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.
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.
VA Disability Benefits for Eczema: What You Need to Know
What is Eczema?
Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a skin condition that causes red, itchy, and inflamed skin. It is a chronic condition that can be triggered by certain environmental factors such as allergies, irritants, and stress. Eczema is commonly found in military veterans due to the nature of their service, which exposes them to a variety of environmental and chemical hazards.
How the VA Rates Eczema
The VA rates eczema under the skin conditions diagnostic code (DC) in the VA Schedule of Ratings Disabilities.
The rating schedule for eczema ranges from 0% to 100% disability, and the VA rates it based on the severity of the symptoms and the impact on the veteran’s ability to work and perform daily activities.
For example, a 0% rating is given when there is no evidence of active disease, but there may be some residual scarring or discoloration. A 10% rating is given when there are one or two mild flare-ups per year that respond well to treatment.
A 30% rating is given when there are frequent flare-ups that are moderately severe and require ongoing treatment.
A 60% rating is given when there are constant or near-constant severe flare-ups that require frequent hospitalizations and intensive treatment.
Finally, a 100% rating is given when the eczema is so severe that it affects the veteran’s ability to work or perform daily activities, and it requires continuous hospitalization or is completely incapacitating.
It is important to note that the VA may also rate eczema based on any secondary conditions that may be related to the condition.
For example, if a veteran with eczema develops a secondary condition such as anxiety or depression as a result of the condition, the VA may rate the veteran based on the severity of both conditions combined.
Eligibility Criteria for VA Disability Benefits
To be eligible for VA disability benefits, a veteran must have a service-connected disability.
This means that the eczema must have developed or been aggravated during military service or as a result of service-related activities.
Additionally, the veteran must have been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.
Proving Service Connection for Eczema
To prove service connection for eczema, a veteran must provide evidence that demonstrates a nexus, or a connection, between their eczema and their military service.
This can be accomplished by providing medical records that document the onset of eczema during service, as well as any exposures to environmental or chemical hazards that may have contributed to the development of the condition.
Obtaining a Diagnosis for Eczema
To obtain a diagnosis for eczema, a veteran should seek medical attention from a dermatologist or other medical professional who specializes in skin conditions.
The doctor will perform a physical exam and may order additional tests to confirm the diagnosis.
It is important for veterans to obtain a diagnosis as soon as possible, as delays in diagnosis can result in more severe symptoms and a lower disability rating.
Have Questions About Appealing Your Claim or Understanding How the Claims Process Works?
The attorneys at Hill & Ponton are here to support you with appealing a claim to get benefits due to a skin condition.
If you are intending to appeal a denied claim, you can contact us for an evaluation and we can help you with this process.
However, if you are considering filing an initial claim, or even if you are interested in learning about the appeals process, we offer a free ebook to get you started on the right foot!
The Road to VA Compensation Benefits will help break down the claims process from start to finish. Click the link below to learn more.
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