Getting Veterans Disability Compensation for Skin Conditions Related to Military Service

Veterans with serious skin conditions from exposure to dangerous chemicals while serving can receive disability compensation.

By , Attorney · Northeastern University School of Law
Updated by Diana Chaikin, Attorney · Seattle University School of Law

Service members on active duty may be exposed to chemical or other environmental hazards that can cause skin conditions such as dermatitis or eczema. Some veterans also experience lasting effects of scars from injuries and burns. The VA can provide service-connected disability compensation for veterans who have skin conditions that happened (or worsened) during their time in service.

Establishing Direct Service Connection for Skin Conditions

In order to get VA disability for skin conditions, you'll need to show a "nexus" (link) between your skin condition and your military service. If your skin condition occurred as a result of an event that happened while you were on active duty, you can establish a "direct service connection" with the following evidence:

  • a current diagnosis of dermatitis, eczema, scarring, or another skin condition
  • evidence of an incident in service that caused the condition, and
  • medical evidence (a doctor's opinion) connecting the current skin condition to the service incident.

Presumptive Service Connection for Skin Conditions

Military duty can involve activities that are dangerous enough for the VA to "presume'' that you'll develop a medical condition as a result. In these cases, veterans can establish a service connection without needing to prove there was a specific event during service that caused the condition.

Skin conditions can be eligible for presumptive service connection in some circumstances. For example:

  • Chloracne, an acne-like eruption of cysts linked to dioxin exposure, is presumed to be service-connected for Vietnam veterans.
  • Leprosy (also known as Hansen's disease) is presumed to be service-connected when it results in a certain amount of skin lesions.
  • Soft-tissue sarcoma, including a rare type of skin cancer called dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans, is service-connected for Vietnam vets.
  • Melanoma and other chronic skin problems are presumed to be service-connected for Gulf War and Iraq War veterans who served in Southwest Asia or Northeast Africa.
  • Pellagra, a skin condition caused by nutritional deficiency, is service-connected for former POWs who were detained for longer than one month.
  • Frostbite that causes residual skin damage is presumed to be service-connected for POWs who were held in places with a cold climate.

Generally speaking, you'll have to show that your skin condition "manifested to a compensable degree" (meaning that it has a disability rating of 10% or higher) before the VA will presume that it was connected to your active duty.

Some skin conditions have time limits after which the presumption that they are service-connected will end. Chloracne must appear with the severity of a 10% disability rating within one year of exposure to an herbicide (such as Agent Orange) in order for the VA to presume it was service-connected. Leprosy is presumed to be service-connected if it manifests within three years of discharge.

But you can still qualify for benefits after the service-connected presumption ends if you can establish a direct service connection (see above).

VA Disability Ratings for Skin Conditions

The VA rates skin conditions under the VA Schedule of Ratings Disabilities, Section 4.118, diagnostic codes 7800 to 7833. The diagnostic codes include many common conditions, such as dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, and urticaria (hives). Most skin conditions—except for scars—are evaluated with the General Rating Formula.

Using the formula, the VA will assign you a disability of 60%, 30%, 10%, or 0%, based on how much of your body is affected by the skin condition or how much treatment you require. (A few very severe skin conditions, such as erythroderma, can get a disability rating of 100%.)

Dermatitis or Eczema

Ratings for dermatitis or eczema are determined by how frequently you need medication to control outbreaks and how widespread the condition is. For example, if you have dermatitis on one arm that is mostly under control with occasional corticosteroids, the VA will likely assign a 10% disability rating. But if you have eczema over your entire upper body that requires near-constant medical attention, the VA should assign a 60% disability rating.


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, while superficial acne is less inflamed.

The VA only assigns compensatory ratings for deep acne—if you have superficial acne, no matter how widespread, you can only receive a 0% disability rating. But even though you won't be eligible for disability compensation with a 0% rating, you'll still be able to receive health care and other VA benefits.

For deep acne, you can receive a 30%, 20%, or 10% rating. To receive the maximum disability rating, your acne will need to affect at least 40 percent of your face and neck.

Scars From Burns or Injuries

If you have scars on your head, face, or neck, the VA will assign you a rating of 10%, 30%, 50%, or 80%, depending on how disfiguring the scars are. A veteran with one scar on the nose may get a disability rating of 10%, while a veteran who has multiple scars that distort their nose, lips, cheek, and chin may get a rating of 50%.

Scars elsewhere on the body can get a maximum disability rating of 40%. The VA will take into consideration the size, location, and how painful or "unstable" (uncovered by skin) the scars are.

How to Apply for VA Disability Based on Your Skin Condition

You can submit an application for VA disability compensation online, in person or over the phone with your VA regional office, or by mailing an Application for Disability Compensation to the following address:

Department of Veterans Affairs
Claims Intake Center
P.O. Box 4444
Janesville, WI 53547-4444

To learn more about the application process, read Nolo's article on applying for VA disability compensation.

Updated May 26, 2023

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