Scars

Topics:

Scars Overview
Scars or Disfigurements of the Head, Face, and Neck
Non-Linear Scars of the Body
Linear Scars of the Body
Painful or Unstable Scars
Other Scar Conditions
DBQ for Scar Conditions
Principles that Apply

Reminder: The VA will give a Military Disability Rating for each service-connected condition a service member has, but the DoD will only rate service-connected conditions that make a service member Unfit for Duty. Often scars are not ratable in and of themselves for DoD Disability because it is actually the underlying condition that makes the service member unfit. If, however, they contribute in making the service member unfit (maybe he can’t wear a helmet because of his scars) it can then be rated as well.

Did you get a scar rating from the VA before October 23, 2008? Your rating could be increased! The VA changed the rating schedule for scars on this date in 2008. They are allowing anyone who received a rating for scars under codes 7800-7805 to request a review of their case, and update their ratings to reflect the new rating schedule. Your rating could go up! Submit an appeal.


Scars Overview

Hint: Make sure the examining physicians take COLOR PHOTOS of every scar in addition to clear and detailed measurements and descriptions to ensure you receive a proper rating for your condition.

Okay. Are you ready? Scars can get pretty confusing, but hopefully this won’t be too bad.military disability ratings for scars

First, there are four categories a scar can fit under.

1.) Any scars on or disfigurements of the head, face, or neck
2.) Scars anywhere else on the body that are linear
3.) Scars anywhere else on the body that are non-linear and are
deep
4.) Scars anywhere else on the body that are non-linear and are superficial

Each of these categories has its own code and ratings.

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Scars or Disfigurement of the Head, Face, and Neck

Code 7800: Any scars on or any disfigurement of the head, face, and neck are rated in one of two ways, either on the first set of conditions listed below or on the number of “Characteristics of Disfigurement” that are present. For rating purposes, the head, face and neck are considered ONE area, so each do not receive their own separate rating.

Note: If the scars cause other disabling conditions beyond disfigurement, like nerve damage, the inability to properly use the jaw, etc., then those conditions are rated separately. Search for the condition on this site, and then rate accordingly.

Likewise, if the fleshy part of the ear is missing, then it is only rated under code 6207, loss of the auricle. If an eye is actually missing, then it is only rated under code 6063, loss of one eye. Both eyes is only rated under code 6061, loss of both eyes. A rating for these conditions can also be warranted under this code if there is scarring or disfigurement in addition to the missing ear or eye.

First rating option:

If there is obvious significant tissue loss with severe distortion of three or more of the following: the eyes (and eyelids), ears, nose, mouth (and lips), chin, forehead, or cheeks, it is rated 80%. Two of the above is rated 50%. One of the above is rated 30%.

Second rating option:

The Characteristics of Disfigurement are as follows:

– Loss of skin color (whitish) or darkening of the skin color or redness in an area more than 6 square inches (in2).
– The texture or feel of the skin is irregular—it could be tight and smooth, shiny, scaly, etc.—in an area more than 6 in2.
– The soft tissue under the surface of the scar is missing in an area more than 6 in2. These areas will often be sunken in and hard to the touch.
– The skin is hard and doesn’t move when touched or pulled in an area more than 6 in2.
– The skin of the scar is attached to the soft tissues underneath it. This would make that area hard to move since the skin would not be able to stretch or move in response to some movements.
– The surface of th
e scar rises up or sinks down when pushed on.
– The scar is 5 or more inches long.
– The scar is ¼ inch or more at its widest point.

When measuring a scar, measure from side-to-side and then from top-to-bottom. If the side-to-side measurement is 5 inches, and the top to bottom measurement is 3 inches, then the overall area of the scar would equal 15 in2 (5 x 3 = 15).

Now, when rating scars or disfigurement of the head, face, and neck, only ONE rating can be given for this entire area regardless of how many scars there are. The measurements of each scar are added together to create a total scarred area. So, if there are two scars, one is 3 inches long and 2 inches wide, and another is 2 inches long and 1 inch wide, then the combined scarred area would be 8 in2 (3 x 2 = 6, 2 x 1 = 2, and 2 + 6 = 8), and the total length would be 5 inches (3 + 2 = 5). The width is the only measurement that cannot be added together. The requirement for width Characteristic is that is has to be ¼ inch at the WIDEST point. The largest width is the only one that would qualify for this. So in this case, the largest width measurement is 2 inches, plenty wide to qualify, but if the largest width were only ⅛ inch, then neither scar would qualify for this Characteristic. Got that?

After the math is done, you have to determine how many Characteristics these scars have. Let’s assume that both scars are shiny and red. These scars would then satisfy the requirements for 4 Characteristics: 1.) Scar 5 or more inches long 2.) Scar ¼ inch or more wide at the widest point 3.) Redness in an area 6 in2 or more 4.) Shiny texture in an area of 6 in2 or more.

Now let’s assume that one of these scars (the one measuring 2 x 3 = 6 in2) also has missing soft tissue, but the other does not. Since the scar measures 6 in2 on its own, it does qualify for another Characteristic. The total number of Characteristics for these two scars in this case is now 5. If, however, the smaller scar (2 x 1 = 2 in2) is the one with missing soft tissue, it does not have a large enough area by itself to qualify for this Characteristic, even though the total area if you combine both areas is big enough. A Characteristic can only qualify if it covers an area 6 in2 or more.

Okay, we’ve covered everything, so let’s try a bigger example. Let’s say that there are 3 scars. The first is 2 inches long and 2 inches wide. The texture is scaly, the color is white and the skin is inflexible. The second scar is 4 inches long and ⅛ inch wide. It sinks down when pushed on, and the texture is scaly. The last scar is 12 inches long and ⅛ inch wide. The color is red and the texture is shiny. How many Characteristics of Disfigurement are present?

Characteristics

1. Length
(5 or more inches total)

2. Width
(¼ inch or more at widest point)

Total area

3. Rises or Sinks when touched

4. Soft tissues attached

5. Skin
hard and immovable
(6 in2 or more)

6. Soft tissue missing
(6 in2 or more)

7. Irregular texture
(6 in2 or more)

8. Irregular color
(6 in2 or more)

Scar #1

2 in.

2 in.

2 x 2 =
4 in2

 

 

4 in2

 

4 in2

4 in2

Scar #2

4 in.

⅛ in.

4 x ⅛ =
0.5 in2

Yes

 

 

 

0.5 in2

 

Scar #3

12 in.

⅛ in.

12 x ⅛ = 1.5 in2

 

 

 

 

1.5 in2

1.5 in2

Total

18 in.

N/A

6 in2

 

 

4 in2

 

6 in2

5.5 in2

Applies?

Yes

Yes

-----

Yes

No

No

No

Yes

No

 

So the total number of Characteristics of Disfigurement that are present in this case is 4. Note that in this case, even though scar #2 was only 0.5 in2 and was the only one that raised or sunk when pushed on, it still qualified for this characteristic since there was no minimum area required. Likewise, though two of the scars had irregular color, the combined area of those two scars was not enough for it to qualify for the last Characteristic.

Now for the Ratings (Finally!):

If there are 6 or more Characteristics, it is rated 80%. If there are 4 or 5 Characteristics, it is rated 50%. If there are 2 or 3 Characteristics, it is rated 30%. If there is 1 Characteristic, it is rated 10%.

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Non-Linear Scars of the Body

Non-linear scars are scars that are patches, not thin lines.

military disability ratings for scars

Important! Each part of the body that is affected by a non-linear scar IS rated separately! Woo-hoo! When the ratings are assigned, numerous ratings under these codes can be given. So, if more than one rating is given under code 7801, then it should be clear on the rating decision which area each rating is for.

Below is a picture of the different areas of the body that can be rated separately. There are 6 areas in total, and they include the right arm, the left arm, the right leg, the left leg, the front of the torso, and the back of the torso. The front and back of the torso are separated by the midline on the side of the body. (The neck and head are rated under code 7800).

military disability ratings for scars

It is important that each of these areas is clearly defined and measured so that the overall rating is accurate.

All non-linear scars of the body are rated based on the area (square inches, in2) of the skin affected. These calculations can be a bit complicated to measure, and may vary based on the examining physician (unfortunately). You can help yourself, however, by knowing exactly how these measurements should be done.

To measure the area of skin affected by a burn, measure the length (top-to-bottom) and width (side-to-side) and then multiply them together. It may be necessary to portion the scar into sections that are then measured and their areas added together. For example, see the scar in the picture below.

military disability ratings for scars

Since this scar curves, it is impossible to measure the exact area it affects if measured all at once. It can, however, be pretty easily divided into three parts. Part 1 is 2 inches long and ¾ inch wide at its widest part. This makes the area 1.5 in2 (¾ x 2 = 1.5 in2). Part 2’s area is 7.5 in2 (1.5 x 5 = 7.5 in2). Likewise, part 3’s area is 6 in2 (3 x 2 = 6 in2). To then get the total area of scarring on that leg, add the three areas together: 1.5 + 7.5 + 6 = 15 in2.

If a single scar runs across one part of the body and into another, then it is divided and rated for each bit of it that is in each part of the body. Unfortunately, this could decrease the overall rating if the parts of the scar in each area are smaller, and thus rated less, than it might have been as a whole. Sorry. In the image to the right, the scar would be divided and rated once for the torso and once for the right leg.

military disability ratings for scars

Time for ratings:

Code 7801: Deep, non-linear scars are considered “deep” if there is damage to the soft tissues under the skin. If the area of scarring in a single body part is 144 in2 or bigger, then it is rated 40%. If the area is between 72 in2 and 144 in2, it is rated 30%. If the area is between 12 in2 and 72 in2, then it is rated 20%. If it is between 6 in2 and 12 in2, it is rated 10%.

Code 7802: Superficial, non-linear scars are ones that only affect the skin, not the soft tissues underneath. If the area of scarring in a single body part is 144 in2 or more, it is rated 10%. No other rating is given for superficial scars under this code.

Note: If the scars cause other disabling conditions beyond disfigurement (like pain, nerve damage, the inability to properly use an arm, etc.), then those conditions are rated separately. Search for the condition on this site, and then rate accordingly.

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Linear Scars of the Body

Code 7805: Linear scars are lines (not necessarily straight) instead of patches. These scars are not ratable in and of themselves. If they cause another condition that makes it hard to properly do your job, then that other condition is rated. So, for example, if a linear scar running up the arm makes it impossible to fully bend or straighten the arm at the elbow, then it is rated under limited motion of the elbow. The final code will look like this: 7805-3400. The first four-digit code defines the condition as a linear scar, and the second four-digit code tells how it is rated.

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Painful or Unstable Scars

Code 7804: Painful or unstable scars can be rated twice: once under this code, and once under one of the other scar codes depending on what type of scar it is. An unstable scar is one that constantly loses the healed skin over the top of the wound. It would regularly open up and then re-heal, only to open up again. This is usually found in larger, deeper scars, especially those over moving joints.

If there are 5 or more scars that are unstable or painful, and at least one of them is both unstable and painful, it is rated 40%. If there are 5 or more scars that are unstable or painful (none are both), it is rated 30%. If there are 3 or 4 scars that are unstable or painful, and at least one of them is both unstable and painful, it is rated 30%. If there are 3 or 4 scars that are unstable or painful (none are both), it is rated 20%. If there are 1 or 2 scars that are unstable or painful, and at least one of them is both unstable and painful, it is rated 20%. If there are 1 or 2 scars that are unstable or painful (neither are both), it is rated 10%.

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Other Scar Conditions

All other scar conditions will be rated analogously (see the Analgous and Equivalent Codes page) with the above ratings. The bottom line rule is to rate any condition under the code that BEST describes it, even if it is not exact.

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DBQ for Scar Conditions

Here is the Disability Benefits Questionnaire (DBQ) used for scar conditions: Scar Conditions DBQ.

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Principles that Apply

Pyramiding: A single condition can only be rated once! However, if another condition exists that is additional to the scar condition (not simply caused by it), then it can also be rated.

Probative Value: If two exams record the condition differently, the exam with the most thorough data and performed by the most qualified person in that specialty will be the exam the rating is based on.

A Tie Goes to the Veteran: If there are two equally strong exams with conflicting information, or if the condition can be equally rated under two different codes, then the one that gives the highest rating will be assigned. Every conflict should be resolved in favor of the higher rating.

Accurate Measurements: It is essential that the necessary information to rate your condition is recorded by the physician in your exam. With the information on this page, you should know what needs to be measured and recorded. Make sure this happens correctly to ensure that you receive a proper rating.

Hospital or Convalescent Ratings: Some conditions require periods of hospitalization or constant medical care (at-home nurse, etc.). Any condition that requires this is rated 100% during this intensive treatment. Once it ends, then the 100% rating will continue for a certain period. This period is 3 months unless another length (6 months, 1 year, etc.) is directly specified in the condition ratings. Some patients may need more time to recover than others, so the physician or Rating Authorities can lengthen this time period if they see fit.

Please see the VASRD Principles page for further guidance.

For conditions caused by traumatic injury to the head, see the Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) page. For all other skin and muscle conditions, please see The Skin, The Facial Muscles, and the various other muscle pages. For conditions affecting the senses, see the Taste and Smell, The Ears, and The Eyes pages.

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