The general public often thinks of scars as a primarily cosmetic concern. However, scarring can lead to significant pain, impaired mobility, and mental distress. When a Veteran is struggling with the effects of scarring from a service-connected injury, they are entitled to receive VA disability benefits. In fact, scars are the sixth most commonly claimed disability among Veterans.
How the VA Rates Scarring
Scars are rated by the VA under 38 CFR §4.118, diagnostic codes 7800-7805:
- 7800: Scars or disfigurement of the head, face, or neck.
- 7801: Scars elsewhere on the body that are deep and nonlinear.
- 7802: Superficial nonlinear scars not of the head, neck, or face.
- 7804: Painful or unstable scars.
- 7805: Other scars including linear scars.
There are eight criteria that can be used to determine if a scar is considered disfiguring.
- The scar is five or more inches in length.
- The width of the scar is one-quarter inch or more at the widest part.
- The surface of the scar elevates or depresses when it is pressed upon.
- The scar is adherent to the soft tissue underneath it.
- There is a loss of skin color (hypopigmentation) or darkening of skin color (hyperpigmentation) in an area larger than six square inches.
- There is tight, shiny, scaly, or otherwise abnormal skin texture in an area larger than six square inches.
- The soft tissue beneath the scar is missing in an area larger than six square inches.
- The skin is inflexible (does not move) and hard (indurated) in an area exceeding six square inches.
The primary considerations in assigning a disability rating include the number of scars a Veteran has, the area of the body that is affected, and how much pain or instability is associated with the scarring. Ratings can range from 10% for one or two painful or unstable scars to 80% for six or more characteristics of disfigurement related to scarring of the head, face, or neck. However, a Veteran will be entitled to a 100% rating if they must be hospitalized or receive at-home convalescent care.
Generally, multiple scars that are located on the same area of your body do not combine to create a higher disability rating. However, scars that are spread out on multiple areas may be combined to result in a higher disability rating. This means that scar ratings for the left leg and right arm might be combined, but you would likely receive one rating for multiple scars that occurred on the left leg.
Due to the many factors that are considered in assigning a disability rating, it is not uncommon for a Veteran to have competing exam results with different rating recommendations. When this happens, the opinion of the physician who is most qualified to evaluate and treat scarring is given priority. If the physicians are considered equally qualified, the VA will rule in your favor by using the exam with the highest disability rating recommendation.
Compensation for Related Conditions
To maximize your disability compensation, it is important to establish a service connection for all related disabilities. For example, a Veteran with significant scarring may also suffer from
chronic pain, depression, and anxiety. Or, a Veteran with scarring that affects their vision may be entitled to a rating for vision loss. Each condition is assigned a separate disability rating, then payment is calculated based on a total disability rating.
Veterans with severe scarring and multiple disabilities may qualify for Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefits that provide cash compensation at the 100% rate. If a Veteran has two or more service-connected conditions, they can qualify for TDIU if one is rated at least 40% disabling, their combined rating is 70% or more, and they can’t maintain substantially gainful employment due to the effects of their service-connected disabilities.
Let Us Help You Protect Your Right to VA Disability Benefits
Receiving full compensation for your scarring can be difficult, but our experienced Veterans benefits attorneys are here to help. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation.