Debilitating arthritis and structural damage to the knees can support a successful Social Security disability claim. Damage to one or both knees can result in “exertional impairments” – limitations on standing, walking, stooping, climbing, and carrying, and it can result in “non-exertional impairments” – pain, poor sleep, pain medication side effects, obesity, and a myriad of conditions associated with lack of exercise and a sedentary lifestyle. You may also slip into depression if you are not able to get around physically, interact with family, travel or perform activities that you enjoy.
Most chronic knee pain claimants are in their late 40’s or 50’s with the knee pain arising from years of wear and tear. Perhaps you were involved in an automobile accident 15 or 20 years ago, you injured your knees playing football in high school, or perhaps you wore down the cartilage or bones in your knees standing on hard concrete over many years. Perhaps you have sought pain relief with over the counter analgesics or supplements containing tumeric or curcumin.
Since Social Security judges frequently see claimants alleging disability based on knee pain, you are going to have to show that your pain is more than the mild to moderate discomfort that everyone experiences from time to time, and instead is severe and debilitating to the point where you have difficulty walking and sitting because of the pain and discomfort.
In my experience, some of the factors that judges look for when evaluating knee pain cases include:
- long, solid work history
- objective evidence of problems in your knees – such as MRI reports
- treatment records from an orthopedist who specializes in knee pain cases
- evidence that your doctor recommends a knee replacement, and preferably bilateral knee replacements
- a medications report indicating that your doctor has prescribed prescription and/or non-prescription medications but nothing has given you relief
Winning Arguments in Knee Pain Disability Hearings
There are basically three ways to win a knee pain case. Click on the links for more detail:
- meet a listing at 1.02 or 1.03 (dysfunction of a major weight bearing joint)
- residual functional capacity – prove that your functional capacity for work has been so reduced by your knee pain and associated limitations that you would not be a reliable employee
- meet a grid rule (generally limited to those over age 50 with a limited education and an unskilled work background)
Here are some case studies from recent cases I tried that involved chronic and severe knee pain:
Knee pain case study #1: 51 year old female in need of bilateral knee replacements. Surgery was recommended 4 years ago, but she has not had the procedure because of medical and religious grounds.
Knee pain case study #2: 50 year old female with chronic knee pain following fall at work and 2 unsuccessful arthroscopic surgeries. Depression and mood disorder also exist.
Knee pain case study #3: 59 year old female, status post bilateral knee arthroplasty (replacements) with residual chronic pain and limitation of movement. This case resulted in a favorable decision.
Knee pain case study #4: 50 year old male, unable to walk without a walker following unsuccessful repair of 5 year old knee replacement, and current need for replacement of other knee
Knee pain case study #5: 47 year old male with past work in construction and as a truck driver, in need of bilateral knee replacement. Case was complicated by significant spinal injury and coronary artery disease.
Knee pain case study #6: This case involved the claim of a 38 year old man with severe degenerative arthritis in both knees. He is a candidate for bilateral knee replacements and contends that he cannot work because of pain, swelling and the need to frequently stretch and take excessive breaks.