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Social Security Administration and Severe Knee Problems

Each year, millions of patients visit their doctors due to knee injuries, knee pain or arthritis in the knee. The knee, which is the largest joint in the body, is very complicated and vulnerable to injury. Capsule of right knee-joint (distended). Poste...

Claimants with a severe knee injury or injury to both knees may find it difficult to walk or ambulate or sit for long stretches at a time, making it difficult to maintain employment. Many disability claimants want to know if they can win Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income for a knee injury.

Can I get Social Security Disability Benefits for my Knee Injury?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has two methods they use to determine if a claimant is disabled: meeting a listing in the Social Security Administration Listing of Impairments or proving they can no longer perform substantial gainful activity through a medical vocational allowance.

Meeting a Listing in the SSA Listing of Impairments for Knee Conditions

Claimants who have a severe knee injury may be evaluated under 1.00 Musculoskeletal System, Section 1.02 Major Dysfunction of a joint (due to any cause). The Social Security Administration (SSA) the dysfunction of the joint can be “characterized by gross anatomical deformity and chronic joint pain and stiffness with signs of limitation of motion or other abnormal motion of the affected joint(s), and findings on appropriate medically acceptable imaging of joint space narrowing, bony destruction, or ankylosis (stiffness of the bones due to rigidity of the affected joint)."

The Social Security Administration (SSA) is specifically evaluating whether a claimant can ambulate effectively which they define as a severe limitation of the claimant’s ability to walk independently without the assistance of a “hand-held device” such as a cane. The Social Security Administration recognizes that the use of a device to walk can further limit the claimant’s ability to use their upper extremities.

They further define the ability to ambulate as the ability to walk at a reasonable pace, without assistance from place to place including their place of employment or school. The Social Security Administration (SSA) also evaluates whether the claimant can walk on uneven surfaces, use public transportation and perform “normal daily activities” including shopping banking, climbing stairs and moving about one’s home without assistance.

Claimants who can prove that their knee conditions are so severe that they meet the definition as outlined above can win benefits by “meeting a listing.” The Social Security Administration would expect the claimant to have objective proof of their knee problems such as an X-ray and MRI report. The evidence should prove that one or both knees would make it difficult to carry out normal work activities such as walking, climbing, and carrying objects. Other limitations could be documented a well as the severity of the pain and the side effects of medication.

Winning disability for Knee Conditions through a Medical Vocational Allowance

Claimants who do not meet or exceed the listing as defined above will have to prove that their knee conditions are so severe that it leaves them with no residual capacity to work. The best way to prove this is by having a doctor complete a RFC or residual functional capacity form. This form clearly outlines the limitations of the claimant and the tasks they could not complete due to their health condition.

Claimants who are over fifty years of age, who have only performed unskilled work, who have no transferable work skills and who are not highly educated will have the best chance of proving that they could not retrain for new work.


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