VA disability is a possibility but not a given when it comes to varicose veins. That is, those who have varicose veins may be eligible to file for VA disability in some situations if you prove your case. These veins commonly affect the legs. In some people, the condition can worsen when standing or walking for long periods of time because it increases pressure in the lower body’s veins. While many people don’t have complications from varicose veins – typically a cosmetic issue – for others, it can cause pain and discomfort. Here, we’ll discuss whether you can get disability from the Department of Veterans Affairs for varicose veins.
VA Disability Ratings for Varicose Veins
Varicose veins are twisted, enlarged veins, according to the Mayo Clinic. Most people face only cosmetic problems from these veins, but others experience debilitating pain, chronic discomfort, and limited mobility. Common signs of complex forms of varicose veins that may lead to a VA claim include:
- Veins that are dark purple or blue in color
- Veins that bulge or look like they are twisted
- Achy, heavy feeling in the legs
- Throbbing, muscle cramps
- Worsening pain after sitting or standing for long periods
This video from the Cleveland Clinic shows images of complex varicose veins and how they may impact individuals.
It’s also important to note that some people with varicose veins also develop concerns related to veins in other areas of the body, including in the testicles, rectum, esophagus, liver, or stomach, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Service Connection for Varicose Veins
A veteran must first establish a service connection to receive VA benefits for varicose veins. To do this, three main elements of the claim must be met:
- A current diagnosis of the disability you are claiming
- An in-service occurrence (or incident0 that caused or aggravated the disability being claimed
- Medical nexus are connecting the current, diagnosed disability to the in-service occurrence (or incident).
How can this occur with varicose veins? Every situation is different, but there may be some situations to consider.
First, having a medical diagnosis of varicose veins is the first step. Most commonly, visiting a doctor can provide this. However, there was a claim, Barr v. Nicholson, in 2007 that established that lay observation was acceptable in cases of varicose veins.
The second component is showing that an in-service occurrence or incident led to or aggravated the condition. This could include, for example, long periods of having to stand at attention, exposure to UV rays, or being unable to move for long periods of time.
It’s essential to establish that varicose veins occurred or worsened as a result of the work you did within the military. Showing these connections may help you prove that your work caused or worsened the condition.
Secondary Service Connection for Varicose Veins
In some situations, secondary disabilities may be a factor. This occurs when a service-connected disability causes or aggravates a new or pre-existing condition, injury, or illness. That means that VA disability compensation may extend beyond the original military service-connected injury. It is necessary to have sufficient medical evidence to support this.
For example, a service-connected onset of varicose veins may have caused ulcers, blood clots, or bleeding. All of these are complications, though rare, from varicose veins. These may lead to the risk of infection, added pain, and even strokes if blood clots lead to the brain or heart.
To obtain a secondary connection, it is critical to show that the varicose veins created or are occurring as a result of service or a worsening of a pre-existing condition directly led to the onset of these complications.
Service Connection by Aggravation
Another way that a service connection may be established is through aggravation. In this situation, a veteran is awarded compensation for a preexisting condition noted in their file if their military service worsened that condition somehow. The key here is to show that the military service worsened the condition and that it was not the natural progression of the disease.
In the case of varicose veins, it may be possible to do this if showing specific examples of how military service worsened pre-existing conditions. If your medical record indicates you had varicose veins heading into military service, but your condition worsened, you may be able to show that long hours of standing at attention or that recurring leg cramps led to extensive worsening of the condition.
Compensation & Pension Exams for Varicose Veins
The Compensation and Pension Exam, or C&P Exam, is a medical examination for the disability completed by the VA healthcare provider or a contracted provider. It uses these exams to determine if the veteran’s claims for their condition are valid and, if so, how to assign a rating to them. For varicose veins, the VA will likely require a full examination with a healthcare provider, blood tests, and any type of ultrasound necessary to determine the extensiveness of the condition.
Prior to this, the VA healthcare worker will also examine any evidence and medical records that you have leading up to this to help document the onset, cause, or underlying worsening of the condition. The examination provides information that’s critical to making a formal diagnosis.
If you receive an unfavorable examination for any reason, be sure to reach out to a VA lawyer who can help you to show what occurred. You have the right to an appeal in most cases. What’s most important at this stage is being open and honest about what’s occurred but also guarding that you don’t say anything that could harm your case.
How Does the VA Rate Varicose Veins?
The VA rates varicose veins according to 38 CFR § 4.104, Schedule of Ratings – Cardiovascular System with the VA Diagnostic Code of 7120. This is similar to deep vein thrombosis claims but somewhat different. Here is what this looks like:
- 0%: Asymptomatic palpable or visible varicose veins that don’t cause physical limitations
- 10%: intermittent edema of one or more lower extremities or aching and fatigue in the leg after prolonged standing or walking, where symptoms are relieved by elevation or compression hosiery.
- 20%: persistent edema that is not fully relieved by elevation of the extremity, with or without being stasis pigmentation or eczema present
- 40%: Persistent edema and stasis pigmentation or eczema exist with or without intermittent ulceration.
- 60%: Persistent edema or subcutaneous induration occurs, along with stasis pigmentation or eczema, as well as persistent ulceration is present.
- 100%: Varicose veins are massive, broad-like edema with constant pain even at rest.
The VA will look at symptoms, diagnosis, and the VA examination information to determine what extent a person has in varicose veins to determine disability benefits. Generally, this information is combined with information provided by you, the claimant, including the type or ability of work and what level of symptoms you have on a routine basis.
TDIU for Varicose Veins
Total Disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU) is a factor in some disability claims for varicose veins. Entitlement of this may compensate the veteran at 100% level, even if their disability rating does not add up to 100%. This may be the case if the varicose veins are so disabling that they are unable to secure or maintain gainful employment. Providing evidence of impairment will be imperative.
Getting Help for VA Disability Benefits for Varicose Veins
The presence of varicose veins may lead to debilitating conditions, including leg pain and complications beyond the superficial veins that some people have. If you are the claimant seeking compensation and veterans benefits and were an active duty or reserved officer, it is often best to work with a disability attorney to prove your case.
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