How Does the SSA Judge My Residual Functional Capacity for Work?

April 02,2019
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When you apply for Social Security disability, the SSA will use a residual functional capacity (RFC) form to assess whether you qualify for benefits.

The claims examiner will use both medical records and doctor’s statements when developing your physical and mental RFC, depending on the conditions that you are claiming as your disabilities. Your RFC will outline your abilities and limitations, stating what activities you can perform and to what extent. The SSA will use then use this to determine if you can work.

To learn more about residual functional capacity and how it impacts your claim, contact Hermann Law Group, PLLC today.

Physical RFC

If you claim a physical impairment or condition that impacts your physical abilities, your doctor will be asked to complete a Physical RFC Assessment. This form will determine your exertional ability for various tasks, such as walking, standing, lifting, carrying, pushing, and pulling.

Exertional levels include the extent to which you can complete such work. For example:

  • Sedentary – You cannot lift more than 10 pounds at a time and can only occasionally lift and carry small things like tools. Sedentary jobs are primarily sitting with some ability to walk or stand occasionally.
  • Light – You can lift up to 20 pounds occasionally and frequently lift 10 pounds. You should frequently be able to walk and stand with the ability to push and pull with your arms and legs. If you can do light work, the SSA assumes you can do sedentary work.
  • Medium – You can lift up to 50 pounds occasionally, and up to 25 pounds frequently. If you are able to do medium work, you can do light and sedentary work.
  • Heavy – You can lift up to 100 pounds occasionally, and up to 50 pounds frequently. If you can do heavy work, you are assumed to be able to complete medium, light, and sedentary work.
  • Very Heavy – You are able to lift objects that weigh more than 100 pounds, and frequently lift or carry more than 50 pounds. If you can do very heavy work, you should be able to complete all other levels of work.

The Physical RFC also lists non-exertional abilities and limitations for a doctor to rate your abilities. Those include communication, environmental, visual, manipulative, and postural. If the doctor feels anything was left off of the Physical RFC questionnaire, they may indicate more information at the end of the form.

Mental RFC

If you list a mental illness or emotional condition on your SSD application, your doctor will be asked to complete a mental RFC form to determine the severity of your condition. The mental RFC will determine your ability to:

  • Understand and remember
  • Concentrate and persist
  • Interact socially
  • Adapt
  • Adhere to a schedule
  • Make simple decisions
  • Handle criticism from supervisors
  • Maintain neatness and cleanliness
  • Tolerate stress in normal levels
  • Attend work regularly and on time

Your doctor will be asked to determine your level of limitation, from not significantly limited to markedly limited.

How the SSA Uses Your RFC

The SSA will use your RFC to determine whether you can perform work you have done before or work for other jobs in the U.S. They will use the form to determine if there are any jobs that match your abilities and limitations. If you cannot perform simple, unskilled jobs, you will likely be found to have a true disability. If you are found to be able to do some work, the SSA may move on to other considerations in the disability claims process.

The SSA will consider your ability to sustain regular, full time work. If you are able to sustain work for a short period of time or intermittently, then you may still be found to be disabled. The physical and mental RFC will consider your past medical information. It will also consider what you tell the doctor during an examination, during which time you can provide additional information. It’s therefore important to fully cooperate with your doctor when they fill out the form, and to be honest and detailed with your answers.

Contact a New York Disability Attorney for More Information About RFC

It’s important to make sure your file contains an RFC that is both detailed and correctly outlines your limitations. A NY disability lawyer can help you elicit the appropriate information from your doctors about your medical condition to ensure that your RFC is accurate. For more information about residual functional capacity forms and disability claims, call Hermann Law Group, PLLC today.