify for multiple VA ratings due to your scars. Your scars can be rated under different criteria if they impact your ability to function. For instance, if you have a leg scar preventing you from walking normally, this could be rated as a limitation of motion. You can sometimes qualify for multiple VA ratings due to your scars.

Here are the five diagnostic codes the VA uses to rate scars:

How Different Scars are Categorized by the VA with Diagnostic Codes

Area of the Body where the scar is locatedThe VA Diagnostic CodeUnderlying soft tissue damage?Painful or unstable?Rating Level
Head, face, or neck780010%, 30%, 50%, or 80%
Any area other than head, face, or neck7801Yes10%, 20%, 30%, or 40%
Any area other than head, face, or neck7802No10%
Any area of the body7804Yes10%, 20%, 30%, or 40%
Any area of the body with a disabling effect not considered 7805NoNoDepends on the disabling effect

How the VA Rates Scars

There are a few different methods the VA uses to rate scars. The VA will look at the location of your scars, if there is tissue loss underneath, if they’re unstable or painful, and if they’re disfiguring.

Location of Your Scars

When rating your scars, the VA will look at where your scars are located. Are your scars on your head, face, neck, or somewhere else? Scars on your head, neck, and face are rated much higher than lower on your body.

Are your Scars Unstable or Painful?

Another way the VA rates scars is based on the number of unstable or painful scars you have.

The VA considers an unstable scar when there is a frequent loss of skin covering the scar, meaning it is an ongoing issue that is not improving or healing. This type of scarring is often more severe than other forms of scarring and can be challenging to treat or manage.

Generally, a scar is considered painful when it causes you pain. This could be all the time or when you touch the scar. 

Characteristics of Disfigurement

The VA uses characteristics of disfigurement as another way to rate scars for disability compensation. The more features or characteristics of disfigurement you have, the higher your VA disability rating for scars will be. Your doctor will count up the number of criteria you meet on this list for each scar:

  1. Length: The scar must be five inches or longer
  2. Width: The widest part of the scar must be at least 1/4 inch wide
  3. Surface Contour: If the scar’s surface is elevated or depressed when pressed
  4. Adherence: If the scar sticks to the underlying tissue
  5. Color: If the skin of the scar is lighter or darker in an area greater than 6 square inches
  6. Skin Texture: If the skin texture is abnormal (irregular, atrophic, shiny, scaly, etc.) in an area greater than 6 square inches
  7. Missing Underlying Soft Tissue:  If missing tissue is under the scar and the area is greater than 6 square inches
  8. Hardness: If the skin in the scar feels hard and stiff in an area greater than 6 square inches

The Criteria For a VA Rating for Scars

Based on the criteria below, the VA will rate your scars at the 10%, 20%, 30%, 40%, 50%, or 80% rating level. For each rating level, you only need to meet one criterion to be rated at that percentage:

  • 80% VA disability rating
    • Scarring is located on your head, face, or neck
      • You have tissue loss
        • With distortion or asymmetry of 3 or more features. For asymmetry, think nose, chin, forehead, eyes, eyelids, ears, cheeks, or lips
        • With 6 or more characteristics of disfigurement
  • 50% VA disability rating
    • Scarring is located on your head, face, or neck
      • You have tissue loss
        • With distortion or asymmetry of 2 features
        • With 4 or 5 characteristics of disfigurement
  • 40% VA disability rating
    • Scarring is below your neck
      • You have scarring with underlying tissue damage and is at least 144 square inches in area 
    • You have 5 or more unstable and painful scars
  • 30% VA disability rating
    • Scarring is located on your head, face, or neck
      • You have tissue loss
        • With distortion or asymmetry of 1 feature
        • With 2 or 3 characteristics of disfigurement
    • Scarring is below your neck
      • You have scarring with underlying tissue damage with 72-143 square inches in area 
    • You have 5 or more unstable or painful scars, or 3 or 4 unstable and painful scars
  • 20% VA disability rating
    • Scarring is below your neck
      • You have scarring with underlying tissue damage with 12-71 square inches in area 
    • You have 3 or 4 unstable or painful scars, or 1 or 2 unstable and painful scars
  • 10% VA disability rating
    • Scarring is below your neck
      • With underlying tissue damage with 6-11 square inches in area 
      • Without underlying tissue damage with 144 square inches in area
    • You have 1 or 2 unstable or painful scars

If your scars are below your beck, aren’t painful or unstable, and there’s no tissue loss underneath, you’ll probably be rated at the 10% level.

How does the VA rate surgical scars?

Most of the time, a surgical scar is superficial, and there isn’t much tissue loss. The VA will rate you based on the unstable or painful criteria, which usually means you’ll receive a VA disability rating for surgical scars at 10% unless your surgical scar is both unstable and painful, which would be rated at 20%. Your VA rating will increase if you have multiple surgical scars that meet these criteria. 

What is the VA rating for keloid scars?

The VA rating for keloid scars depends on the severity and impact on your life. Most of the time, keloid scars impact you in different ways. For instance, they may reduce the amount of muscle underneath the scar, leaving you with weakness. 

The exact rating you receive will vary significantly based on the impact the keloid scar has on your life. Generally, muscle damage due to keloid scars is rated at 30% under Diagnostic Code 7805. 

What if you have multiple scars?

Depending on the location of your scars, the VA may rate your scars separately for a combined rating. Most of the time, separate locations must be different extremities. 

For instance, if you have a scar on your right leg and scarring on your neck, these two areas could be rated separately and combined. You can use our VA disability calculator to determine your combined rating. 


How to File a VA Claim to Earn a VA Rating for Scars

To file a VA claim for your scars, you’ll be required to prove these three elements:

  • You have scars that meet the criteria listed above in terms of location and severity
  • Your scars were caused by an event, injury, or illness during your military service, and
  • You have a medical nexus that links your scars to the event (also called service connection)

How to Prove Service Connection for Scars

To win a VA disability rating for scars, you must show that your scars were caused or worsened by an event, injury, or illness during your military service. This is called service connection.

To prove service connection for scars, you should include documentation that helps you show it’s more likely than not that your service caused your scars. The type of evidence will depend on how you developed your scar (i.e., was it from combat, an accident, or a medical procedure?) Example documentation includes:

  • Service medical records/service treatment records (STRs)
  • VA treatment records
  • Private medical records
  • Military personnel records
  • Military performance reports
  • After-action-reports (AARs)
  • Daily staff journals
  • Lay evidence (testimony from friends, family, or coworkers)

Additionally, it’s essential to keep track of all medical treatments related to the scar and any changes or worsening of the scar after you leave service.

Steps to Filing for your VA Rating for Scars

If you’re ready to file for a VA rating for scars, there are a few steps you need to take:

  1. Gather your evidence and submit your intent to file
  2. Submit your claim online, in person, or via mail using VA Form 21-526EZ
  3. Await a decision (expect an exam from the VA)
  4. Appeal if necessary (if you’re denied or want a rating increase)

You’ll be required to submit a form with your VA claim for scars called the Scars Disability Benefits Questionnaire (DBQ)

A DBQ is a form completed by your doctor (likely your C&P examiner) that helps the VA make a decision about your VA claim. Looking at this form ahead of your C&P exam is a great idea to understand what the examiner will be asking you. Here are the questions the doctor will be answering on the form:

  • The diagnosis that pertains to any scars or disfigurement of the head, face, or neck
  • Identifying if your scars are on the trunk or on the head, face, or neck
  • The history of your scars (how you got them and how they’ve developed over time)
  • If the scars are painful, and how many are painful
  • If there is any loss of covering of skin over your scars
  • A description of any burn scars, including how thick they are and how deep the scar tissue is
  • A breakdown of your scars by each extremity, including if each scar is tender to the touch, unstable, or if there is underlying soft tissue damage
  • If there is any coloring or texture on your scars on your head, face, or neck that don’t match the rest of your skin
  • A calculation of the total area of your scars with and without underlying tissue damage
  • If your scars cause any issues in your ability to function (or to move)
  • If you suffer any muscle or nerve damage with any scars
  • Color photographs of your scars
  • How your scars impact your ability to work
  • Doctor’s remarks

It’s Time to File for a VA Rating for Scars

As a veteran, you deserve the compensation you earned for any scars you received during your service. Don’t let the complexity of the VA claims process discourage you from filing for your scars. 

Remember, you served your country with distinction, and it’s time for your country to serve you.



Most veterans are underrated for their disabilities and, therefore, not getting their due compensation. At VA Claims Insider, we help you understand and take control of the claims process, so you can get the rating and compensation you’re owed by law. 

Our process takes the guesswork out of filing a VA disability claim and supports you every step of the way in building a fully-developed claim (FDC)—so you can increase your rating FAST! If you’ve filed your VA disability claim and have been denied or have received a low rating—or you’re unsure how to get started—reach out to us! Take advantage of a FREE VA Claim Discovery Call. Learn what you’ve been missing—so you can FINALLY get the disability rating and compensation YOU DESERVE!

Trisha Penrod Bio Photo

Trisha Penrod

Trisha Penrod is a former active-duty Air Force officer. As an Intelligence Officer, she led teams of analysts to apply advanced analytic skills to identify, assess, and report potential threats to U.S. forces.

Trisha attended the U.S. Air Force Academy and holds an MBA from Webster University.  After receiving an honorable discharge in 2018, Trisha worked as a growth marketer and utilizes her analytic skills to help others accomplish their business goals.

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