Why Your Residual Functional Capacity Matters So Much in Your SSDI Case

Written by John Horn. Posted in Social Security Disability

For a person with physical or mental impairments, there is a limit to the amount and type of work it is possible to do. This limit is called the person’s “residual functional capacity,” or RFC for short.

When the Social Security Administration assesses you for your eligibility to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, your RFC is one of the key factors in whether or not your claim is approved. Read on to learn more about your RFC.

Assessment of RFC

To determine your RFC, the RFC will examine you and your medical records. You may be asked to undergo further medical or occupational testing. Your medical records and tests will help determine your physical, mental, and sensory abilities.

In a physical disability claim, the nature and seriousness of your physical injury or impairment will be assessed. Then your RFC will be determined as it relates to jobs for which you’re qualified. If you can’t sit, stoop, reach, or stand on your feet for an entire shift, and your former jobs required one or more of these tasks, your RFC to do the jobs would be diminished or non-existent.

Mental abilities are assessed in the same way, first determining the nature and scope of the mental impairment. If the mental disability makes it difficult or impossible for you to concentrate, carry out simple orders, or deal with the pressures of the work setting, you may show a decreased RFC for past and future employment.

The SSA will assess other abilities affected by your impairment, including sight and hearing, to determine whether you can work despite vision or auditory loss. If you have more than one impairment, the SSA will assess all of your impairments in total, even if some of your impairments are not severe. If one of your impairments is not enough to approve eligibility for SSDI, your impairments as a whole will be assessed to determine the total limiting effects of your conditions.

Responsibility for Proving RFC

Both you and the SSA have responsibilities when it comes to your disability claim. Because your RFC is assessed based on all of the relative data about your situation, you must be certain to provide all of the records and other evidence necessary to prove your claim.

On the other hand, the SSA is responsible for developing a complete medical history for your case file. To help with your assessment, they may order consultative medical and other exams. They will make every reasonable effort to help you obtain your records.

The SSA also must consider supporting statements from medical sources who did not formally examine you. They must consider as evidence descriptions and observations by your family members, neighbors, and co-workers.

RFC Limitations and Meanings

There are several limitations covered in the medical form that documents the SSA’s official RFC assessment.

  • Exertional.

    How many pounds you can lift occasionally and frequently; how long you can stand and walk; how long you can push or pull.

  • Postural.

    How often you can climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl.

  • Manipulative.

    Limitations in reaching, handling items, fingering items and feeling textures.

  • Visual.

    Accuracy of your sight, field of vision, depth perception, color, and distance acuity.

  • Communicative.

    How well you speak and hear in a work setting.

  • Environmental.

    Your tolerance for extreme heat, cold, wetness, noise, fumes, heights, and other hazardous workplace environments.

All of the above factors are considered when the SSA determines how fit you are to return to work. That’s why it’s important to provide a complete medical record when you make your claim.

Other evidence considered in the RFC assessment include lab results, the effects of treatment, daily activity reports, evidence from past attempts to return to work, and work evaluations. To meet your responsibility to provide proof of your disability, it’s best to hire a competent social security disability attorney. He or she will understand the documentation necessary to prove RFC. You’ll have someone on your side compiling a medical record that tells the whole story.

Call the offices of Horn & Kelley, PC Attorneys at Law today to learn more about RFC and your Social Security Disability Insurance claim.


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