Social Security Disability Claim: What is Residual Functional Capacity?
When you file a social security disability claim the Social Security Administration (SSA) needs to know what you can do, despite your disability, to determine whether you can work. If you can sit and type but not stand for three hours, for example, then they will probably determine that you are still capable of performing some types of work.
To increase the likelihood of a favorable decision from the Disability Determination Services (DDS), it is imperative that your residual functional capacity (RFC) is filled out accurately and completely as part of your disability application. Thus, it is extremely important for you to work closely with your doctors and a social security lawyer to be sure the form accurately represents how your disability limits your ability to work.
Residual Functional Capacity: Determining Your Ability to Work
To determine what your capabilities are, a disability claims examiner works with a medical consultant to perform an RFC assessment on your claim. The consultant will rely on your medical record and doctor’s notes about your functional limitations to prepare the RFC assessment.
An RFC describes in detail how your impairments impact your ability to work and establishes the most you can do, after considering how your disability impairs your ability to function. This will help the SSA determine what level of exertion you are capable of and how that limits what jobs you can do.
Exertional Limitations and Non-Exertional Limitations
It is common for disability claimants to have more than one impairment that affects their ability to work. In legal terms, these impairments cause both exertional limitations and non-exertional limitations.
Your RFC determines what type of work you can do based on how your exertional and non-exertional limitations affect your ability to work.
An exertional limitation impacts your ability to do the physical demands of a job such as whether you can sit for an extended time or lift a certain amount of weight. Based on your exertional limitations, the SSA will categorize your RFC assessment based on the level of exertion you are capable of.
Here, are the various levels of exertion that may appear on your RFC assessment:
- Sedentary work: This means that you cannot lift more than ten pounds at a time. Sedentary work mostly involves sitting; however, you must be able to occasionally stand and walk.
- Light work: This means that you cannot lift more than 20 pounds, and you can frequently lift or carry up to ten pounds. Light work involves frequent walking and standing.
- Medium work: This means that you cannot lift more than 50 pounds, and you can frequently lift or carry up to 25 pounds.
- Heavy work: This means that you cannot lift more than 100 pounds, and you can frequently lift or carry up to 50 pounds.
- Very heavy work: This means that you can lift more than 100 pounds, and you can frequently lift or carry more than 50 pounds.
The RFC assessment will also include any non-exertional limitations. These are functional limitations that affect your ability to perform non-strength work-related activities. They include physical limitations (except the seven exertional limitations) as well as mental limitations. Typically, non-exertional limitations result from symptoms such as chronic pain or mental illness such as bipolar disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder.
How Is Your RFC Assessment Used?
The disability claims examiner uses the RFC assessment to determine if you can return to your prior job. To learn what kind of work you can do, the examiner will look at your work history for the past 15 years. If your previous job required sedentary work and your RFC assessment finds you are capable of sedentary work, then the examiner will probably find you are able to work unless you have non-exertional limitations.
It is important to contact a social security lawyer who is knows the rules and regulations to help you determine the best way to proceed with filing a social security disability claim.
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