Veins normally have valves that ensure blood flows only in one direction. But sometimes, these valves stop working properly, causing blood to flow backward. This can lead to swollen and enlarged veins, known as varicose veins.
Symptoms of varicose veins can be mild, but in severe cases, this condition can be extremely painful. If—despite treatment—your symptoms prevent you from working full-time for at least twelve months, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits.
Varicose veins are common and occur most often in the legs. Some people are born with these faulty vein valves, but others develop this condition later in life. Age and sex can play a part in developing varicose veins. For instance, women are more likely to develop varicose veins as they age or during pregnancy.
The most common symptoms of varicose veins are:
For mild varicose veins, your doctor may recommend elevating your legs when sleeping and wearing compression socks during the day. In serious cases where you're in daily pain, have excessive swelling, or develop ulcers around the veins, your doctor may recommend surgical intervention to restore normal blood flow.
Other procedures for the treatment of varicose veins include sclerotherapy (injections of medication into the veins), external laser treatment, or an ambulatory phlebectomy (removal of superficial veins).
While Social Security doesn't specifically include varicose veins as an automatically disabling condition in the agency's "Blue Book" of listed impairments, they can be a symptom of a condition called chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), which is a listed impairment.
The symptoms of people living with severe cases of varicose veins and CVI are similar. Prolonged sitting, standing, and walking can be both difficult and painful.
The easiest way to be approved for disability is to meet the requirements of a listing. In order to meet Social Security's listing 4.11 for chronic venous insufficiency, your medical records must contain evidence that your CVI affects at least one of your legs, causing insufficient or obstructed blood flow in a deep vein. You'll also need to show that you have:
Even if you don't meet the requirements of the listing, Social Security will still examine all the available evidence in your case to determine if your symptoms are severe enough to keep you from working full-time.
Social Security decides whether you can work by doing a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment. Your RFC lists the tasks you're able to do at work as well as restrictions or tasks you'll need to avoid. The agency will look closely at your medical records and daily routine to determine your RFC.
Once Social Security has determined your RFC, the agency will then compare your past work with your current RFC to see whether you can do those jobs now. If you can't, Social Security will need to see whether other jobs exist that you're able to do. The key to understanding RFCs is that the more restrictions listed in your RFC assessment, the fewer jobs you can do—which increases your chances of being approved for disability.
Before Social Security can find that you meet the agency's medical definition of disability, you'll need to meet other legal and financial requirements in order to be eligible for benefits.
Social Security doesn't offer short-term or temporary benefits, so your medical records must show that you have had the severe symptoms associated with varicose veins for at least one year (or that your severe symptoms are expected to last for one year). Your disability application will be denied if this durational requirement is not met.
When deciding whether to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), make sure you understand the different eligibility criteria for these separate programs.
SSDI is available to applicants who have worked for approximately ten years before their condition began. The agency will look closely at your work history to determine if you have enough work credits to insure you for this program.
SSI is for people with limited income and less than $2,000 in assets ($3,000 for a couple), regardless of work history.
For more information on the differences between SSDI and SSI benefits, see our article What Is the Difference Between Social Security Disability (SSDI) and SSI?
There are four ways you can file your application for Social Security benefits:
When you apply, you'll have to enter a lot of personal info like your name, address, and Social Security number. You'll also be required to list your full work history, income for the last three years, doctors you've seen, and the types of medical treatments you have received.
It's a good idea to gather as much relevant information as possible before you sit down to file or meet with an attorney. Making a list of your employment history and compiling your medical records before you file will help tremendously. For more tips, check out our article on how to apply for Social Security disability benefits.
Updated August 17, 2023