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By Diana Wade
Disability Advocate 

Can Chronic Venous Insufficiency qualify for Social Security Disability?

Ask the Advocate


In the human circulatory system, arteries carry oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. After the oxygen has been delivered to its destination in the other organs and the extremities, the veins return the now oxygen-poor blood to the lungs, where it can be re-oxygenated. In the legs, contractions of the muscles force the blood upward toward the heart, against the pull of gravity. Small one-way valves in the veins prevent the blood from flowing backward down into the legs so it can make the return trip to the lungs for more oxygen. Sometimes these valves fail, causing blood to pool in the lower extremities. When the blood is unable to return to the heart for more oxygen, the blood pressure in these veins is elevated for long periods of time; the resulting condition is known as chronic venous insufficiency.

There can be several different causes for the failure of these venous valves. They can be damaged by the aging process, by extended periods of sitting or standing, by injuries, or by any combination of these.

Common symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency include: swelling in the lower extremities, especially after long periods of standing, aches or tiredness in the legs, varicose veins, itching or flaking in the skin of the feet or legs and changes in the appearance of the skin on the legs.

This condition can be treated through the use of compression stockings to maintain pressure on the legs so the blood returns upward toward the heart. Blood thinners may be used to prevent the formation of clots. In more advanced cases, or cases where deep vein thrombosis has occurred, surgical intervention may be necessary to close or remove problem veins.

Chronic Venous Insufficiency has been determined by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to be one of the disabling conditions that can qualify a person to receive Social Security Disability benefits. It is listed as a cardiovascular impairment. In order to qualify for benefits, the condition must meet certain diagnostic criteria related to the severity of the impairment it causes. These criteria are as follows:

Chronic Venous Insufficiency of a lower extremity involving the deep venous system and one of the following:

Extensive brawny edema (that is, edema that doesn’t remain indented with pressure from a finger) that involves at least 2/3 of the shin/calf area or the lower third of the leg between the hip and ankle, or

Surface varicose veins, or stasis dermatitis (an inflammatory skin condition) and recurrent or persistent ulcerations which have not responded to at least 3 months of prescribed treatment.

It is typically diagnosed in the initial stages by a review of the symptoms. The diagnosis can be confirmed through ultrasound readings of the blood flow patterns.

If the complications from Chronic Venous Insufficiency have impaired your ability to work or meet the Listing criteria, you may be entitled to receive Social Security Disability benefits.


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