While problems with your hips can occur because of injury or acute disease, degenerative hip disease can affect anyone and is a common issue. If degenerative hip disease makes it impossible for you to work, you may decide to file a claim for social security disability benefits. Unfortunately, the Social Security Administration sometimes declines claims for this condition. When this happens, you can appeal the decision at a formal hearing, but it's important to know what to expect.
Degenerative hip joints and disability benefits
Problems with degenerative hip joints are common, but the symptoms don't stop everyone from working. Indeed, some people with these issues lead relatively normal lives, with only mild discomfort. Nonetheless, degenerative hip joints can lead to debilitating problems with mobility, which can make it all but impossible to work.
The Social Security Administration may offer coverage for degenerative hip problems under section 1.02 of the organization's adult disability listings. However, the SSA applies strict criteria to those cases approved for cover, and your original application may not suggest that you are eligible. For example, the SSA says that cover is available if one major weight-bearing joint has a problem that means you cannot 'ambulate effectively'. According to the evidence you provide, the SSA will often challenge this definition.
Requesting a hearing
You can request a hearing after the SSA has denied your application at both the initial and reconsideration levels, although in some states you only need to fail the initial level. You must request the hearing in writing. At the hearing, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will make an independent decision based on the evidence you provide.
You must normally ask for a hearing within sixty days of a decision to deny your application. If there is a good reason why you could not do this, the ALJ may still grant you an appeal hearing. While the hearing is not as formal as other types of court case, you should always attend in person. You should also seek the help of an experienced attorney, as you need to present the strongest case possible.
At an appeal hearing, the ALJ will want to understand all the relevant information that could affect your application for benefits. This will include a review of all the evidence you previously submitted, but you can also include new information to support your claim. The ALJ may ask witnesses to come to the hearing, which could include a doctor or vocational expert. As such, you must work with your attorney to put together the strongest case you can to explain why you should receive disability benefits.
Medical evidence from an expert third party will always help your case. Given that you must prove to the ALJ that the problem means you cannot walk properly, examples of useful medical evidence could include:
Medical images and scans that show any hip deformities or cartilage instability. Experienced doctors can recognize how these problems affect your mobility.
Expert testimony from a physiotherapist that shows you cannot walk unaided. For example, evidence that shows you cannot walk without a walker or other assistance can show how you are unable to work.
Medical records. These records can show recurrent prescriptions for painkilling medicine and other drugs that your doctor can testify you need to manage your condition.
The ALJ will often ask you to describe the pain and discomfort you suffer with. Instead of using subjective statements around pain, it's often better to talk about the effects this pain has. For example, if the pain means you cannot easily climb stairs or you avoid going to the bathroom because it's so painful to move, the ALJ may better understand your condition.
Details of any treatment received can help, especially if this has not helped. Under the SSA rules, you can claim disability benefits if hip surgery does not lead to an improvement within 12 months. Coverage even applies if a doctor does not expect your symptoms to improve in this period.
A Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) assessment considers the symptoms of a degenerative hip and how they affect your ability to work. A thorough RFC is useful if your symptoms rule out specific work. For example, if you worked as a skilled construction worker, an RFC could show that your hip problems mean you could never complete this type of work again.
Degenerative hip problems prevent thousands of Americans from working. Talk to a skilled social security attorney for more information and advice (you can learn more by clicking here).