VA Disability Rating for Scars

Severe scarring impacts self-esteem as well as appearance. Veterans with substantial scars from their time in service find that it impacts their confidence and their ability to move forward with the activities they once enjoyed. Scars also cause considerable pain, especially around sensitive areas. At Veterans Guide, we help veterans and their family members understand scar VA disability ratings, including the eight-factor rating system.

Many veterans leave their time in service scarred due to traumatic events they faced during the course of service, including medical conditions that required surgical intervention. Those scars can cause pain, loss of function, and disfigurement. Service members with severe facial or visible scarring struggle with self-esteem issues that prevent them from enjoying normal activities. 

The Department of Veterans Affairs uses disability ratings to determine service members’ eligibility for the conditions suffered during service, including both disfigurement and loss of function. Veterans Guide offers insight into the disability ratings for scarring, how the VA determines that rating, and what you need to do to show the service connection to your scars.

Veterans and Scars

Veterans suffer scars in a variety of situations during their service, including: 

  • Surgical scars from surgeries necessary for injuries or illnesses during service
  • Burn scars
  • Traumatic wounds

Scarring serves as visible evidence of the trauma suffered by veterans as they completed their duties. The VA recognizes several types of scars.

Hypertrophic Scars

Hypertrophic scarring is thick, raised, and inflexible. It occurs due to increased collagen production around wounds in deep tissue.

Keloid Scars

Keloid scarring leaves behind a lumpy, ridged scar that rises over the skin after an injury. They may look irregular.

Atrophic Scars

Atrophic scarring occurs when the skin cannot properly repair itself following an injury, often due to the severity of the injury. Atrophic scars are indented due to the lack of collagen in the scar.

Contracture Scars

Contracture scars occur with large damaged areas. As the wound heals, the skin pulls together, creating a tight area. Contracture scars restrict movement over joints.

How Does the VA Rate Scars?

The VA rates scars based on where they occur and how much damage resulted in those scars. Scars fall under diagnostic code 4.118.

Characters of Disfigurement

The VA evaluates the following eight characteristics of disfigurement:

  1. Length: The scar is five or more inches long.
  2. Width: The scar is at least 1/4 inch wide at the widest part.
  3. Surface contour: Does the scar’s surface feel elevated or depressed when touched?
  4. Adherence: Is the scar attached to the tissue beneath it?
  5. Color: Does the scar cause discoloration on at least six square inches?
  6. Skin texture: Does the scarring change the texture of the surface of the skin in an area that reaches at least six square inches?
  7. Soft tissue: Is there more than six inches of soft tissue missing beneath the scar?
  8. Hardness: Does the scar feel hard or stiff over an area of more than six inches?

Scar VA Disability Ratings

Scar disability ratings with the VA can be between 10 percent and 80 percent.

Head, Face, and Neck

Head, face, and neck scarring, including burn scars, receive disability ratings based on the features impacted. 

  • 80 percent disability rating: Tissue loss or changing of three or more features or paired sets of features, or with six or more characteristics of disfigurement 
  • 50 percent disability rating: Tissue loss or changing of two or more features or paired sets of features, or with four or five characteristics of disfigurement 
  • 30 percent disability rating: Tissue loss or changing of one feature or paired set of features, or with two or three characteristics of disfigurement
  • 10 percent disability rating: The veteran has only one characteristic of disfigurement

Burn Scars or Scars with Soft Tissue Damage

When damage occurs to underlying soft tissue, disability ratings depend on the extent of the damage.  

  • 40 percent disability rating: 144 square inches or greater
  • 30 percent disability rating: 72 square inches to 143 square inches 
  • 20 percent disability rating: 12 square inches to 71 square inches 
  • 10 percent disability rating: 6 square inches to 11 square inches 

Burn scars or scars not associated with underlying soft tissue damage receive a 10 percent disability rating when they cover 144 square inches or more.

Unstable or Painful

For unstable scars, which occur when there is “frequent loss of covering of skin over the scar,” or scars that cause ongoing pain, the VA assigns a disability rating based on the number of scars.

  • 30 percent: Five or more
  • 20 percent: Three or four
  • 10 percent: One or two

TDIU and Scarring

A Total Disability Individual Unemployability, or TDIU, benefits are available if you cannot work due to your service-claimed disability. TDIU allows those with lower ratings to receive the same benefits of those with 100 percent disability ratings. 

To file for TDIU, you must have either a disability rating for your scars of more than 60 percent or a combined disability rating for scarring and other conditions that total at least 70 percent. If you claim multiple conditions, one must have a rating of at least 40 percent. 

To receive a TDIU rating, you will need to show that your disability, including the pain or stiffness caused by scarring, makes it impossible for you to work. Scarring can also serve as part of a total TDIU claim that includes other disabilities. You will need to provide the following:

  • Evidence of past education and employment
  • Evidence of inability to work because of your scarring or other disabilities

The VA will then evaluate your claim to determine whether you deserve TDIU benefits to compensate you for your inability to work.

How to Obtain VA Disability Compensation for Scarring

Veterans can file a disability claim with the US Department of Veterans Affairs online. Create an account and fill out Form 21-526EZ. Attach any related evidence and make sure to provide all necessary information so that the VA does not have to come back with further questions, which could delay your claim.

three people sitting on a couch with health items

Relevant Evidence

You’ll need to produce evidence that your scarring is related to your service and the extent of your disability. To help your claim proceed smoothly, include the following:

  • Medical records from military or VA hospitals, including records from when the injury originally took place or any records of surgeries the caused scarring
  • Medical records from non-VA hospitals, including any records of private treatment for your scars or for the condition that led to your scars
  • Military personnel records about your scarring
  • Any information necessary for health records you cannot access yourself but that the VA can access on your behalf
  • Letters from fellow service members, clergy members, or friends and family who can help show the service connection between your scarring and your time in service

C&P Exams

A Compensation & Pension or C&P exam allows a VA-selected medical care provider to evaluate your scars and the disabilities and difficulties you face. Your C&P exam may include measuring your scars and evaluating the eight characteristics of disfigurement to ensure that you meet those qualifications. Since many of the elements of a disability rating for scarring involve the physical appearance of the scars, you may expect to go through a C&P exam.

Nexus Letter

A Nexus Letter helps lay out the service connection to your scarring. Your Nexus Letter is a letter submitted by a medical professional that makes that vital connection and shows why you deserve a VA disability rating for your scarring. 

If you have questions about the process of filing a VA disability claim, Veterans Guide can help. Contact us to learn more about the steps you need to take.

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