Real estate agent Katarina Novak, 39 and divorced with two children, injured her knees while gardening. MRIs showed a tear in the meniscus in both knees. Her injuries required a partial meniscectomy on her right knee followed by the same surgery on her left knee a month later. A course of physical therapy followed the surgeries. Novak got no relief from her symptoms from the surgeries or the therapy. New MRIs showed a tear and degenerative change in her right knee, and fluid and an abnormality of the meniscus in her left knee.
The following year, Novak again had a partial meniscectomy of her right knee followed by the same surgery on her left knee, and more physical therapy. She continued to have pain, weakness, limited range of motion, and difficulty walking. The year after that, Novak underwent 10 injections in her knees over five weeks. They provided only temporary relief.
It had been two years, and Novak had been unable to work since her injury. She enlisted Attorney Neil H. Good to represent her in a claim for Social Security Disability benefits and Supplemental Security Income. Her case went to a hearing in front of the Social Security Administration.
In his pre-hearing memorandum, Attorney Good gave the history of Novak’s surgeries, physical therapy, and injections, including the recent second round of 10 injections. After the treatments, she had not recovered or regained full motion, and she had pain and difficulty walking. Recent tests revealed degenerative joint disease. Novak was also experiencing pain in her lower back. An MRI of her lumbar spine showed herniation of the L2-L3 disk. Attorney Good noted that Novak needed to use a walker.
The Administrative Law Judge agreed: “Claimant’s knee conditions limit her standing and walking to less than a hour a day and her back condition limits her ability to lift and carry more than very minimal amounts … so she is incapable of the exertional activities required for sedentary work.” The judge further remarked that Novak had had four surgeries on her knees but that her symptoms had been “intractable to treatment.“ Katarina Novak was awarded Social Security Disability benefits and Supplemental Insurance Income.