Do you suffer from exfoliative dermatitis because of a service-connected event? Then you may be eligible for VA disability benefits if you can prove the relationship between your condition and your time in the military.
As a recipient of a veteran’s disability, you can gain monthly compensation and many other perks and benefits. But the challenge is submitting a convincing appeal that welcomes a grant of benefits. The VA is strict with requirements and is known for being unpredictable when handling requests.
Don’t worry. We’re here to help. Here’s our complete guide to exfoliative dermatitis and VA ratings, so you know what to expect when making a claim.
Table of contents
- What Is Exfoliative Dermatitis?
- How Is Exfoliative Dermatitis Treated?
- What Are the Recent VA Rating Updates for Skin Disorders?
- What Is Pyramiding?
- How Does the VA Rate Skin Conditions?
- 60% Rating for Skin Conditions
- 30% Rating for Skin Conditions
- 10% Rating for Skin Conditions
- 0% Rating for Skin Conditions
- How Do I Establish a Service-Connected Skin Condition?
- What Is a Presumptive Service Connection?
- How Can I Apply for VA Benefits Based on Exfoliative Dermatitis?
- Submitting Your VA Benefits Claim for Exfoliative Dermatitis With Help
What Is Exfoliative Dermatitis?
Exfoliative dermatitis is extensive erythema (redness) and scaling of the skin. The cause of the condition is unknown.
But exfoliative dermatitis usually develops from pre-existing skin disorders. These disorders include atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, and pityriasis rubra pilaris.
Exfoliative erythema can also occur from medicine side-effects or even illegal drug use. These drugs include penicillin, sulfonamides, isoniazid, phenytoin, and barbiturates.
The condition can also be a side effect of cancers. These cancers include lymphoma, mycosis fungoides, and leukemia. On rare occasions, it can include adenocarcinomas.
However, up to 25% of exfoliative dermatitis patients have no identifiable underlying cause of the condition.
Bacterial superinfection can also complicate exfoliative dermatitis.
There are various symptoms and signs of exfoliative dermatitis. These include pruritus (itching), malaise, and chills.
Diffuse erythema first develops in patches but then spreads across all or nearly all the body. Flaking and irritated skin can cause problems with regulating your body temperature, causing you to be chilled or to run a fever. It can lead to nutritional problems as your metabolism is affected by your body trying to heals it’s own skin.
Exfoliative dermatitis is diagnosed by history and examination. In many cases, pre-existing skin conditions can trigger extensive erythema.
Blood tests may show hypoproteinemia (low levels of protein), hypocalcemia (low levels of calcium), and iron deficiency. However, these results are not diagnostic. You can see that these additional conditions would cause additional problems for a veteran.
In severe cases, exfoliative dermatitis is life-threatening. Hospitalization is usually required, depending on the cause. But if exfoliative dermatitis develops as a reaction to drugs, it tends to last only two to six weeks after the drug is withdrawn.
How Is Exfoliative Dermatitis Treated?
Exfoliative dermatitis is treated in several ways, depending on the severity of the case.
Supportive care involves the correction of dehydration, correction of electrolyte abnormalities and nutritional deficiencies, and thorough wound care and dressings to avoid bacterial superinfection.
As drug outbreaks and contact dermatitis cannot be ruled out by history alone, all drugs should be halted or changed.
Topical treatment can also be used. This includes topical corticosteroids with a 1 to 2.5 percent hydrocortisone ointment. Oral corticosteroids can also be taken for severe cases, usually once a day, for ten days.
What Are the Recent VA Rating Updates for Skin Disorders?
In August 2018, VA announced updates to all 15 body systems included in the Veterans Affairs Schedule for Rating Disabilities. This was to reflect modern medicine more accurately and to offer clearer rating decisions.
With the updates, the VA adjusted how it assesses conditions related to the skin. Although no skin disorders were eliminated from the new rating schedule for skin conditions, some diagnostic codes were modified.
Claims pending before August 2018 are judged under both the old and new ranking criteria. Whichever rating is more favorable to the applicant will be used.
Under the new rating system for skin conditions, VA aims to distinguish between disorders that affect a large surface of the body, or the entire body, and diseases that are localized or need localized treatment.
When the VA law changes like this, you can see how important your effective date can be. Here, one of our VA disability lawyers talks about the effective date of your VA disability ruling.
What Is Pyramiding?
Skin conditions are difficult to categorize precisely. That’s because each disorder often has many different causes and symptoms. Often, the cause of a skin condition is unknown.
Because of this, there’s rarely one definite, tried and tested definition for each skin condition. When submitting a claim for VA benefits for a skin condition, some applicants find that their exact condition isn’t even listed. If this is your experience, you should select the condition under the code that best describes it, even if it isn’t exact.
As skin conditions are so hard to categorize and feature various causes and symptoms, many veterans experience problems of pyramiding. This is the VA term for rating the same disability or trait of a disability twice.
But, multiple ratings for skin conditions are possible. This is if each one has a clear and precise diagnosis and if each disorder affects a different part of the skin.
For one condition that affects various areas of skin, a single score is provided under that condition, but it accounts all affected areas. For multiple conditions that affect one area of the skin, the VA will only rate the one that provides a higher rating.
When you go to your C&P Exam, you’ll need these tips to help get the fair and highest rating you deserve.
How Does the VA Rate Skin Conditions?
VA ranks skin conditions under 38 CFR § 4.118, Diagnostic Codes 7800-7833.
Exfoliative erythroderma has a listing in the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities. When assessing a claim, the VA looks at various factors. This includes whether the disorder has caused symptoms and pain beyond the skin, like weight loss or fever.
Depending on the quality and abundance of your medical evidence and diagnosis, and how your skin condition affects your functionality, you can receive anywhere from the maximum to the minimum impairment rating for exfoliative dermatitis.
Along with other skin conditions, the VA rates exfoliative dermatitis based on the amount of skin affected. The VA rates this using two methods of determination: calculations and estimations.
Skin area calculations look at the surface area in inches squared that’s damaged. Skin area estimations instead assess the percentage of skin that’s affected.
For veterans with scars in the head, face, or neck, their rating is based on skin loss and how many facial features are damaged. VA ratings for injuries on other parts of the body other than the head, face, or neck are typically based on the scar’s size.
The General Rating Formula for the skin is included in 38 CFR § 4.118 and is used to rank most skin conditions as the following:
60% Rating for Skin Conditions
60% – at least one of the following: distinctive cuts involving more than 40% of the body or more than 40% of visible areas affected. There is constant or near-constant systemic treatment including, but not limited to, corticosteroids, retinoids, biologics, photochemotherapy, phototherapy, and psoralen with long-wave ultraviolet-A light (PUVA), or other immunosuppressive drugs required over the preceding 12-month period.
30% Rating for Skin Conditions
30% – at least one of the following: distinctive cuts involving 20 to 40% of the body, or 20-40% of visible areas affected. Or, systemic treatment including, but not limited to, corticosteroids, phototherapy, photochemotherapy, retinoids, biologics, PUVA, or other immunosuppressive drugs needed for a total period of six weeks or more, but not constantly, over the preceding 12-month period.
10% Rating for Skin Conditions
10% – at least one of the following: distinctive cuts involving at least 5%, but less than 20%, of the body affected. Or, at least 5% but less than 20% of visible areas affected. Or, intermittent systemic treatment including, but not limited to, corticosteroids, retinoids, biologics, photochemotherapy, phototherapy, PUVA, or other immunosuppressive drugs needed for a total period of fewer than six weeks over the preceding 12-month period.
0% Rating for Skin Conditions
0% – no more than topical treatment required over the previous 12-month period. At least one of the following: distinctive cuts involving less than 5% of visible areas affected. Or, rate as mutilation of the head, face, or neck (DC 7800) or scars (DCs 7801, 7802, 7804, or 7805), depending upon the prevalent disability.
Systemic treatment refers to any medication injected or taken by mouth, through the nose, or anally. This includes, but isn’t limited to, the procedures recorded within the rating criteria. Topical treatment is any medication applied directly to the skin.
Here one of our veterans’ disability lawyers answers questions that we are frequently asked by our clients.
How Do I Establish a Service-Connected Skin Condition?
To receive disability benefits for exfoliative dermatitis, veterans must prove a direct service connection to the condition. Former service members must show the following:
- A current diagnosis of exfoliative dermatitis
- An in-service event, severe injury, or illness related to exfoliative dermatitis
- A medical connection linking the present and diagnosed exfoliative dermatitis to the in-service event, severe injury, or illness
The more evidence of an exfoliative dermatitis condition, the better. Applicants must also be able to be specific about the event that caused their condition. Include as much evidence as possible that proves that a military event led to the condition, rather than anything else.
For the best chance of success, a VA disability lawyer can help veterans submit a strong appeal to receive a grant of VA disability benefits for exfoliative dermatitis.
What Is a Presumptive Service Connection?
Presumptive service connection is another way for former service members to pursue VA disability benefits. Here, VA has established that particular conditions are presumed service-connected. But, this is only if veterans reach specific criteria.
For example, some veterans were subjected to herbicide agents while serving in Vietnam. Those that developed chloracne or porphyria cutanea tarda within one year after service to a degree of 10 percent disabling are granted presumptive service connection.
Likewise, Gulf War service members with chronic skin disorders like dermatitis or with chronic undiagnosed skin conditions are given presumptive service connection. This can be any time after their time in service if the condition is rated at 10 percent or higher.
How Can I Apply for VA Benefits Based on Exfoliative Dermatitis?
There are various ways to apply for VA disability benefits based on exfoliative dermatitis.
You can apply online, by filling in the application for veteran’s compensation or pension, by contacting a local VA office, or you can call us. Your call is free and we would be happy to answer your questions and see if we can help you with your case.
Former service members should make a claim as soon as possible. But, even it’s been many years since a veteran worked on active duty, they are still eligible for VA benefits.
If you’re applying for more than one disability, be aware that for each that you list, the period of time it takes to process your application increases. To speed up a claim, make sure to only list disabilities for which you experience symptoms and have received a medical diagnosis. If you have medical records that support your application of disability, include them with your submission.
Depending on the contents of your submission, it can take from months to three or more years to process your application and to receive a final decision from the VA.
The form is generally easy to fill in, but some veterans may require extra help. It’s also easy to make mistakes when submitting the application that can cause delays or even affect ratings. That’s why we recommend speaking to a certified VA disability attorney to ensure that your application is strong.
Submitting Your VA Benefits Claim for Exfoliative Dermatitis With Help
If you need help filing your VA benefits claim for exfoliative dermatitis, consider speaking to an expert lawyer.
A VA disability lawyer can help you obtain a grant of benefits and receive the most compensation for which you are entitled to.
The VA impairment rating scale stretches from 0 to 100% in increases of 10%, and each rating on the scale relates to a monthly benefit level.
Here at Woods Lawyers, we’ve been helping veterans receive the VA rating they deserve for years, and we have the skill and experience to give you the support you need.
Call us today to see how we can help you.
Yes. There are many skin conditions that are all grouped together by their effects, not necessarily their exact causes. If the cause can be linked to your service, then the rating will come based on the effect it has on your life.
Yes, if you can get it service-connected. If you were around Agent Orange or other chemicals or even medicines while you served, you might have a case. Let’s go over it and we’ll tell you for free.