As a Southern Illinois Social Security Disability attorney, I have met many people who think that if they have had total joint replacement surgery on a major joint like a knee, then they are automatically eligible for Social Security Disability benefits. This is not necessarily the case - here's why.
Disability is defined as a condition that lasts for at least twelve months.
If your knee replacement recovery is expected to last twelve months or longer, then it is more likely that you will be approved for benefits. However:
Statistically speaking, you have a very good chance of recovering and being able to work again.
You may not be able to do your old job, but it is likely that you will recover enough to still be able to support yourself with a different job. According to the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons (AAHKS), after a total knee replacement it can take up to 3 months for patients to return to most activities. A range of 6 months to one year is the most common timeframe given by doctors for patients to fully recover. The judge will need medical evidence from your doctor in order to know how long your personal recovery is expected to take. The doctor's expectation will be made based on the type of surgery, your age, the strength of your body before surgery, your weight, and your ability to manage pain. But generally speaking, the likelihood of making a full recovery after a total joint replacement is so high that having the surgery itself does not make you automatically eligible for disability benefits.
Always follow your doctor's recommendations for physical therapy after surgery.
After total joint replacements, physical therapy and rehabilitation programs are necessary for the body to return to the maximum normal functioning that can be expected for the new joint. Because the ruling in your disability case is based on the assumption that you will follow all of the doctor's orders, it is very important that you complete all therapy and rehabilitation procedures ordered by your doctor. As a Southern Illinois Disability attorney, I cannot stress this enough.
In the event that you do not follow the doctor's orders, your claim could be denied based on the premise that you will be able to work after twelve months, even though the reality is that your functioning after twelve months is significantly lower than expected.
Joni Beth Bailey is a Southern Illinois Social Security Disability Representative.