Chicago Workers’ Compensation Lawyers & Illinois Injury Lawyers

Determining your residual functional capacity

| Oct 3, 2014 | Social Security Disability |

Many people in Illinois suffer from disabling conditions that do not match Social Security Administration “Blue Book” listings. When deciding whether to award Social Security Disability benefits to these individuals, the SSA considers each applicant’s residual functional capacity. It’s critical for applicants to understand what RFC is and how it affects disability award decisions.

Measuring functional limitations

RFC is an assessment of an individual’s physical and mental capabilities. An RFC form, which can be completed by a treating physician or an SSA doctor, outlines specific limitations a disability causes. An RFC could include the following information:

  • Ability to perform physical tasks, such as lifting and pushing.
  • Ability to carry out sedentary or fine motor tasks, such as typing.
  • Ability to meet basic job requirements, such as standing or sitting for prolonged periods.
  • Ability to perform mental tasks, such as concentrating, learning new skills and remembering information.
  • Ability to meet social expectations and functioning appropriately in a work setting.

RFC forms can provide highly specific information. For example, in addition to noting whether an individual can lift weight, the form could specify the amount of weight or the duration the individual could perform the task for. An RFC can also describe other issues that would interfere with employment, such as absenteeism due to frequent hospitalizations.

People claiming disability usually benefit from asking a treating physician to analyze RFC. Medical records often do not provide enough information to help an SSA physician accurately evaluate RFC.

Based on RFC, the SSA determines whether an individual is fit to perform five types of work. These range from sedentary to very heavy work. If an individual is not capable of any work, SSD benefits are awarded. However, if an individual is deemed capable of some work, the SSA considers a few other factors.

Age, education and experience

If an individual is capable of work he or she performed in the past, the SSA will not award benefits. Similarly, if the SSA believes an individual’s past experience could be transferred easily to a new job, the claim will be denied.

If an individual has limited education and a history of unskilled work, the SSA may find that the individual could not reasonably take on a new job. However, age matters considerably. People younger than 50 are often considered capable of training for new jobs. People over 50 are more likely to be found disabled, although those with some education and transferable skills may be considered capable of work.

It can be difficult for the SSA to acquire all relevant medical and background information when evaluating RFC. A detailed RFC evaluation, along with documentation of education and work history, can significantly improve the likelihood of claim approval.