Military service makes many demands on those who are willing to sacrifice for our country. But the service is downright brutal on service members’ joints. In 2011, Stripes reported that military deployment puts troops at risk of osteoarthritis at a higher rate and at a younger age than the general population. Military training and active duty assignments are especially hard on weight-bearing joints: hips, knees, spine, ankles, and even fingers. So, it’s no surprise that many veterans seek out knee replacements. If you are a veteran who has had, or is considering, a knee replacement, these facts are important to know:
There is no presumed service connection for a knee injury. This means you must prove with substantive evidence, including your medical records, doctors’ statements, and service history, that the injury stems from military service.
Disabling knee injuries can qualify you for VA benefits. If you can show that your knee injury is service related, the VA will give you a disability rating for the condition. Under 38 C.F.R. § 4.71a Code 5055, disability ratings range from 100 percent to 30 percent disabling.
If you get a full knee replacement, you are rated at 100 percent for your first year after surgery. After your first year, the VA will give you a permanent rating somewhere between 60 percent (if you suffer weakness and severe pain with motion) and 30 percent for lesser symptoms. The minimum rating you can receive after a full knee replacement is 30 percent.
Partial knee replacements are rated on the symptoms the patient experiences. There is no set minimum rating for partial knee replacements. VA assigns ratings based on the patient’s range of motion and sensation of pain.
If your knee replacement surgery is successful, you can recover a great deal of your quality of life. Complications from knee replacements are rare, but certain types of knee replacements have shown higher rates of failure and have been subject to recalls. These include the DePuy Synthes Attune Knee System and devices by Zimmer Biomet, Stryker, Smith & Nephew, and Wright Medical.
Knee systems often fail due to loosening of the bond with the bone, which causes pain, instability, swelling, limited range of motion, and weakness. Revision surgery is generally necessary to replace the defective knee system. If you have had a knee replacement and are experiencing any of these issues, you must report the problem to your healthcare provider. However, you should also consult an attorney with experience in knee replacement litigation to advise you of your rights and pursue compensation.
Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban helps veterans access the VA benefits they deserve. We are also personal injury attorneys who pursue justice aggressively for patients injured by defective knee replacements. To learn how we can help, call 866-866-VETS or contact our office online.