Disability and Bilateral Hip Replacement: Benefits and Filing

Whether you can get disability after hip replacement surgery depends on many variables.

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Hip replacement surgery involves removing parts of the hip joint and replacing them with synthetic parts. Bilateral hip replacement occurs when hip replacement surgery is done on both hips at the same time. The most common reason for hip replacement surgery is chronic pain caused by arthritis, ether osteoarthritis (when the cartilage on the ends of your hips bones wear away leaving you with degenerative hip joints), or rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease.

Can I Qualify for Disability After a Hip Replacement?

If you have had hip replacement surgery and are unable to work because of it, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will automatically grant you disability benefits if you meet the criteria under its disability listing called "Reconstructive Surgery or Surgical Anthrodesis of a Major Weight Bearing Joint."

The specific criteria you must meet is that you have had hip replacement surgery and you aren't able to walk well enough to work. Also, your inability to walk must be expected to last at least one year (as with all disability claims).

Many people have hip replacement surgery every year (although bilateral hip replacements are less common than single hip replacements) and most people will not meet the criteria to be found disabled under this disability listing. Most hip replacement surgeries are successful and the patient can put weight on their joint soon after surgery. While some people can't walk effectively for a few months after bilateral hip replacement, it is uncommon that this loss of function lasts 12 months.Generally, only if something went wrong with the hip surgery will someone qualify for disability under this listing.

If you had hip repacement surgery because of avascular necrosis (bone death), you may be able to get benefits under that listing. See our article on benefits for disability caused by bone death.

What Does Inability to Walk Effectively Mean?

       The SSA has guidelines on what it means to be unable to walk effectively. If any of the following apply to you, you'll be considered unable to walk effectively:

  • You are not able to walk without using a walker or two crutches or two canes.
  • You can't walk at a reasonable speed over a long enough distance to be able to complete the necessary activities of daily living, such as shopping and going to the bank.
  • You cannot walk a block at a reasonable pace on rough or uneven surfaces.
  • You cannot climb a few stairs at a reasonable speed with the use of one hand rail.
  • You are unable to travel to work or school without another person helping you.

Can I Qualifying for Disability Without Meeting the Joint Surgery Listing?

If you have had bilateral hip replacement but don’t meet the criteria under the disability listing for surgery of a major weight-bearing joint, discussed above, the SSA will look at your “residual functional capacity,” or “RFC.” Your RFC means what you are still capable of doing despite your impairments, and includes various limitations from your hip replacements and any medical treatments you are prescribed because of your surgeries. The SSA uses your RFC assessment to find out if you are capable of doing any work despite the limitations. 

If you have had both hips replaced, you may be be limited in walking on uneven surfaces or climbing or squatting, so your RFC assessment may limit you to no more than "sedentary" work. Sedentary work is work where you do not need to lift more than ten pounds at a time and the work is done mostly seated. However, sedentary work can require up to two hours a day of walking or standing, so if you have severe enough limitations because of your hip replacements, you may unable to perform even sedentary work.

If the SSA determines that the symptoms associated with your hip replacement surgeries and treatment are so limiting that there is no job you can perform, even a sedentary job, you will be awarded benefits under what is called a “medical-vocational allowance.” For more information, see our section on your RFC and medical-vocational allowances.

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LA-NOLO5:DRU.1.6.5.20141022.29090