Burns are one of the many injuries for which servicemembers are at risk. They comprise roughly five percent of all combat-related injuries, according to the US Army. Burns are complicated and painful injuries that may necessitate long-term care and lead to various complications. Fires, explosives, nuclear weapons, and chemicals are just a few of the sources of military burns.
Burn scars can cause physical limitations as well as greatly impair a person’s ability to cope in public. Fortunately, veterans with service-related serious burn scars can obtain disability benefits from the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) if they meet all the qualifications. Like other injuries, your disability rating will determine the payments you are eligible to receive.
How does the VA evaluate burn scars?
The disability ratings for burn scars are detailed in the 38 CFR Book C, Schedule for Rating Disabilities, under § 4.118. The guidelines are very specific. There are four categories of burn scars in the schedule:
- Scars on or disfigurements of the head, face, or neck
- Linear scars elsewhere on the body
- Non-linear and deep scars elsewhere on the body
- Non-linear and superficial scars elsewhere on the body
Each category has various codes, stipulations, and disability ratings. For instance, veterans with burns on the head, face, or neck that involve a “palpable tissue loss and either gross distortion or asymmetry of three or more facial features” get an 80 percent disability rating.
Those with superficial, nonlinear scars elsewhere on the body that are 144 square inches or larger qualify get a 10 percent disability rating. Also, scars that are painful or unstable may receive two ratings: once under Code 7804 and once under one of the four above appropriate categories.
If the burn scars are on the head, face, or neck, veterans can qualify for disability rating if they have one or more characteristics of disfigurement. The more characteristics your injury has, the higher your rating. The eight characteristics of burn scar disfigurement include:
- A scar five inches or longer
- A scar at least one-quarter inch wide
- A elevated or depressed scar
- A scar that sticks to underlying tissue
- Hypo-or hyper-pigmented skin in an area exceeding six square inches
- Scarring in an area exceeding six square inches with abnormal texture (e.g., irregular, atrophic, shiny, scaly, etc.)
- Missing underlying soft tissue exceeding six square inches
- Inflexible, indurated skin exceeding six square inches
You can read over the Schedule for Rating Disabilities for details on burn scars that qualify you for VA disability benefits, although the codes are somewhat complex. For help deciphering your benefits, give Burn Victims Resource a call.
How do I obtain benefits for my burn scars?
You may need to apply for VA disability benefits either online, at a VA office, or with the help of a legal advisor. During the application process, you will also have to fill out and submit the Disability Benefits Questionnaire (DBQ) for scars and disfigurement, which your doctor will have to sign. On the form, you will provide notes on your diagnosis, detailed measurements of your scars, and how the scars have limited your functional capacity. Be prepared to have adequate medical evidence to support your claim.
Note: The VA changed its disability ratings for burn injuries in 2008. If you are currently receiving disability benefits for burn scars obtained prior to that time, consider sending in an appeal. You might be entitled to additional compensation.
If you need help pursuing VA disability benefits, call us at 844-549-8774 to speak with our lawyer referral specialists.