There are many veterans who experienced exposure to chemical hazards or environmental hazards while on active duty. These exposures may have lead to skin disorders that arose while serving active duty or came about after military service. It is also possible for some veterans to experience effects of their skin conditions even after their time in the military has ended.
Establishing Direct Service Connection
To prove that a veteran’s skin condition was directly caused by military service and service-connected, the veteran would need to show:
- a current diagnosis of a skin condition
- evidence of an incident in service that caused the skin condition
- medical evidence (a doctor’s opinion) connecting the current skin condition to the incident in service.
Presumptive Service Connection
Veterans who served in Vietnam and were exposed to Agent Orange and developed chloracne within one year of exposure to Agent Orange or herbicides may be eligible for disability benefits for their skin condition through presumptive service connection.
Types of Skin Diseases:
Eczema and Inflammatory Skin Diseases
The term eczema actually applies to a broad range of chronic skin disorders that involves inflammation 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 steroids and drugs acting on the immune system, which may have certain side effects.
Psoriasis is a long-term skin problem that causes skin cells to grow too quickly. 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 flaking skin.
Many veterans are eligible for service-connected compensation for scars related to injuries or illnesses sustained during military service such as scars from burns, surgery, and gunshot wounds. The percentage rating relates to the placement and size of the scar.
Disability Ratings for Skin Conditions
Skin conditions are rated with the use of the VA Rating Schedule. This is what the VA uses to break down each disability. The disabilities are broken down into different categories based on the part of the body that 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.
Scars on the head, face, or neck are rated on skin loss and how many facial features have been disfigured. Ratings for scars on areas of the body other than the head, face, or neck are usually based on the size of the scar. 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.
Ratings for dermatitis or eczema are rated based on 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 body is affected, a 10% rating will be assigned. If 40% or more of your skin is affected, then a 60% rating is warranted.
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.