Many Gulf War veterans who experienced exposure to chemical hazards and environmental hazards while on active duty are now suffering through devastating skin conditions. These skin conditions can be attributed to exposures while serving active duty. It is also possible for some veterans to experience effects of their skin conditions even after their time in the military has ended complicating matters even further for the veteran.
Establishing Direct Service Connection for Skin Conditions
The Department of Veterans Affairs provides service-connected disability compensation to veterans who were harmed in service in some way and now have a diagnosable disability. To prove that a veteran’s skin condition was directly caused by military service and service-connected, the veteran would need to show the following 3 criteria to have a chance at a successful VA disability claim:
- a current diagnosis of a skin condition or lesions
- evidence of an incident in service that led to a skin condition or disfigurement in the exposed areas
- medical evidence (a doctor’s opinion) connecting the current skin condition to the incident in service.
VA Disability ratings for Chloracne and Presumptive Service Connection for Agent Orange exposure
Veterans who served in Vietnam and were exposed to Agent Orange and developed chloracne within the past 12-month period of exposure to Agent Orange or herbicides may be eligible for disability benefits for their skin condition through presumptive service connection. Chloracne is rated based on how much of the face and neck it affects and whether it is superficial or deep acne. Deep acne has more inflammation and visible infection, whereas superficial acne is less inflamed. Compensatory ratings are only assigned for deep acne. Ratings of 30% are available for deep acne only when it is on 40% or more of the veteran’s face and neck.
Disability Ratings for Common Skin Conditions in Veterans
Skin conditions are rated with the use of the VA General rating formula. VA has appropriate diagnostic codes for various disability conditions. This is what the VA uses to break down each disability rating and disability claim. The disabilities are broken down into different categories based on entire body areas has been impacted. The VA rating schedule lists out all of the different types of skin conditions and their rating based on the severity of the condition.
Eczema and Inflammatory Skin Diseases VA Ratings
Ratings for dermatitis or eczema are rated based on the healthcare needed and how frequently medication is needed to control outbreaks, the type of medication that is needed, and what percent of the body is affected. For instance, if at least 5% of the entire body is affected, a 10% rating will be assigned. If 40% or more of your skin is affected, then a 60% rating is warranted.
The term eczema actually applies to a broad range of chronic skin disorders that involves inflammation and dysfunction of the epidermis. Eczema sufferers often experience scaly and itchy rashes, characterized by itching, cracking, oozing or bleeding. Veterans who suffer from eczema are often treated with drugs, like high-strength corticosteroids and drugs acting on the immune system, which may have certain side effects. Sometimes topical medication or topical therapy may be used.
VA Disability Ratings for Psoriasis
Psoriasis is a long-term skin problem that causes skin cells to grow too quickly. The VA diagnostic code for psoriasis is 7816 . Instead of taking weeks to reach the surface of the skin, new cells take only days, which results in thick, white, silver or red patches of skin. Experts believe that psoriasis is caused by an overreaction of the immune system, causing inflammation and impairment on the skin which leads to flakes. Treatment typically includes immunosuppressive drug therapy
VA Disability Ratings for Scars and Disfigurement
Many veterans are eligible for service-connected disability compensation for scars related to injuries or illnesses sustained during military service such as scars from burns, surgery, and gunshot wounds. VA diagnostic codes for scars are between 7800 and 7805 with the appropriate diagnostic code determined by underlying tissue damage, the cause of the scarring, whether or not the scarring is unstable, etc. For more information, check out our blog on scars and VA ratings.
The percentage rating relates to the placement and size of the scar. The rating criteria for scars on areas of the body other than the head, face, or neck are usually based on the size of the scar. Scars on the head, face, or neck are rated on skin loss and how many facial features have experienced disfigurement. A good example would be if a veteran had a scar on his or her nose, only a 10% rating would be assigned due to the small area of the face being affected. Typically higher ratings are reserved for more severe symptoms of a service-connected disability.
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