Is Lymphedema A Disability?

Lymphedema causes major severity in the person when it affects the hand and the legs as these are the major organs that debilitate any person. If the person having lymphedema qualifies the criteria of debility laid down by SSA, one may qualify for disability benefits.

Is Lymphedema A Disability?

Is Lymphedema A Disability?

Lymphedema is the condition wherein the capacity of lymphatic system in draining the fluid from the interstitial tissue to the blood vessels is reduced. This results in the swelling and pain. The areas generally affected are limbs and genitals. As the condition of lymphedema does not continuously occur for 12 months as required by the guidelines of SSA as this condition can be managed, it is not listed in the blue book. However, the applicant can even be qualified for the disability benefits according to the following criteria:

  1. Condition “Medically Equal” To Listing Conditions

    If the condition is medically equal to the listing condition, the applicant may qualify for the disability benefits. The medically equal conditions related to lymphedema can be found in the following listings of blue book-

    1. Listing 1.02- Major Dysfunction Of A Joint (Due To Any Cause): If the lymphedema is in legs of the applicant and it greatly restricts the movement or walk then it can be termed as medically equal condition. Likewise, if the hands are affected and there is a reduction in capacity, then it is also a medically equal condition.
    2. Listing 4.11- Chronic Venous Insufficiency: CVI is the condition in which the valves in the blood vessels get damaged and the blood from certain parts fails to return to the main circulation. This result in the pooling of blood which causes severe pain and walking becomes difficult. Same is the case with lymphedema where in place of blood, the lymph is collected in the underlying tissue that causes pain and difficulty in walking. Further, both the diseases are progressive in nature and thus are medically equal condition.

    Besides the above listed medically equal conditions, various medically equal conditions may also be present depending upon the organ affected by lymphedema. The applicant, prior to apply for benefits, should consult an experienced disability lawyer.

    1. Listing For Cancer: If the lymphedema is caused due to cancer and cancer treatment, the person may quality for claiming benefits under this listing.
    2. The Medical Vocational Allowance: This type of benefits depends upon the symptoms, age, education and past job. The residual functional capacity of the applicant is determined. The limitation test is done on the basis on organ capacity which is affected due to lymphedema. If the legs are affected, the residual function capacity of the legs is determined and if the hands are affected then capacity of the hands are assessed. After the assessment, if the applicant passes the criteria of SSA, he may be eligible for medical vocational allowance.
  2. Claiming Disability Benefits

    There are two types of social security benefits provided by the Social security Administration (SSA). These are Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The applicant to qualify for either of the benefits should prove that due to a particular condition, they are unable to take a job at least for a year. There are certain requirements to be met by the applicants. The requirement may vary to qualify for different benefits. What constitutes a disabling condition is listed in the book maintained by the Social Security Administration. This book is known as Blue book which contains the medical criteria required to pronounce a condition as disabling condition. Even if the condition is not listed the blue book, the SSA decides on the basis of age and physical ability and the applicant may qualify under the medical Vocational Allowance.


Although the lymphedema is not listed in the blue book maintained by the SSA, the person affected by lymphedema can apply and qualify for the disability benefits. This can be done through medically equal conditions, cancer listing and medical vocational allowance.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:February 12, 2020

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