In order to evaluate your condition and determine if you meet the overall disability requirements for receiving SSD, the Social Security Administration will assess your “physical residual functional capacity” (physical RFC). This occurs if you have not met the SSA’s Bluebook definition.
To help determine whether a claimant is disabled, a claims examiner on behalf of Social Security will require a residual functional capacity assessment. The RFC can be performed either by SSA or by your treating doctor and the results are very important in determining whether a claimant will be awarded benefits or not.
What is Residual Functional Capacity (RFC)?
Residual Functional Capacity refers to a claimant’s ability to perform work duties under normal working conditions on an ongoing basis. It measures the claimant’s ability to engage in gainful employment or work even taking into consideration the person’s medical condition.
Under CFR 416.945, the Social Security Administration states “when we assess your residual functional capacity, we will consider your ability to meet the physical, mental, sensory, and other requirements of work, as described in paragraphs (b)(c) and (d), of this section.”
RFC includes assessing a person’s functional activity despite a physical or mental work limitation. The categories the Social Security Administration assigns to jobs and applicants in physical RFC classifications are: (1) sedentary work, (2) light work, (3) medium work, (4) heavy work, and (5) very heavy work.
The RFC determines whether the claimant can be expected to do sedentary work, light work or medium work. Here are some of the basic exertional levels within the RFC classifications.
• Sedentary work – sitting for more than six hours, lifting no more than 10 pounds
• Light Work – standing or walking for six or more hours, lifting up to 20 pounds
• Medium Work – standing or walking for six or more hours, lifting up to 50 pounds
• Heavy Work – standing or walking for six or more hours, lifting up to 100 pounds
• Very Heavy Work – standing or walking for six or more hours, lifting 100 pounds or more
The RFC will also include non-exertional restrictions. These include not being able to stoop, understand instructions or use your fingers.
Some of the things that the Social Security Administration will investigate and assess through a residual functional capacity examination include the following:
• Can you concentrate and focus on tasks?
• Can you understand, remember and carry out instructions as directed?
• How long can you perform physical activities – these including standing, sitting, walking, pushing or pulling?
• What limitations does the claimant have in balancing, stooping, kneeling and crouching and how severe are these limitations?
• What visual and hearing limitations are there and what is the level of severity?
Mental Impairment and RFC:
Mental impairments can limit exertional tasks. Disability examiners and ALJs will determine the extent of these limitations and how they apply to a person’s ability to perform work. These limitations are based upon medical records, medical testing, intellectual function and other factors.
Residual Functional Capacity Forms:
RFC forms are completed by a treating doctor. Because medical records rarely explicitly state whether a person can work or not, the RFC form is essential in determining whether the claimant qualifies for disability benefits.
A good RFC form will state what physical impairments and limitations the claimant has and why these limitations prevent gainful employment. In addition, this form makes the job of the Administrative Law Judge who will determine whether or not the claimant qualifies for disability much easier because the ALJ can use the RFC as direct evidence in grating an award.
The residual functional capacity will determine whether you can meet the requirements for sedentary, light, medium or even heavy work. The FRC must show the claimant is unable to perform work as the claimant has done in the past based on the current and expected duration of the disability. If the claimant is unable, then he or she is more likely to be awarded disability benefits.